John Soisson – One Year After My Stroke
John is a stroke survivor and former Fire Chief who writes in honor of American Stroke Month.
Last year, Saturday, June 15th was a great day. We had a family picnic at my son’s house where I was able to enjoy being with my children and grandchildren. Celebrating Father’s Day early was a blessing with my three wonderful children and four grandchildren (the joy of my life). Later that evening, my wife and I returned home and I went to bed shortly after 11 p.m., just like any other Saturday night. When I awoke, I had a terrible headache on the right side of my head. I struggled with headaches often and getting in my recliner often relieved the headache, but this time I was unable to get out of bed and I couldn't sit up or stand. After I collapsed onto the floor of my bedroom, my wife called 911 realizing that something was seriously wrong.
My next memory is of one of my close friends - a fellow firefighter, someone I have served with for the past 28 years - coming to help me. From the look on their faces, I knew something was seriously wrong. I was transported to our local hospital Emergency Department and then I moved to a level 1 trauma center in Cleveland, Ohio where I spent a week in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit. I was totally paralyzed on my left side.
From there, I was moved to an inpatient rehab unit where I spent the next month going through intensive therapy every day. I was blessed with exceptional therapists and was able to walk on my own by the time I left rehab on the 31st of July. Right before my release, I was able to pass my fourth barium swallow test and then was allowed to return home!
The day I returned home, I was greeted by my entire Fire Department in my driveway. Being home was the greatest feeling in the world. My youngest daughter, who is a physical therapist, stayed with me that first week home. I was blessed to have her and my oldest daughter who is a speech therapist on my team helping me adjust to my new life.
After spending 30 years of my life helping people as a firefighter it has been a real struggle now being the guy who needs help.