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You know every day we make conscious choices and decisions about our lives. Some prove to be wise and others turn out horribly. Well, in the summer of 2002 I was laid off from a management job in the Silicon Valley (California Bay Area) and after being unable to find another management job due to the economic slump, I decided to take a low paying high physical labor job at the Oakland Airport. I worked for an airline freight carrier as a grave yard shift freight handler. Now, I had never been a stranger to hard work because I had started at the bottom rung of the work force and over the course of 30 years had worked my way up the ladder and eventually became a manager of 4 departments and about 75 people. It hadn’t occurred to me that being in management had made me soft nor did I consider the fact that I was now 30 years older. I figured I could do this job for a while until I found another management position. There I was, lifting 80 pound packages all night long with a bunch 18 year old “first jobbers“.
Every morning I would come home and just collapse from the exhaustive work. On the morning of November 22, 2003 I came home from work and noticed that I felt exceptionally tired. I thought, oh well a few hours of sleep will revive me. So, after eating the breakfast my wife had made for me I laid down in the bed to go to sleep. Suddenly, I began to hear a very loud noise in my left ear. I thought, what the hell is that? Why is it only in one ear. I began to worry as it got louder and louder until it became unbearable. I told my wife that something was wrong with me. It sounded like I was in a factory where there were big machines making lots of noise. Then, I started getting shortness of breath. Immediately I got out of bed and sat down in a chair. That’s when I noticed that there was something wrong with my left leg. At first it was jumping around like it had a mind of it’s own and then I noticed that I could no longer feel anything there. Then my left arm became numb and I had no feeling in it either.
My wife dialed 911 as the noise in my left ear spread to my right ear. I couldn’t breathe and I had a terrible headache. I began to wonder if I was dieing. So, I started to pray. I said Lord, if this is it, if this is my time to come home, please stay with me. You promised you would be with me always and I am counting on you to take me to the other side. To be there for me and comfort me all the way. During my prayer I felt a sense of calm taking over.
As I came out of my prayer I realized that there were paramedics in my bedroom and they were telling me that I was having a stroke but not to worry because they were going to help me. Before long I was on a gurney and in the ambulance on my way to the hospital. Once there the doctors confirmed that I had had a stroke but I was stable. They transferred me over to the Veterans hospital where I have guaranteed coverage due to my being a war vet.
I woke up and began to look around my hospital room and I noticed that I had a room mate. I reached down to feel my left leg to see if I had regained feeling in it. I was relieved when I realized that I could feel myself touching my leg. I also noticed that I could move it. Plus, I had movement and feeling in my left arm. I was encouraged by that. But, I could feel my heart fluttering. It felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. That scared the shit out of me. I had to urinate so I raised up and pressed the nurse button. When she came she asked me if I wanted to try to get up and go. I said yes and then she helped me to get to my feet and she put my IV hook up on a roller. But my left leg began to give in at first. Still, I struggled with it and stood on it as best I could. Under my breath I said “Thank You Jesus” and dragged my left leg along as I made my way to the bathroom.
Later after I had slept for several hours I got up again , grabbed my IV roller and dragged my left leg out of the room and into the hallway. I saw a sign that said “Stroke Ward” and I realized that everyone there had suffered a stroke. I saw patients who could not speak and many who were totally paralyzed. Some had faces that had been contorted and others seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings as if their brains had totally shut down. I knew that I had been blessed because I was already able to walk. I knew who I was and the face in the mirror looked normal. I took a few more steps and with each step I said “Thank You Jesus” I walked all over the hospital mumbling those words everywhere I went.
I stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks. Every night I would get up and drag my left leg down the hallway as I chanted “Thank You Jesus” with every step I took. I was saying thank you because I could walk and I believed that God had blessed me with an opportunity to recover and overcome the effects of the stroke. I knew that some of the nurses were convinced that I was crazy and depressed because I walked the hallways for hours murmuring “Thank You Jesus” all the time. They even put in a request for a psych consult for me. But they didn’t know that I had already decided that I was going to start my recovery right away. I refused to allow myself to be bed ridden. I knew that if I wanted to regain the full use of my body I would have to work at it. So, there we were. Me and Jesus. With each step and thank you to Jesus I got stronger and more determined.
By the time I was allowed to go home I was walking with a slight limp. I had lots of left side pain but the doctors told me that I should consider that a good thing. It meant that the left side of my body was alive and had feeling which meant that there was no major paralysis left over from the stroke. They said that I would never be able to work again and that my physical abilities would never be what they were before the stroke, but that I was lucky to be alive. They said that the immediate medical attention I had received had minimized the effects of the stroke on my body. They warned me that my life style would have to change and that I should avoid stress of all types from now on.
So I laid around the house for a few days and then decided to try get up and walk. I walked down to the end of the block and with each step I said “Thank You Jesus”. The next day I walked two blocks and then the third day three blocks. Within six months I was walking 3 miles a day and today I walk 4 ½ miles every morning in less than 50 minutes. Yeah that’s right! I go really, really fast now and I don’t even have a limp. Even today with each step of my left leg I say “Thank You Jesus”.
Of course I have many lingering effects of the stroke including weakness on the left side of my body, chronic (daily) headaches, left side pain, low stamina, a permanent hum in my left ear, impaired vision, severely impaired memory and an assortment of miscellaneous ailments. But I am alive, walking and still able to write and play my music. As a matter of fact, I went back to college and earned credentials in both Recording Engineering and Music Industry Studies. I even graduated with a 4.0 GPA. That’s not too shabby for a stroke ridden old guy like me.
I started out by saying we all make decisions everyday. Some good and some not so good. There is no doubt that my decision to take that job at my advanced age was admirable from a work ethic standpoint but stupid considering my age and physical limitations. I almost worked myself to “death”. Plus, there was the added stress from working a graveyard shift. I now know that there is a reason they call it the “graveyard shift”. However, my decision to get up out of that bed and walk was an excellent one. In that way my strong work ethic served me well. But the best decision I made was to be thankful. So many people die from strokes or never even walk again. I was blessed and I know it. So, everyday at 5:00 in the morning I rise, put on my clothes and can be seen walking down the street in Clayton Ca. very fast. If you get close enough to me to hear, you will hear me saying Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus …………….