I had a Stroke in 2001
My journey includes stroke
In November 2001 I had a stroke at the young age of 39. Stroke is part of my journey. Why did I have a stroke?
- I was obese, 430 pounds
- Had some significant family history of strokes at young ages
- I had been diabetic for about 10 years at that time
- Did not take care of my health
How stroke became part of my journey
At the time, I was living in the Philippines. I am an American-born US Citizen, but I moved out of the USA in 2000.
My wife and I had been invited to a pre-wedding party of some friends. The party was about 3 hours drive from where we lived. We were invited as special guests and would be speaking for the couple at the party.
After the party, it was about 11 PM, but I had to work the next day, so we drove the 3 hours to go home. I never thought that stroke would be part of my journey.
After arriving home and suffering a stroke
After we arrived home, we laid down to sleep, and suddenly I was not feeling well. I felt that the bed was spinning around in circles, and I was quite dizzy.
At the party, a friend had just gotten over the flu, and he described similar symptoms. My wife was concerned, but I told her that I must have come down with the flu, as my friend described.
I tried to go to sleep but was unable. In fact, I got up several times because I threw up multiple times that night.
I really don’t remember anything after that night
Although I don’t remember it, my wife tells me that for about three days, I was very sick, but when she would suggest that we go to the hospital, I refused. I told her that I would be fine. My journey through stroke had wiped away my memory.
On the 3rd day, my wife called a friend who lived on the other side of the island that we lived on. This friend is a Cardiologist. My wife described my symptoms, and our friend said:
It sounds like Bob had a stroke. You need to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. If he says he doesn’t want to go, take him anyway.
That advice saved my life.
At the Hospital, stroke was confirmed as part of my journey
I was admitted to the hospital immediately, and they did a number of tests. My wife called my Mom in the States to tell her that it looked like I had suffered a stroke, it had become part of my journey. My Mom didn’t think I had suffered a stroke, because I was so young. But, when the tests came back, it was confirmed, I had been through a stroke. I still was not conscience, or at least have no memories of the events.
My Mom started making plans to come to the Philippines to visit us. I was put in the ICU and spent a week in the ICU. I have no memories of my time in the ICU, though.
Sent to a regular room
After a week in the ICU, I was sent to a regular hospital room, because my condition had begun to improve. I have vague memories of my time in the regular hospital room, but not many.
I do remember saying (and thinking) some really strange things. One memory is that an acquaintance came to visit me. He was sitting on a bench in my room talking with my wife. He was wearing a white shirt. After he left, I asked my wife:
Where is that goat?
My wife was puzzled and asked what I was talking about.
That white goat that was in her a few minutes ago.
Released to go home
After a week in the hospital room, I was released to go home. I could not walk. Nor could I talk very well. I remember riding home in an ambulance. Because of my obesity, it took a lot of people to carry me to our bedroom.
I laid in bed for a few days. I did not get up. Really, I could not get up or walk.
Stroke Therapist visit
A few days after my homecoming, the hospital sent a therapist to my house. He was nice, but I was not that interested in getting therapy. I had more or less given up on having a normal life. I thought it would be impossible to get back to normal.
But the therapist (who was the brother of a friend of mine), was insistent that I would learn how to walk again, and that I would talk again. I thank God for him, because he sparked something in me to make an effort.
The therapist came every day at first, and then about 3 times per week.
Second therapist visit
On the second visit by the therapist, he brought a walker with him. He told me that I would start walking that day with a walker. I did not think it was possible, but I was able to walk a few steps using the walker.
As a few more therapy sessions passed, I decided that I did not want to use a walker. I folded it up and put it in a closet. However, I kept walking. I started practicing walking without a walker and building my strength. The therapist could not believe it.
I was determined to not let stroke define my journey
When I decided that I was going to recover from the stroke, I would not let it define my journey, I pulled out all of the stops, and I did recover. In fact, I recovered quickly. I learned how to talk again, and I became pretty good at walking! Today, some 18 years after stroke became part of my journey, I often walk up to 10 miles a day. I walk for exercise and to get where I am going. Walking is enjoyable to me.
I can talk fine too. In fact, if you saw me or talked to me, it is unlikely that you would ever know I had suffered a stroke, it had become a milestone in my journey.
Although Stroke was part of my journey, More or less a full recovery
I would say that I recovered 98% or so.
From time to time when I am walking, I will take a missed-step, off to one side or the other. Sometimes I will slur my words, but only rarely.
I’m happy with where I am, given that I had a serious stroke. I did not think I could or would recover. I’m glad that I became militant about recovering. I feel that my recovery was sparked by the therapist, but fulfilled by my sheer determination.
After the stroke became part of my health journey
After the stroke and my recovery, I wanted to make changes. I decided to start exercising, and I also modified my diet.
What changes did I make? Let’s take a look.
On New Year’s Day 2003, about a year and 2 months after my stroke, a friend was visiting my house. He was also quite obese. We got talking, and since it was New Year’s Day, the subject of New Year’s Resolutions came up.
Between the two of us, we decided that we wanted to get healthier and to start doing so by exercising. We talked about what type of exercise we would enjoy and continue with.
We decided to start swimming. Living in the tropics, swimming was a natural choice. It was sunny just about every day, and hot, so swimming would be refreshing for us.
The next day, we went around to different swimming pools around town to see which pool would be convenient and enjoyable.
We settled on swimming at the Marco Polo Hotel
When we saw the pool at the Marco Polo Hotel, we knew that is where we wanted to swim. It was on the 4th floor of the hotel, and very nice. We went into the Fitness Center and signed up for membership. We started swimming the next day.
For the next 4 years or so, we swam at least 5 days per week, sometimes even 7 days per week. We did it religiously.
We would swim for a couple of hours, then we would sit poolside and talk for a couple of more hours. After our swim and our talk, we would often go out and eat a healthy lunch together.
I have to say, after the stroke, I did not make drastic dietary changes, but I did make changes. I ate a lot less junk food.
Before the stroke, Potato Chips were at the top of my personal food pyramid. After the stroke, I more or less quit eating them. Same thing for candy and other junk food. I did not completely abstain, but I cut that stuff out of my life by probably 80% compared to my previous consumption.
I got good results from my daily exercise and change in diet.
Within about 2 years I had lost about 100 pounds. I was around 330 pounds instead of 430. Actually, I felt thin at that weight, since I had been at 430 (or more) for more than a decade at that time.
I was able to fit into more clothes, do things that I could not do before, and so on. It really felt good. A lot of people even told me that I was looking good and they could see the results. I could see them too.
But I needed to make more changes
The changes I made were only marginal. A little more exercise and some marginal dietary changes. But, being down 100 pounds felt really good.
I didn’t really think, though, that I needed to lose more weight or make more drastic changes.
I later found out that I should have gone further because in 2016 I had a heart attack. That heart attack nearly killed me again, and it spurred more drastic changes in my life.
Funny to say, but having a Stroke and then a Heart Attack probably saved my life, because it opened my eyes and forced me to make changes in the way I lived.
- Diabetes – My journey (how to reverse diabetes)
- Stroke – My journey
- Heart Disease and how I reversed it
- My diet can save your life
- Fasting – My journey
- Weight Loss – How I did it (coming soon)
- Mental Health – My Journey (coming soon)