I was 51 when I woke up on the morning of April 19, 2023.  While showering, I noticed a tingling in my left leg, and the left side of my face felt like I had just come from the dentist. There was no drooping, just numbness, and my lips felt swollen. My smile was even, and I had no slurred speech, but because of the left-side focus, my wife convinced me to call the advice nurse, who directed us to the ER. Over the course of the day, I went through a battery of tests, including MRI and CT scans. As the day progressed, symptoms abated, they missed the stroke on the scans, so they sent me home.  Two days later, the symptoms worsened, so we returned to the ER.  The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital bed without the use of my left appendages. This time, they saw the stroke on the scans, and we started discussing where to go for inpatient rehab.  I spent a month in Vallejo doing inpatient therapy while my wife moved our entire house into storage and her mom‘s house, which fortunately was equipped with some ADA features.  In mid-May, I left Vallejo in a wheelchair and spent two more months in Union City doing outpatient therapy.

Before my stroke, I played lacrosse regularly and coached the Fremont youth lacrosse club.  My “career” over the previous 25 years had been a mixture of coaching, real estate, accounting, and corporate catering.  Without the ability to drive, type, coach, or play, I could easily immerse myself in the physical therapy effort and refocus my life habits on diet and exercise. Cottage cheese, cayenne pepper, and broccoli have become dietary staples.  A friend helped me return to the gym regularly, something I hadn’t done consistently since college.

The first six months were full of amazing, encouraging recovery highlights, some as small as slight ankle movement and flexing my left toes, some as “monumental” as curling 25 pounds with my left arm (which I couldn’t even move 3 months before that) Attending a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at Shoreline, without my cane, was a major summer highlight.  I documented as much as possible on Facebook for a record to look back on.  The support from my friends and family over this time was incredible.

I was so inspired by the physical therapists who helped me “get my life back” that I decided to make a career shift.  I enrolled at Ohlone College, took my first college course in over 30 years, and got an A!!  I got a job at a physical therapy clinic in Mountain View.  It was a rather scary proposition to decide to go back to school and change careers, especially considering my age and not being 100% recovered from my own stroke.

As for recovery, I recently passed the 1-year mark. I find the highlights and milestones do not come as easily or quickly as they did at the beginning. The neurologist told me at this point, the lingering deficiencies may be permanent.  I wonder if I’ll ever be able to use my left hand and left foot as I used to and if my balance and mobility will ever return to “normal.” The doctors said I could get back to 100%, so I am trusting that and continuing to work on rehabilitation efforts.  The brain’s ability to heal itself after a stroke or injury is fascinating and gives me hope for a full recovery. In the hospital, I remember looking out the window, dreaming about when I could throw a lacrosse ball again. One of my happiest days in the hospital was when my wife brought my lacrosse stick to the facility, and a therapist attached it to my left hand with an ACE bandage.  I managed to throw the ball against a wall for 15 minutes. Playing lacrosse again seemed impossible, but I was motivated. I’m happy to report that on April 19, 2024, exactly one year after my stroke, I could play with my club team!  It was both frustrating and exhilarating, but I still had work to do.

I have learned a lot about many things since my stroke. But what I have come to be most grateful for are 3 things that I learned before my stroke. I didn’t learn them in school, I credit my parents and incredible High School and College coaches, who instilled some attributes in me that I found extremely beneficial for stroke recovery.  These were FAITH, HARD WORK, and POSITIVE ATTITUDE.  Without these, I wouldn’t have made as much progress in as short of time.  I consider myself lucky, it could’ve been way worse.  I hope to find ways to give back to the stroke recovery community.