On December 26, 2010 at 29 years of age. I suffered a mid-line cerebellum infarct (stroke), which is quiet rare. That morning, I woke in a daze. My kids were in the bed with me and my daughter recognized something was wrong and was able to get my brother. He and his wife called an ambulance right away.
I was certainly not prepared for what would come in the following days. While at the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, I was diagnosed with a hole in my heart that doctors were able to repair. In most people the hole closes at about age 10 but mine remained opened and allowed a blood clot to pass to my cerebellum causing the stroke. During this time, I was heavily sedated and remember very little. I only know what people have told me. I do know it was a very delicate time and could have gone either way. I was placed in the stroke unit. I had emergency brain surgery to release the pressure that was building and remove most cerebellum that was damaged in the stroke. Doctors also put in some drains.
While at the hospital, I went from 215 pounds to about 160 pounds. I had a feeding tube put in and a breathing tube. Once I was stabilized, my dad and I flew to Atlanta, where I was an impatient for about 3 months and I would be assigned a team of doctors, therapists and nurses at the Shepard Center and we got to work rehabbing.
After the stroke, with the help of others, I had to learn to do everything again. Things that were once reactive were impossible. The cerebellum is responsible for motor control, coordination, among other things; my mind seemed to be doing well but my body couldn't do things it once could. I developed what I was told were tremors that I'm still fighting. The tremors greatly impact my speech, eyesight, etc.
Before I left Atlanta, I had my breathing tube and my feeding tube removed. I also had a central line (an IV that went straight to my heart). They removed that, too and I was like a new man. It had been about four months since my stroke at this point.
Afterwards, I was transported via ambulance to the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, which took about two hours and I would reside the next 14 months as an impatient. I was very angry upon my arrival. I did not know why I had to be moved and I took my anger out on some of the staff there and family. They wanted to put me in a covered bed and I was not having it. I was placed on the ADRU (active duty rehab unit) ward. Once I met most of my new doctors, therapists, etc. I calmed down. It turned out that this unit was the only one of its kind in the country and the doctors and staff I worked with was professional and very helpful in my recovery. We wore our military uniforms most of the time and had therapy every day 8:00am to 4:00pm and had the weekends off.
The next several months were filled with rehab, doctors' appointments, and preparing my medical packet for the military board. I was assigned a primary physician, psychiatrist, physician assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, vision therapist, recreational therapist, counselor and a nurse case manager. They kept me busy and they all did a wonderful job.
What can I say about other patients I met? I learned so much from each one of them. Each one of them personifies the values this country was built on. I am thankful to have met each of them. I also learned no matter how bad my situation it could always be worse. I met patients from all walks of life: from Hawaii, New York, all the way to Puerto Rico; some came from Afghanistan and some from Iraq. All were active duty military and we all had something in common: we were struggling against something we had very little control over. Some had to make very important decisions at a very young age, like whether to amputate a limb. Some had lost their vision and some were losing it. Whatever their reasons for being there, most had good attitudes. This is very hard to do considering what some were facing.
Once a week, we'd go with the recreation therapist on outings to events and military programs or to do fun things like rock climb and kayak. We bonded during these trips and became like a family.
In the meantime, my doctors and other staff were collecting paperwork to discharge me from the army. The military was all I had ever done, and I didn't know if I would ever be able to do anything else. By May 2012, I was able to be discharged from the facility in Georgia and move back to Mississippi with my brother. This meant I was able to be there that fall for my kids' first day of school, which I was grateful for.
Two years and one day after my stroke, on December 27, 2012, I was medically retired from the military. At that time, I was in a wheel chair then a rolling walker and am currently on forearm crutches. I have double vision and a severe speech impediment. I have come a long way and still have a long way to go. I thank God I'm still here though.
On October 23, 2013 I visited the Mayo clinic in Jacksonville, FL to see a neurologist. There I learned I was suffering from ataxia and not tremors.
I know without a doubt that I would not be here if it was not for the many prayers and support from friends, family, staff, and people unknown so, thanks to all.