Stroke survivor advocates rehab for recovery

"Oh, man. Man, it changed my whole life," Eakins said.

"Oh, man. Man, it changed my whole life," 61-year-old Dennis Eakins of Coal Valley said. He remembers March 2011.  

"I was working on a dishwasher in a duplex," Eakins said. That's when his life changed forever. 

"I noticed when I drove home my knee was weak. My right knee," Eakins said. Then, the confusion set in. 

"I didn't understand what was going on," Eakins said. It wasn't until the next morning that he started figuring out what was going on. 

"My hand didn't do what I told it to do. My voice, I mean, my language was slurred," Eakins said.  These are classic signs of stroke according to Dr. Robert Chesser with Trinity Hospital. 

"You'll have weakness, generally on one side of the body. You may have loss of speech," Dr. Chesser said.  Doctors call it a "brain attack." 

"Basically the bottom line is you'll lose blood supply to a certain area of the brain," Dr. Chesser said. Common risk factors include diabetes, poor diet, high blood pressure and smoking. 

"I used to smoke like a chimney. I don't anymore, not since my stroke," Eakins said. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than two-thirds of survivors will have some type of disability.

"Turning that wrist is a problem," Eakins said. That's where rehab comes in. 

"I didn't like it very much, but it was good for me," Eakins said. At Trinity, they tackle therapy with teamwork. 

"We'll use nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, the dietitian, the chaplain, rehab psychology," Dr. Chesser said.  Eakins had to retire from his job as a property owner, and re-teach his body basic movements. 

"How to talk again, how to swallow again, how to move my arm again, how to walk again." Eakins said. His wife Candy has been by his side the entire time. 

"She's been great. She pretty much helps me with everything," Eakins said. While stroke has limited Eakins' physical abilities, it hasn't curbed his positivity. 
"Keep up the attitude. Good attitude," Eakins said.  While occupational, physical and speech therapy are important, Eakins said Trinity's Stroke Support Group plays an instrumental role in his rehab. It gives him and his wife a supportive community with other stroke survivors. 
Moving forward in his recovery, Eakins plans to stay calmer under stress and start getting more exercise. 

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