Claudia and I - our story
May 13, 2010 - the day lightning struck
Hello, I am Marty Collins and I had a bi-lateral stroke on May 13, 2010 during an unsuccessful surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat (a-fib). When I awoke, I was blind in both eyes, totally paralyzed on my left side - leg, arm, hand, my right hand and thigh were working about 50 percent. The math section of my brain and short term memory were shot. Not only did I have a stroke to deal with but the surgery was unsuccessful and left me still in a-fib with a severed phrenic nerve. (A year later, I had a sucssesful surgery that corrected my A- Fib.)
My wife Claudia was told by the neurologist that I would very possibly never walk again or even be able to think as an adult. Both my surgeon and cardiologist gave up and quit on me (us).
Claudia replaced the neurologist and several others that did not believe in my recovery and we started. I exercising in my hospital bed and wheelchair with the alarms on. After 40 days in the hospital I went home and it hit me what bad shape I was in. Had I not been at the fitness level of a professional athlete, I no doubt would have died during the surgery and stroke.
Claudia, a registered nurse with 15 years experience knew we had to go to work fast and hard. We both realized very quickly that waiting on our medical system to formulate a recovery plan was not going to happen. So she took my experience as a U.S. Army infantry paratrooper, a professional boxer, athlete, and world sparring champion in karate, combined it with her 16 years experience as a B.S.N. RN and certified fitness instructor and the strongest person I have ever met, and we went to work. We gathered all the evidence based information on stroke & brain injury recovery we could find. She laid out the plan, we set my goals and I did the work, HARD WORK, every day, 6 days a week until I could go no more. Then we did it again the next day and every day for a year and a half. I stumbled, tripped, fell, had big set backs and big gains. But I never stopped and I never, never, never quit making progress. Claudia never doubted that I would recover. If it didn't work, we threw it out. If it did work, I doubled and tripled it. I knew people were watching to see if I was going to step up to this challenge or quit and lay down like a yellow dog. Not many times in your life do you get a chance to be a HERO but I knew this was mine and I was not going to blow it. I kicked butt and took names as I recovered. Doctors and therapists that doubted my impending recovery were replaced as I force marched my way to, I guess, what you could call a miraculous recovery. Nothing or no one was going to stop me or slow me down. I was on an unstoppable mission to recover my normal life.
As I write this it has been nearly 18 months since my stroke and I have come a long way but still have a way to go. I realize that I may never be able to work again and that is a tough pill to swallow for a man that has worked hard his entire life. As I see it, with 4 children and a good looking young wife, I was forced to recover and I thank God I did not die and I have come this far. I also realize, now, that stroke and brain injury recovery never ends, you keep pushing forward, 2 steps up, 1 step back. You never never, never give up. As I look back on my recovery, 2 things really stand out. The first and by far the most important is that I thank God for my beautiful, smart, tough as nails wife Claudia. No way I could have come this far without her. Thank you, Claudia. I love you. Second, I am extremely disappointed in our medical system in the United States for those of us that are recovering from an accident, stroke or brain injury. We have the greatest medical system in the world, as long as everything is going well. But if things go bad. Our system lacks the faith in us patients that we can overcome huge adversity like a stroke or brain injury and fully recover. Our system totally falls apart for those of us that need it most.
It tears my heart out to see young and old, men & women struggling through our recovery system getting far less than they deserve. We have volumes of information on evidence based recovery and still patients do not get recovered. We have the knowledge but lack the belief, lack the faith that it will work. So patients still go unrecovered.
Every person connected to our recovery system should try sitting in a wheelchair partially paralyzed, blind, being told by the experts that they will never walk or see again. I will bet they could come up with more effort, more faith to help us recover. You get to see the world from a much different perspective from a wheelchair with your eyes crossed. Stroke and brain injury recovery is not rocket science. We know what to do but do not do it. We can do better. We must do better. We are on a mission to see that it will get done better.
Never, Never, Never give up
Marty "Superman "Collins