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Stroke Smart Magazine

September/October 2007

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A New Goal for Kyle

By Verna Noel Jones

Attitude is everything the basketball court, just as it is with stroke recovery. In the case of Kyle Reynolds, his determined attitude toward recovery from his stroke four-and-a-half years ago has helped him to score big steps toward his future goal to be a basketball coach.

Kyle was just 17 and a 5-foot-11-inch guard when he had a stroke during a basketball game with his Hopkins High School team in Minnesota. The game, held on Jan. 21, 2003, was being played against rival Wayzeta High School. While fighting for a win, Kyle was struck in the neck by another player. The blow caused a tear in his carotid artery, cutting blood flow to the brain and leading to a blood clot and a stroke.

“My teammates and coaches noticed that I was staggering and stumbling and not very coherent, so they pulled me off the floor and onto the bench,” Kyle recalls. “Then I was rushed to the hospital because they noticed that I didn't have full use of my left side. Even though I was awake while it was happening, I didn't comprehend at the time that I couldn't move my left side.”

Kyle was lucky. He was able to physically recover fairly quickly with the help of some good therapy. He could walk just four days after the stroke and was shooting hoops in the gym within a month. However, he was unable to return to the basketball team he loved, and his plans to go on to play college basketball were dashed.

In addition, Kyle struggled with feelings of isolation as his friends moved on without him. “I had sacrificed a lot of my life for basketball so I didn't really have a lot of friendships outside of the team. After basketball was gone, I was kind of a different person. People didn't act the same around me all the time. The players gave me support, but it was hard for them to relate.

“I lost a lot of friends because they all went to college and I wasn't ready or able to go to college yet because of my deficit.”

Some of Kyle's barriers were memory loss, a lack of concentration, irritability, depression and fatigue, all of which made school a lot harder for him when he finally returned part time in the fourth quarter of his junior year. He was unable to study for and complete his ACT exam that year, which prevented him from heading off to college at the same time as his friends. He even had to reapply for a driver's license.

“When my friends left for college, I socially got lost because they all moved and went to universities,” he says. “I was sort of on the outskirts because I wasn't going to school, so I felt kind of separated.”

Kyle could have felt sorry for himself and limited his personal growth at that point.

Instead, he put on his game face and directed himself toward new goals.

“I just moved on, doing what I had to do to get back to normal,” he says.

First, he completed high school. Then he found a way to share his basketball skills and knowledge by helping to coach 7th and 8th graders in basketball at Hopkins. The stroke had left him with some physical limitations; his left arm was weaker than his right, making it more difficult for him to find jobs he could do. Still, he found work in restaurants and, more recently, at the Lowe's Home Improvement Store. He landed some new buddies, too.

“I've developed new friends just through my everyday life,” he says. “It's a different life, but it's God's plan for me so I try to keep a positive attitude at all times. You can let something like this affect you or you can try to improve it, and I've done pretty well.” Now age 21, Kyle has begun taking classes at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn., and he has a fresh life's goal in mind.

“I want to be a college basketball coach. I'm going to get a communications degree, I think. I'm trying to work my way back to my dream, which once was to play college basketball. But I'm doing it in a different way, by coaching versus playing. I'm getting to my dream through a different route.”

Kyle also has some good advice for other teens who face similar challenges: “I would like to tell them that the only thing you can do to improve your situation is self-talk. Tell yourself that things will get better, and through repetitive self-talk you can overcome obstacles, because if your brain truly believes in something you can achieve it.”


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