I am going to take a detour from my story about strokes and go two years later after the strokes in 2010. Because of the rehabilitation route, I chose for myself (and grateful that I could take part in the great variety of rehab options available), I met some extraordinary people. I still do! These were folks who have dedicated their lives to make possible that individuals (like me) could function better in life when they needed to undergo rehabilitation. 

In the summer of 2011, I started working with a gifted physical therapist named Laura. She is not the person I want to tell you about, but she is amazing. She was top-notch and was always going to workshops and seminars so she can perform the newest techniques on her patients. One of the workshop speakers offered a certification which she got after some time and more workshops. He was an incredible occupational therapist by trade. His name was Paul. He is not the person I want to tell about, but he was exceptional. I benefited immensely from both these people.

She offered that I could work with him in one on one sessions if I could go to California. I signed up and went to work with him in the spring of 2012. I flew in on Sunday to start Monday with Paul. I was excited and nervous. Laura had pumped up his abilities with me for the months leading up to my visit. I worked him for five days, three hours twice each day.  A total of 30 hours. He was everything that Laura has promised. He was dedicated and exacting. He exercised my limbs repeatedly. Over and over he would perform a motion hundreds of times. During the exercises, he would tell me fascinating and funny stories. On Tuesday, he told me about one of his past patients that was remarkable. He is the person I want to tell you about him!

His name is Omer Rains. He is an intriguing person! At age 32, Rains was elected to serve the first of three terms in the California Senate representing the Central Coast Area of California. Although a fiscal conservative, Rains was progressive on social issues. When Ronald Reagan was Governor of California, Rains and Reagan developed a close working relationship and friendship that continued during Reagan’s later years as President. One of several items that drew the two together was Rains’ ardent demand for fiscal responsibility. In that regard, he took legislative action to cure regulatory abuse and authored the first “zero-based” budgeting and “Sunset” bills in state history. The populist/progressive side of him was earmarked by landmark legislation in the areas of political reform, alternative energy, conservation, protection of children & seniors, and promotion of women’s rights. (Excerpted from Wikipedia.) Whether you like Ronald Reagan or not, he was a captivating human, too. Omer has more of his background and you can go and read more, but I want to tell you about his stroke and the aftermath!

Rains suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm (vessel swelling) and an associated hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke in 2002 at the age of 61. Afterward, he was in critical condition for over a month. He recovered fully and in 2012 authored a book chronicling his life and his recovery entitled “Back to the Summit: How One Man Defied Death and Paralysis to Again Lead a Full Life of Service to Others”. He must he just published his book, so I downloaded his book. Starting Tuesday night, I devoured the book over the next three days I was in California working with Paul. 

One of his stories about the consequences of his stroke brings me to the present. I am forever thankful for Mr. Rains’ example. His stroke involved the right side of his body. His motor function was not all there in the early days of his recovery. After he was released from the hospital, he decided that he was not going to listen to the advice of his rehab team. They had recommended that he have his car outfitted with a left foot pedal. It allows you to operate your vehicle with your left foot instead of your right foot. I had received the same advice and got the device installed in my van (the photo of the device is at the beginning of this blog post). I was using the apparatus for 18 months since I started driving again in the fall of 2010. 

This is how I recalled his story. He decided he was going to drive his car normally like he used to drive before the stroke. Luckily, he lived in a gated community so there were not too many cars to get in his way. He got in (remember, this is still early in his recovery), and began to back out of his driveway. He was shaking and drove for a way within the gates. He bumped into a car (no damage), parked it there, and walked home. He considered his venture in “normal” driving a smashing success. He continued to improve his driving techniques and drives normally (without that darn contraption!).

I was excited to get back from my trip and do the same experiment that he had performed. Monday I was out driving in my subdivision (not a gated community, but it is not on a busy road) without my device. It was shaking at first, but soon I was driving with my right foot. I went out on the busy road. Since that day, I have not looked. Thank you Omer for showing me and countless others who now drive normally. The Omer team scores 1, the team that manufacturers and installs the device, scored 0.

To be continued in a later blog. Please leave your comments!


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