Price Woodward – The 5F Club
Price Woodward of Greensboro, Georgia had a stroke at age 52. Today, he shares his story of recovery as an American Stroke Association volunteer and writes in honor of World Stroke Day on October 29.
News Alert, and no, this is not Fake News:
We are not always in control of everything in life. Yes, we can control many things, like:
- How much and what type of food we shovel in our mouth.
- Whether we choose to smoke or drink too much
- Whether we choose to exercise or not
- Whether we choose to spend all of our income or whether we choose to invest some of it or give some of it to those in need / less fortunate than us.
But sometimes, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. (Robert Burns, ”To a Mouse” 1786).
I have no family history of heart or stroke disease. In the fall of 2014, my health physical showed that I had blood pressure and cholesterol levels within the targeted ranges for my age. I had been the same weight (give or take two pounds) and the same waist size for 15-17 years.
Then, in January, 2015 (at age 52), in my sleep, I had a major stroke that left me paralyzed on the left side of my body. What ? …. How ?
It turns out, I had a tear in my right carotid artery (called a carotid dissection). This tear bled, the blood clotted, the clot released and went to the main intersection that feeds blood to the right side of my brain. Because we did not know when the stroke began, when we got to the hospital, I was given blood thinner medication, which is the slower way to dissolve a clot. Meanwhile, there was no blood-flow or oxygen to the right side of the brain - not good. We never could determine or even reasonably speculate why my artery tore.
So, despite my efforts to be as healthy and fit as I could be, turns out, I wasn’t as totally in control of my health as I thought I was. In fact, I heard it said that some friends were heard saying, “Yikes, If Price, the marathon man, had a stroke - I’m giving up running.” Ok, whatever works for you, I guess.
So, despite odds pretty much stacked in my favor and no warning signs of potential health concerns for any cardiovascular disease, I get struck with a stroke.
Most folks in rural communities have heard of the 4H organization, I assume. Well, after my stroke, I created the 5F club:
Pre-stroke, our life was cruising along pretty darn well. In my opinion, and, yes, I might be biased, but I think we were A+ members of the 5 F club.
So, what are the 5 Fs ?
1. Faith - My wife and I have a strong, active faith: we are sinners who believe Jesus Christ died and was raised from the dead so we could have eternal hope. We are not perfect or even good for that matter; we admit and acknowledge our weaknesses and sins and our need for a savior. Our faith has really carried us through some sad, uncertain, lonely and weary days. We couldn’t have made it this far without our faith.
2. Fitness – check. My wife and I have both run 14 marathons. I ran my first marathon at 37 years old, and my last at 48 years old (yes, 14 marathons in 11 years) I also ran the Boston marathon four times. Just to add an added layer of craziness, I accepted a friend’s invitation to climb Mt. Rainier during this same 11 year period of time. So, needless to say we made fitness and staying healthy a priority.
My fitness has really made recovery easier. If I was overweight and had high blood pressure and poor cardiovascular stamina before my stroke, recovery and complications could have been significantly worse and more challenging.
3. Family - Wow, where do I start? Oh, I know. I’ll start with my amazing wife, Tammy. First, Tammy heard me making funny noises in my sleep the morning of my stroke. She woke me up as she knew something was seriously wrong.
When she realized how not normal I was, she called 911 without hesitation. If you’re curious or uncertain if someone might be having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST F- is the Face dropping? A – is the Arm weak? S – Does speech sound unusual? T – Time is of the essence, call 911.
I’ve told several folks, one of my take-aways from the morning of my stroke. If you are married, it’s a good idea to sleep with your wife /spouse.
Since my stroke, we have celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. I sure am glad she meant what she said in her wedding vows: for better or worse; through sickness and health. Because I went from Healthy and Better to Sick and Worse, literally overnight. Quitting and leaving or bailing out is often easier than sticking around for the long, slow, tiring, and often lonely role of caregiver. Well, fortunately for me Tammy hung in there with me. Plus, she cheered me on and encouraged me when I needed it, and she pushed me and prodded me whenever I got down or felt sorry for myself. She also managed appointments, helped with getting prescriptions filled and picked up. Helped me get my leg brace on and pretty much anything and everything else I was too pitiful or unable, or impatient initially to do for myself.
We also have three amazing daughters and two equally amazing son-in-laws who have stepped up and in to cheer us on and to encourage us and remind me of all of the great things I have to live and be grateful for.
4. Friends - We have learned a lot about friendships through this whole process. Fortunately, we are blessed with a lot of friends. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or do for someone who has had a major life-altering health event. Good news - you don’t have to research what the ideal or perfect thing to say is. You have no idea how encouraging and uplifting it is just to get a text or email or call or visit from a friend. One of these simple gestures is enough to let us know that we haven’t been forgotten. Good medicine indeed. Also, caregivers need love, too. Caregiving is hard, often thankless and lonely and overwhelming. Even things that seem so little or insignificant (pick up some groceries, prescriptions, dry cleaning, etc….) or come over and fold some clean towels. A little loving and helping hand goes a long way with caregivers.
The thing I have learned about friendships is: you have to be a friend to have a friend. Friendships require an investment of time and energy. If you don’t invest in friendships along the way and help others as they encounter trials, it’s not realistic to think you’ll have any friends show up when you most need them.
5. Fortunately, I spent my entire 32-year career in the financial services industry. So, we started early planning ahead to save for college for our three daughters and for our retirement, and we also planned for the unexpected by having the right type and amounts of insurance coverage for whatever season in life we were in at that time. And, yes, these things do need to be reviewed and updated regularly as life events change.
Having a major health event is bad enough; compounding that with financial woes can be a breaking point. Your loved ones will already be overwhelmed enough with your health issue. Try not to add salt to the wound for them by not having your financial house in order. But, to avoid this potential pitfall, it requires planning ahead, before disaster strikes.
After my stroke, I was declared disabled, which then led to retirement. Well, our youngest daughter was still in college. Fortunately, we had her college education account pre-funded to cover those costs. Fortunately, we also had disability income insurance, which replaced part of my lost income caused by my disability. (Sorry, don’t mean to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but my story is the only one I can tell and know I’m getting the majority of facts straight (yes, Tammy still has to correct me now and again. My brain isn’t 100% back just yet)). Needless to say, we had very good health insurance as well. Thanks to my employer for offering an excellent company-sponsored insurance plan options through work and outstanding HR support and overall support throughout our whole ordeal and transition.
So, if finances aren’t your cup of tea, then go find a reputable Financial Advisor who can help you plan and prepare for the expected things in life (like college education and retirement) and help you prepare for UNEXPECTED things in life.
We all know how stressful life can be when the walls of your financial house start caving in. Again, this requires pre-planning and investing in advance of your trails and difficulties.
I said we aren’t in control. My 5 Fs couldn’t prevent my stroke, but each of these things have made my recovery much easier and less stressful than they otherwise could have been for us.
Want to help spread the word about resources available for life after stroke? Be sure to check out everything on offer for World Stroke Day.
What is your post-stroke motto? Join the Support Network to comment below and share your experience.