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Outdoors commentary: Looking back and looking ahead

In response to the many kind inquiries from readers of this column, I'm taking a "timeout" today to bring you up to date on my adventures in stroke recovery.

It's been a bit more than two full years since I awoke from a deep sleep, stricken by a stroke.

Though my father had died from a stroke, I never thought for a moment that the same fate was on my agenda. I have a history of heart problems and I thought that my ticker would cause another problem in the future. I've since learned that more than 700,000 people are stricken by strokes in this country each year. A shocking number.

When you have a stroke, speed is critical. Luckily, my wife, Merelie, recognized immediately that I was having a stroke and was able to tell this to the 911 operator. I credit the super ambulance crew from the Reese Fire Department with saving my life that night.

I was initially taken to Sinaii Hospital because the Carroll Hospital Center was "overflowing" on this night. I was pretty much out of touch until waking up the next day and thought for sure that I was at Carroll.

After being stabilized, I received a second piece of great luck by being transferred to Lorien Rehab Center, in Taneytown. I simply cannot heap enough praise on this great facility and their caring staff.

Thr first morning there, a beautiful angel named Nicole Nelson came into my room and I'm afraid I fell a little bit in love and remain so to this day. Nicole now lives with her husband and little family in Ohio and is attending nursing school. If ever someone was born to be a nurse, it is gentle, caring Nicole. She mostly took care of me on a day-to-day basis for months.

I needed a lot of care and still joke that I don't wish me on anyone! My entire left side was paralized. Then, after a few days, I met a second beautiful angel, Sue Clarke, who has the most wonderful smile in the world. Sue ran my physical therapy program and got me on my feet for the first time. We worked together daily. I'll never be able to thank her enough for her dedication. And there were so many others at Lorien. I hope I don't leave out too many names, but some of the most memorable are Brittany Yates, Cathy, Crystal, Debbie and Kristen, and Rebecca.

The only bad experiences throughout this entire ordeal have involved our battles with my insurance carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, who determined when I had enough help. It took us months and dozens of phone calls to learn just who was my "case officer." I only paid into them for 37 years. I try not to be too critical, but they make it difficult. Just when I began to show some meaningful progress, we were informed that BC ruled we had to get out, so home I came.

When Merelie brought me home, she had to prop me up on the sofa with pillows or I would have fallen to the floor. Thanks to Jeff Wells, who had suffered an even more serious stroke, we learned of a study program being conducted by the VA and that they were looking for subjects to work with at no cost.

I applied and was accepted into the stretching program. What a blessing this has been. I just completed a six-month program with Sarah Parton.What a joy this experience has been. I saw an almost immrdiate improvement in balance and flexibility and the care has been first class all the way.

In April I will begin another six-month program on a treadmill and have been asked to participate in a new, cutting edge robotics study. I am very excited.

Notable thank-yous go to the best nurse I have worked with, Jill Leo, who lives in Hampstead, Beth Disanzo, who coordinates my study and Dr. Charlene Hafer-Macko, Director, Myasthenia Gravis Center.

A lot of the work is done at the University Of Maryland Hospital, in Baltimore, but I was able to go to Kernan Hospital, off of Security Blvd, in Woodlawn. They are always looking for subjects and I recemmend, in the strongest terms, that you call Beth at 410-605-7000, extension 4805 for complete details.

They currently have me to the point where, if I had to, I could walk across the room unaided. During the warm days a couple of weeks back, I had progressed enough that i was able to hit 20 golf balls at the Westminster island Green driving range. I didn't hit them far, but the point is that I could hit them. One of my first goals has been met!

Last year Merelie regularly took me to the Dug Hill Rod and Gun Club's range and I discovered that I could still shoot my rifles rather well and also, while sitting, could do reasonably well with my handguns. A few weeks back i stumbled onto a used, but "like-new" Ruger Super Blackhawk revolver in .44 magnum and I'm looking forward to working with that. I'm also in the process of reassembling my handloading gear and look forward to working up and wringing out of new loads for my rifles and handguns.

Of course, I'll be hitting more golf balls and my thoughts are drifting toward fishing.

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