Mike, 72, is a tall, athletic-looking man but he admits that he never took good care of himself.
When he retired from his job as a social worker, he spent the first few years caring for his elderly parents.
“I ate and drank whatever I wanted,” Mike recalls. “I smoked and couldn't care less. I retired at 60 and became a couch potato. I should've taken better care of myself.”
After his parents passed away, Mike's poor lifestyle finally caught up with him.
At 2 a.m. one October morning, he awoke to use the bathroom but his right leg felt strange. Thinking his leg had just fallen asleep, he went back to bed.
While trying to make breakfast later that morning, his left leg and left arm were wobbly and out of control.
Mike called his sister and brother-in-law who took him to UPMC Presbyterian, where doctors confirmed that he had suffered a stroke.
Two days later, Mike transferred to the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC St. Margaret for rehab.
“I'm a firm believer in doing whatever it takes to get better,” says Mike. “I told the doctors and therapists to do whatever you have to so I can get better. Push me as hard as you want. I want to be home by Christmas and my goal is to walk out the door.”
Mike eagerly began his physical and occupational therapy, where he worked on strengthening his leg first so he could start walking again.
At first, Mike was worried he was going to fall over because his brain wasn't functioning properly and he felt tipsy.
His therapists had him use parallel bars to practice walking. He also did curls with free weights to regain his arm strength.
“Just like a baby, you have to learn to crawl before you walk, walk before you can run,” proclaims Mike. “My therapists were terrific and acted as a team to get me moving again, little by little. They never contradicted one another. And each one had something to contribute to the process, so that I could get out of here sooner than later.”
About six weeks after entering the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, Mike walked out of the hospital using only a walker for support.
“It took tenacity and grit to recover and meet my goal of getting home for Christmas,” says Mike proudly. “My advice to anyone else rehabbing here after a stroke? Do whatever your doctor and therapists tell you. They'll steer you in the right direction and get you back on your feet.”
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