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Wellness Journey: John Ascherman Learns What’s Important in Life

by on July 11, 2016
Lawrenceburg Plant employee John Ascherman (third from left) with his family, son Kyle, wife, Kim, and daughter, Hannah.

AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees. 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  John Ascherman, combined cycle technician senior at Lawrenceburg Plant, Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Where I was and how I got there:

The day I will never forget, Sept. 15, 2012, started as any other Saturday with breakfast and coffee with my wife, Kim. I was waiting for my daughter, Hannah, and her friend, Samantha, to get out of bed. That day we went to the girls’ soccer game. At halftime, I went to the concession stand to get a drink and something to eat. Halfway back to my chair, I saw a friend of mine. I stopped to talk to him and I began to get really dizzy.

I then headed back to my chair and got some aspirin from my wife’s purse because I had a slight headache. I finished watching the game, and as I folded up my lawn chair, I dropped my water bottle at my feet.  I bent over to get it, and my arms would not move to pick up the bottle. I became extremely dizzy and things started to turn black, like I was looking down a dark tunnel.  As I bent back up, everything became clear again.

As we walked back to the car, I handed the keys to Kim. I told her that I thought I had almost passed out. We stopped and talked to other parents and kids and proceeded on to the car. When we arrived at the main entrance of the school to attend a fundraiser, I was walking behind my wife as we entered the school.

My turning point:

I must have been talking about something when Kim noticed I sounded like Popeye. I was slurring my speech. She turned to look at me, and she then noticed my eye and mouth had sagged on one side of my face. She rushed me to Dearborn County Hospital, not waiting for an ambulance since we were close to the car.

I was at the hospital for three or four hours and then was transferred to University Hospital in Cincinnati. I was roomed on the fourth floor, which is dedicated to the Neurology Department. What a great place! During this stay, all I remember is that I couldn’t get enough sleep. At one point, I expressed concern to my wife about the cost. She said it really didn’t matter the cost, as long as I was alive!

I spent four days at UC hospital before transferring to a rehabilitation center in Northern Kentucky. During rehabilitation, I had to learn to walk again, and at age 49, that was not fun!  I also had to build strength and work on regaining mobility on the left side of my body. When I was discharged from rehab, I was 5’ 11” and weighed 237 pounds.

The first night that I arrived home, my wife helped me into the shower. You wouldn’t think stepping into a bathtub was a big deal, but it was very challenging. I was so weak that I didn’t have enough strength to dry myself off or pull up my underwear. I decided then that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life depending on someone else to get dressed.

After several weeks of occupational therapy, practicing walking to the mailbox and back, I was on my way to recovery. One way I worked on getting my balance back was to play video games on Wii. I played golf, bowling, skiing and other balance games. At the beginning of the game each day, I had to weigh myself. I was not sure it was accurate or not, but I noticed that I had started to lose weight.

I was off work for about five months. There are many hidden injuries due to my stroke still to this day that affect multitasking, concentration, and memory. Is it the end of the world? No. Things I thought were important really don’t matter anymore.

My stroke was a Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA. A TIA occurs when you lose blood flow to your brain. The doctors are not sure why it happened. I had no blockage in my veins. I have since come to my own conclusion about what may have caused it to happen. I was reading information from the Cleveland Clinic that you should never eat a breakfast sandwich from fast food restaurants. They are what I call “sodium bombs” that will spike your blood pressure. I was stopping most mornings, getting a McDonalds breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee on my way to work. I was overweight and seemed to have a lot of stress in my life.

Editor’s note: For reference, McDonald’s Corp. nutrition information states that its Steak, Egg and Cheese Bagel contains 1,510 milligrams sodium, or 63 percent of the recommended daily value. McDonald’s Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddle sandwich has 1,250 mg sodium (52% RDV); Sausage McMuffin with Egg has 860 mg sodium (36% RDV), and Egg McMuffin has 750 mg sodium (31% RDV). Source: http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf

Staying on track:

After losing 50 pounds, I got off of blood pressure medicine completely. I never go to a fast food restaurant at lunch. If I do go out, I go to Kroger and get a salad to go. Salmon is one of my new favorite foods, it is full of good Omega 3’s. I read most labels on boxes. I love pizza but very seldom eat it.

Your doctor may recommend that you consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. Eating a low-sodium diet means more than just eliminating the salt shaker from the table! However, that is a good start since one teaspoon of table salt = 2,300 mg of sodium. Also remember that 77 percent of all sodium is in processed food. For snacks, instead of eating a bag of chips, I eat a bag of carrots.

Paying it forward:

I want to personally thank my family during this difficult time. Without them, I would have never made it back to work. I also want to thank all the occupational therapists and physical therapists who worked with me during recovery. They are a great group of people who dedicate their lives to helping others. Since my stroke, my daughter has decided to pursue an occupational therapy degree in college. I’m sure there are a whole lot of other people I should thank. I just thank God for giving me another day on this earth!

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 dpwaitkus@aep.com.

From → Wellness

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