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2012 ISSUE 1

A Vision for the Future

A young stroke survivor’s youthful energy and optimism aids his recovery.

Cole Nimphius has relearned everything—how to hold his head up, sit up, walk, talk and how to swallow.

After his stroke in 2009, Nimphius, who was 16 at the time, was in a coma for six weeks. He spent 104 days at Children’s Hospital Milwaukee. Approximately seven weeks after his stroke, he stood for 15 seconds with the help of three therapists. At 10 weeks, he took his first step, and after three months spoke his first word.

“A stroke changes your life,” says Nimphius, whose stroke was the result of blockage to his basilar artery in the brain stem. Today, his enthusiasm for life is trumped only by his sense of humor, paired with a side of wit and sarcasm that comes naturally for teenage boys.

He admits the most difficult part of his recovery is struggling with drawing. Nimphius has always been interested in art and hopes to pursue an art-related career, but his pencil drawings are a little harder to perfect these days due to the double vision that occurs when both his eyes are open.

When he had his stroke, the damage to Nimphius’ obicularis oculi was so severe that he wasn’t able to open his eyes. He underwent multiple surgeries to adjust the muscles and to center his eyes. Doctors attached “apron strings” from his eyelid to eyebrow so that when he raises his eyebrows, his eyes open. “I looked like Rocky Balboa after those surgeries,” he jokes.

Despite his challenges, Nimphius has his sights set on graduation and a career. Though he missed a semester of high school while he was in the hospital, he’s set to graduate in January 2012. He turned 19 on Christmas Eve and said he’s planning on getting his own place and going to tech school or college some day.

“Staying positive day to day is the only way to go in life,” he adds. “Here’s the kicker: I have a strong faith in the Lord and truly believe he’s watching over me and giving me everything I need to get by.” Buoyed by his faith, Nimphius goes to church every Sunday (with the exception of one day last November when he went to Lambeau Field to watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

His advice for other teens working through recovery? “Keep on fighting and never give in.”

How Stroke May Affect Vision

Blurred Vision
Decreased acuity can occur if the oculomotor nerve is affected. This nerve is responsible for moving eye muscles and for keeping the eyelid open.

Drooped Eyelid
A drooping eyelid, or ptosis, can improve if you force the use of the affected eye for a few minutes each hour, gradually building up muscle tolerance.

Seeing Double
Diplopia, or double vision, is the result of the weaker eye moving at a slower pace than the stronger eye.

Vision Gaps
Vision field cuts occur when the optic nerve is affected and there is partial vision loss in one or both eyes.

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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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