I’m an Advocate for Exercise!

Exercise may not be the most important thing. In fact, I love what the Apostle Paul says …

While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has promise for this life now and the life to come.

— 1 Timothy 4.8 (CEB)

Physical training is good, but it’s not nearly as important as spiritual training, which has value beyond this life. 

With that in mind, exercise has played an important role in my life. I’ve always been active. I ran a lot as a kid. I started working out with weights as a youth. Over the years, I’ve tried to be consistent (not always). Thankfully, though, I was pretty consistent in the years before my stroke in 2017.

My exercise routines have changed over time as I’ve discovered new and better ways to exercise. My primary equipment during the years before the stroke were simple pieces of equipment, which ironically, were designed by physical therapists.

I started using a stability ball after reading an article that appeared in the short-lived NFL Magazine. A stability ball is sometimes called an exercise ball or a Swiss ball. I settled on calling it a stability ball because my focus was on improving stability. I thought I was using the ball to help prepare for later years in life. I had no idea how quickly it would pay off.

A short time later, I switched my strength training workouts from free weights to resistance bands after reading an article before one of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl trips a few years ago. The article shared a little about Brady’s exercise strategy, which may be why he’s still able to play at a high level into his 40s.

Exercise prepared me and also helped me experience a stronger recovery.

Since the stroke, my exercise routine, or therapy, has been planned mostly by physical and occupational therapists. But as I improve and get further away from formal therapy, it’ll be up to me to take what I’ve learned and incorporate it into my exercise routine, which will always be a work in progress.

During therapy, I’ve added some tools to the tool belt. My favorite addition is the Bodyblade, which was also developed by a physical therapist.

So, I encourage you to start where you are (with your doctor’s approval, of course). Think long term. Begin with the end in mind. And, do your best. I believe it’s important. That’s why I’m an advocate for exercise.

Footnote: I give thanks to God, who is giving me this opportunity to make a comeback. I acknowledge God’s help before and after the stroke.

My Stroke

I suffered a stroke on September 19 around 10:00 p.m.

It happened very quickly. I was pretty calm, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. At the time, I was frustrated I wasn’t able to tell my family, including my kids who had gotten out of bed, that I loved them, possibly for the last time. In fact, I delayed the ambulance trying to get the words out but couldn’t. I was very disappointed!

Thankfully, Joleen was able to call 911 and get help. Moments later, I remember waiting in the ambulance in front of the house but don’t remember anything after that. I was life-flighted to Altoona and then onto Pittsburgh where I spent the next 15 days at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

I don’t remember the first few days at the hospital, but I gradually became more aware. It was a pretty surreal experience. The nights seemed especially long; I described them being three times as long as the days. I sometimes wondered where Joleen was because I didn’t see her for so long, or so it seemed.

Doctors suspected a brain bleed, but it wasn’t until a second angiogram revealed the cause of the brain bleed, an AVM (arteriovenous malformation). I underwent surgery on September 29, a craniotomy, which went well. The surgeon described the brain bleed as “severe”; he later said it was the size of a lemon.

A few days later, I was transferred to HealthSouth (Altoona) for therapy and spent 25 days in occupational, physical, and speech therapy. I would have stayed longer to make the most of my inpatient therapy, but that was as long as our insurance would allow. I appreciated my time at HealthSouth. I enjoyed visiting there six weeks after I was discharged for a routine appointment with the rehab doctor. I got to see my three therapists. It was especially rewarding to walk in without a wheelchair or a cane!

From early on, I discovered I was “fiercely independent” (a phrase used by a speech therapist at HealthSouth). I quickly learned to dress myself, including socks and shoes, and open my own food, all with one hand.

With the stroke I lost the use of my right side and my communication. Thankfully, my communication has come back pretty well (I was recently discharged from speech therapy), and my right side continues to get stronger. I continue to go to Drayer Physical Therapy for occupational therapy and physical therapy three days a week.

The toughest part is the daily battle. There’s no time to settle. There are always new accomplishments to achieve. This is how it’s going to be for a while!

I’m so grateful to God and the many people who have helped with my recovery, including surgeons, doctors, nurses, and therapists at Presbyterian Hospital (Pittsburgh), HealthSouth (Altoona), as well as the physical and occupational therapists at Drayer (Clearfield) and a speech therapist Penn Highlands (Clearfield). I’m especially grateful for my family, friends, and the prayers of God’s people!

Well, we wish that was the end of the story. However, a routine follow-up angiogram revealed some “residual AVM.” Hopefully, this will be addressed in the next few weeks with different procedures.

If you’d like to follow the journey, visit my Facebook timeline. We continue to put our trust in God’s hands!