My name is Mike. I worked at Bethlehem Steel full-time as an accountant since 1990. I had a massive stroke on September 27th, 2005 and had difficulty with speech and walking. Therapy has helped me gradually improve my skills that I lost from my stroke. Today, I still have trouble reading and understanding text but I have improved a lot. I have not returned to work. However, I attend SCALE three times a week, participate in studies, drive my daughters to school, and enjoy gardening.
My family dynamic has changed significantly since my stroke. My wife, Piper, has taken on a lot of responsibilities. She helps me everyday and is very supportive. I also have two daughters, Madeline and Emma. Madeline was 12 and Emma was 10 when I had my stroke. Because of my stroke, I was not able to do everything I wanted as a dad. Madeline pushed herself and worked really hard on her own. She is now graduating at the top of her class, has a part time job at the nursing home, and volunteers at church. She is loud, bubbly, well-spoken, and loves helping others. Emma is extremely artistic and talented. She and Madeline are very different; Emma is more introverted and keeps to herself. Emma had a harder time dealing with my stroke, probably because of her age. It was difficult for her but I am so proud of how she has pushed through and has excelled through her art.
When I was growing up, my father was in the military and was very strict and curt. He was very independent and never asked for help. I became very independent and narrow-minded as well. Before my stroke, I was a perfectionist to a fault. I was very good at my job and excelled at work. I did not appreciate the small things such as using two hands to do tasks and talking on the telephone. After my stroke, I was very sad and frequently thought, “Why me”? I was very negative and hard on myself because of my aphasia. It has now been eight years since my stroke and I realize perspective is everything and I need to keep moving forward because I keep improving.
SCALE has been great and is unlike other therapy programs. It is a place for me to go to have conversations, utilize technology, meet people, and go to lunch with new friends. I use my iPad everyday. I like to listen to music, look at maps, play games, watch videos, search the web, look at stocks, etc.
Although I had a stroke, I am now doing things in my life that I never thought I could again such as driving, taking care of bills, learning new things, and taking my role as a father because I am continuing to push forward. I love going out in the community and meeting people and do not let my aphasia stop me from doing that. My advice to others is to get out and not be isolated and reach for the stars.