"What shall I wear today? Yes, the blue suit," I thought before stepping into the bathtub to take my morning shower. Why am I so terribly dizzy? I better sit down. Fortunately, I did, because all of a sudden, I lose control over my body. My arms and legs shake profoundly, hitting the tub. Please, somebody help me! It hurts so much. Thank God, my wife is here. "Help me!" I want to shout, but out comes only an unintelligent noise.
My wife wears the panic on her face when she finds me.
She tilts my head back. Now I can breathe again! This is unreal - I can neither move nor talk. Is this the end? Will I die now? No! I did not have the chance to tell my wife how much I love her! The ambulance arrives and puts me on a stretcher. I am given an injection and black out.
"We are sorry. Your husband will die," my wife is told in the hospital. She calls my parents in Germany and informs them that the doctors will try to keep me alive until they arrive. They book the next flight to Washington, D.C., funeral clothes in their suitcases. The physicians make a last and risky attempt to save my life. Miraculously, they succeed and can dissolve the blood clot. "He will survive," the physician tells my wife," but he will be "locked-in". "It means that your husband will stay completely paralyzed and will not be able to speak again." "Oh, my God! He will be trapped in his body forever!"
I wake up again in the hospital. My head is killing me. My wife asks if I am in pain. I blink "yes". I am given strong medication. What made her ask? Somehow she must have felt it. I love her! Six weeks of total paralysis pass.To be in hell cannot be worse.
Then - hooked up to various tubes, life flowed back into my body and soul. On Christmas Eve, I move my left foot about half an inch. Doctors and nurses are stunned. Another miracle - and hope for more. What follows is a long and intense therapy. I was determined to overcome my paralysis! I struggled every day, relearning how to eat, speak, sit, and walk. After four months, I leave the hospital and go home.
More than four and a half years have passed since. First, a wheelchair, then a walker, and always hard work! I now walk with a cane. My former life as an attorney, squash pro, and top-ranking player has changed but I enjoy every day and am grateful for my rebirth. To my fellow stroke survivors, I have this advice:
Always stay positive. Work on your recovery day by day! You can recover from a stroke! There is so much help and new gadgets out there. The stroke made one mistake: It did not kill us. Now, we come back.
A stroke? So what?