Rehab Insights is a weekly blog written by Burke Rehabilitation professionals to offer practical information for patients, families and the community. It's goal is to educate the reader on relevant topics in rehabilitation, general health and wellness.

National Stroke Awareness Month: Q&A with a Stroke Survivor

Meet Robert,* a 62-year-old male who suffered a stroke about two years ago. The stroke affected the left side of his brain, which controls the right side of the body. It also affected his speech. The following interview was conducted with his wife present, and is a collaboration of Robert’s words, with his wife’s help due to his speech impairments. Robert is still working hard on his recovery.

What was life like before your stroke? 
I played a lot of golf! I was working and I would take a 7 o’clock train and go into midtown (Manhattan) and walk from Grand Central to my office. I had clients all over Manhattan that I would travel to. I would come home and walk my dog, Gracie, and play with her for hours. I did yardwork and would exercise. I also loved going to concerts.

What happened when you had the stroke?
It was a Monday while I was at work. I felt weird—I had a headache so I left work early and came home. I called my wife and she said to go to the doctor, but I said “No, it’s okay.” But when she saw me, she took me to the ER. I had a blocked carotid artery and they said they couldn’t operate to fix it, so I came home. The first time I was in the hospital for four days and then went home, but had to go back to the hospital.

His wife added: Two days after he came home, he got worse. His arm was hanging down, his mouth was drooping, and he couldn’t stand up. I called an ambulance and we went back to the hospital. He suffered much more damage and was transferred to a hospital in NYC. He was in ICU and the stroke unit for eight more days before going for inpatient rehabilitation.

After the stroke, what changed for you?
I couldn’t move my [right] arm or my [right] leg. My speech was…I couldn’t talk at all. I made sounds, but not words. Most frustrating was speech. The first thing I was able to do was sing.  So I did, “Take me out to the ballgame.” 

How did the stroke affect you emotionally?
I couldn’t believe it. I was very angry. And I’m still very angry that I had a stroke. I felt terrible when everyone had to help me. Waiting on people to help me do things like go to the bathroom was…frustrating and…upsetting.

How would you say your recovery has been going?
It’s going well. I miss driving and playing golf. I am able to walk by myself and take care of myself during the day. I wear a brace on my leg and I learned to use my left hand for everything… even though my OT yells at me. My wife comes home to check on me during the day. I can’t go back to work. It’s depressing that my wife goes to work every day and I don’t. I have a friend from high school that comes and takes me to the gym. I went to a Yankee game with my son. It was great. It felt great. And they won. 

Has the stroke affected your relationships with your son and your family?
I have a tremendous relationship with my family—my wife, my son and my nephew. My sister visits and drives me for extra speech therapy and we go to lunch. I miss my friends. But I’m going to North Carolina on vacation with just my friends—my first time without my wife since my stroke. 

If you could have one thing back 100%, either your right arm, your right leg, or your speech, which would you choose?

Speech! One hundred percent. And play golf. 

 A special thanks to Robert for talking to us about his experience. Next week, we’ll be posting a follow-up interview with Robert’s wife. Please feel free to leave comments or questions, and we will be happy to try to answer them. For more information on Burke's stroke program, click here

*Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

 -- Amanda Censoprano, DPT

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Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation and other health care topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke staff cannot comment on individual medical cases or give medical advice.

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