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Survivor Uses Friendly Workout Crew for Rehabilitation

I rose from my desk, heading for the copy machine about 20 feet away. Somehow I tripped over my feet and fell against the wall. I felt off balance. I knew something wasn’t right, perhaps a bad reaction to my high blood pressure medication. I sent a text to my wife who urged me right away to call 911. I imagined the embarrassment of having an ambulance haul me away from work and decided against it. And while I spent the morning ignoring the telltale signs of a stroke, my wife was scheming my rescue.

My supervisor walked into my office and asked me to go downstairs to help him bring a couple of boxes up. I complied without saying a word about my condition. I struggled to balance myself in the elevator on the way down. When we arrived in the lobby he mentioned we would need to wait a few minutes for the delivery truck. Within five minutes a familiar car pulled up and I saw my wife get out. My supervisor grabbed my arm and before I knew it they had thrown me into the front seat and we were burning rubber on our way to the hospital.

Without speak a word to me, my wife was on the phone with a nearby hospital. When we pulled up nurses were awaiting my arrival. Before I knew it I was flat on my back being inserted into an imaging machine. After being transported to another hospital for further testing I was finally presented with images of my brain. I was told that I was having a slowly developing stroke and that I was certain to experience some physical changes. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Within minutes the stroke had set in and my entire left side was paralyzed. I couldn’t move. Half my body felt dead to me. I cried like a baby.

Beginning the road to recovery

I spent one week in the Critical Care Unit at Riverside Hospital and another five weeks in In-Patient Rehab. During my time at Riverside I was taught to do so many things that we usually take for granted: dressing myself, walking with a cane, and talking. My initial strides in my recovery process were incredible. I knew that I was extremely fortunate. I realized that I would always have limitation, but I was okay with that and thankful for what I was able to do.

My first experience with my local rec center, the Dublin Community Recreation Center, was in 2004. I had just started a new job located a few minutes away and I knew that being able to workout everyday would do me some good. At the time I was dealing with a great deal of anxiety due to the untimely death of my 18-year-old son. For the better part of the two years after his death I had sunk into a lonely place of despair and depression. I had just been laid off a couple of months before his death so I mostly stayed at home. One of the first members that I met was Dr. Fred Graff, a chiropractor and regular at the DCRC. Dr. Fred took me under his wing, made me his workout partner and introduced me to all of the regulars. In time I learned everyone's name and slowly come out of my depression. There were times however, that my sadness would overtake me. Dr. Fred was always there to help me regain my composure to finish my workout. The DCRC was a part of my daily routine for more than three years until I took a job in another part of town.

When I had my stroke in 2010, it had been years since I had been to the DCRC. A few members of our early morning workout crew reached out to me in the hospital and at home, which was a tremendous lift to my spirit. Dr. Fred came and told me about his experiences working with stroke patients. He encouraged me to get back in the gym and workout with him every morning like we used to.

A new rehab reality

I showed up at the DCRC with a cane, a leg brace on my left ankle, and my left arm was still limp. Everyone was just as before. They all welcomed me back. Dr. Fred told me I would soon become the old Kevin. At the time I thought he was simply trying to be motivational; little did I know he actually meant I would physically attain what I had before. Dr. Fred and members of the staff worked together to push and challenge me in new ways constantly. My wife and family at home couldn’t believe the progress I made.

Motivated by my astounding recovery, I decided to contact Walter, a gentleman who was a patient with me at the Riverside Hospital. He had experienced a stroke and consequential paralysis similar to mine. I told him about my progress with Dr. Fred and invited him to come join me at the gym. He was very reluctant. He felt he was too old to get any better. Dr. Fred was nice enough to extend the same invitation to assist Walter, who was a total stranger to him, if he agreed to show up at the gym every morning. Well, Walter did show up and began his training beside me. In no time his ankle brace was gone and his cane was abandoned. His improvements were remarkable.

I attribute much of my recovery to the members of the early morning crew at the DCRC; the people that arrive every morning around 5:30 or 6:00 am. They are the heart and soul of the place. To me, they are more than members of my community, or workout buddies— they are family. They have helped me reach of level of happiness and health after my stroke that I didn’t think was possible.

By: Kevin Parrish, Back Pain Management Specialist

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"Dr. Fred told me I would soon become the old Kevin. At the time I thought he was simply trying to be motivational; little did I know he actually meant I would physically attain what I had before."

Building your recovery crew

A few hours a week spent working with a physical therapist is an excellent stride toward recovery. Take it one step further by building your own crew of workout buddies.

  • Ask friends and family to commit one hour a week to your recovery.
  • Build a schedule that includes daily exercise.
  • Have someone watch or record a session with your physical therapist, then mimic those exercises in your daily workout routine.
  • Have someone access what equipment at your local gym will be the safest and most beneficial for you to use.
  • Monitor your progress and reward yourself accordingly.
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