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Wellness Journey: Ted Werk’s ‘stroke of luck’

by on June 8, 2016
Ted Werk, second from left, is shown with his sons (left to right): Race, Steven, and Christopher.

AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees and retirees. All employees and retirees are invited to share their stories about the changes they are making to live healthier lives. This “Wellness Journey” is from Ted Werk, training instructor senior, Cook Nuclear Plant Training, in Bridgman, Mich.

Where I was and how I got there:

My story starts Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009. I was home alone, and didn’t go to church that morning due to a headache and a nauseous feeling (no other symptoms). Later that morning, while letting the dog out to do her thing, I became dizzy and felt a weakness in my legs, so I crawled to the restroom. There I vomited uncontrollably and could barely sit up on the toilet. It was a “stroke of luck” (pun intended) that I happened to have my cell phone with me, which was unusual for me, so I called 9-1-1. The ambulance arrived in about three minutes.

At the hospital, they told me that I had experienced a severe spontaneous arterial dissection in the cerebellum which also affected my right cerebrum to some extent. I felt much better although I noticed that my left side was partially paralyzed. I thought to myself, “I can come back from this with ease.” They kept me overnight for observation.

My turning point:

At about 2 a.m. Dec. 21, I awoke to the most frightening situation imaginable. I was unable to move my right side at all!!! The effects had cascaded to my left cerebrum with a vengeance.  I could see the look of panic on the nurse’s face and I thought to myself, “You’re screwed, buddy.” I also found out that the week of Christmas is not a good time to have a stroke due to specialists being on vacation, so I was moved to another hospital in Michigan that had an advanced neuro section.

There it was determined that my situation was very serious (moribund) and that any surgery was not recommended due to the degree of swelling in my cerebellum. The seriousness of my situation really came to light when I woke up to see my two older sons at my bedside (one from Texas and the other who was serving in the U.S. Navy and had been stationed in the Persian Gulf). I spent the next six days in this hospital recuperating to a stable condition while they searched for an in-patient rehabilitation facility to continue my recovery.

Keeping on track:

I spent the next and longest six weeks of my life at a rehab hospital in Grand Rapids, with five hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy per day. Then I underwent another eight months of outpatient therapy at a local facility. I returned to work after eight months and was able to drive 11 months after the original stroke date.

Currently, I am a mixed bag of nuts — weakness on the right side, loss of control of the left side, mild aphasia (communication disorder), balance issues, and limited short-term memory (just to name a few). However, I am truly blessed — I was able to return to work after only eight months.  I am able to get around with a cane and have regained much of my independence.

Paying it forward:

So if I were to share any advice with you it is:

#1 – “Be in tune with your body.” Listen to what your body may be telling you.

#2 – “Don’t try to be a hero.” Seek medical attention early — the immediate response of the ambulance crew may have saved my life.

As you can imagine, my lifestyle has changed dramatically with an emphasis on diet, exercise, and especially rest — those weekends that I looked forward to for fun and frolic are now filled with only rest and relaxation.  If there is one thing I have learned through this experience it is that you really know who your “true” friends are. And more than all, I am sincerely grateful for the gift of love, care, and compassion given from my wife/caregiver, Denise.  Without her continual care and support, I don’t believe I would have recovered with the ability to continue to live so well.

Do you have a wellness journey you’d like to share? Your story can be about weight loss, overcoming an illness or condition, maintaining good health habits or some other topic related to well-being. Just send an email to Dave Waitkus at dpwaitkus@aep.com.

 

From → Wellness

One Comment
  1. supershiftsuper permalink

    What hospital and rehab center in Grand Rapids?

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