Greg – A Near-Fatal Stroke Can Give You Perspective on Life
In 2002, I was 42 years old. I owned an auto repair shop and raced cars as a hobby. I was at my favorite racetrack in Watkins Glen, NY. I was in the lead with just one lap to go when I hit a rock and spun around. I hit the wall at 120 mph. After the accident, the racetrack doctor examined me and declared I was fine. So, I went home and back to work.
But, I wasn’t all right. Two weeks after the crash, I was on vacation in California with my wife and two daughters. I got up that first morning, showered, and started to put my shirt on. But, I couldn’t. I called my wife to come help me with the buttons. But, all she heard was gibberish. And, she saw that I was standing at a 45-degree angle although I would swear I was standing perfectly upright. As I would discover later, I had severed my carotid artery in the crash, and it had been leaking all this time. Now, I was having a stroke.
My wife called the ambulance, and they rushed me to the Bob Hope Hospital, where one of the doctors—a renowned stroke specialist—said he needed to put stints in my head or I would die. So they put 3 in my brain and one in my neck. It was experimental medicine, he said, but it was my only chance.
After the surgery, three of the four stints failed. A doctor told my wife that there was no hope for me. But, against all odds, I was still alive the next day. The doctor then said I would be a vegetable the rest of my life. No husband or wife in Loudoun should have to face a lifetime of nursing a spouse without spirit.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Three days later, I woke up from my coma. Everything on the right side of my body was dead, but I was alive and alert. I was in the hospital in California for 2 weeks, and then I was in rehab back at home for the next 8 months. I had to restore function to my leg and then my arm. I had to relearn how to talk, eat, and dress myself. I had to work at it all day every day. All in all, it took a full 3 years before I was functioning again. Today, I have recovered about 80% of my physical and mental capabilities.
Along the way, I wanted to get back to a productive life and a normal routine, so my wife found a local charity that helps disabled people find jobs. They found me a position at the Department of Transportation, where I use my previous experience as an auto mechanic to help people who are dealing with automotive recalls and accidents. It has been a phenomenal experience to go back to work.
I feel very lucky to have survived that crash all those years ago and to have made it to a California hospital where an experimental treatment was available. I cherish every day with my wife and daughters, and I do still love going to the racetrack—although now I sit in the grandstand rather than the driver’s seat. And I love the fact that I can go to work every day and make a difference for those who come looking for help. I am profoundly grateful to the Loudoun nonprofit that found me this job. I hope that we can all find our own way to help End the Need in Loudoun.