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Wellness Journey: Stroke Changed Employee’s Life

by on May 17, 2016
Don Jackson

Don Jackson

AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees. All employees are invited to share their stories about the changes they are making to live healthier lives. This “Wellness Journey” is from Don Jackson, billing associate in Customer Operations in Shreveport, La. These articles represent only the views and opinions of the employee and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of AEP.

This story is also in recognition of Stroke Prevention Month. Remember, if you or someone you are with is having a stroke, it’s important to get help fast – call 9-1-1. Symptoms are sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Where I was and how I got there:

I am a SWEPCO “brat” — my father worked for Southwestern Electric Power Company for 29 years. I am married to a wonderful lady named Faye, and we have one son, Donald Jr. I have always been an active person, working out with weights, walking, running, etc. Prior to having the stroke, I had been doing a lot of external activities and probably wasn’t getting enough rest. I felt like my health was okay as I did not have any issues prior to that fateful Friday morning. I was given a clean bill of health by my doctor as I had other medical issues to contend with.

My turning point:

On Friday, May 28, 2010, at approximately 5 a.m., I was getting ready to shower before work, and started feeling weak on my right side. I called out to my wife to call 911, that I felt I was having a stroke! I recognized the symptoms because of the AEP safety and wellness programs that educate employees on topics like this.

In a short while, paramedics arrived and began to check me out. My vision was blurred, my speech became slurred, and I collapsed before I could get to the ambulance. I was paralyzed on my right side. After spending over a week in a hospital’s intensive care section, I was moved to a private room and began physical therapy and the slow recovery process.

The recovery process was very stressful. At first, I had to learn how to walk, talk, eat and dress myself all over again – I felt like a 2-year-old kid. Physical therapy was 7 days a week from 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, with an hour for lunch.

The most difficult thing I had to do was to learn how to walk again. The therapists were extremely patient with me, as I tend to be aggressive when it comes to trying to do things. Also, since I am right-handed, writing was a major issue to relearn. But I kept practicing until I got it right. I still have issues with my right side with writing now and then.

Keeping on track:

I am now doing okay, but I still have to be alert to any changes that may happen. I lost 25 percent of the use of my right side. I returned to work full time in January 2011. I continue to work out at home, before and after work. I continue to exercise by walking, stationary bike riding, small weight lifting, stretching and any other things I feel like trying.

At work, I’m in the Customer Operations – Billing group in the Shreveport Customer Operations Center. Since I do not do heavy manual labor, I have my doctor’s permission to work. In January of this year, I began my 45th year with AEP. I just turned 65 years old in April 2016.

Paying it forward:

Anyone who has experienced a stroke or who may be caring for someone who has had a stroke knows how important it is to get medical help immediately. Some strokes are considered minor and some are major. Minor stroke symptoms usually have minor indications and sometimes the person doesn’t even know they are having one (these are called TIAs). With major strokes, you will definitely need to get help as soon as possible.

If you notice that your speech becomes slurred, or either your right or left side becomes weak and you are having trouble trying to walk, you need to get help immediately. Even if you think it’s a minor issue, get help. If something does not feel right, it’s better to find out from a medical professional what is happening than to do nothing.

Since I had my stroke, my family life has changed quite a bit — my wife is always looking out for me, as she helps me do things around the house that I used to do without any help. God bless all women!!

Do you have a wellness journey you’d like to share? If so, send an email to dpwaitkus@aep.com.

 

From → Wellness

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