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Path To Healing: A Stoke Survivor's Story

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:15 am    Post subject: Path To Healing: A Stoke Survivor's Story Reply with quote

Walking down a nature trail at Tyler State Park, the silence of the forest is broken by the sound of footsteps and something more unusual -- haunting Celtic music coming from Donald Gipson's front pocket.

A tiny MP3 player goes with him everywhere, and for him, the music is a reminder of what can be achieved after a devastating event.

At age 56, Gipson survived what many people don't -- a stroke.

"What happened was, on the 18th, which was a Thursday, I woke up at 5 a.m. and apparently, the stroke had occurred in my sleep," he said. "I felt like I had a super bad hangover -- I felt bad all over. My arm felt like lead, it was real heavy, and my left leg was about a beat behind my right."

After attempting to walk to work and realizing something was definitely wrong, Gipson was rushed to the hospital by his wife.

"In my case, the treatment was a clot buster because my stroke was later determined to be an ischemic stroke, or a blood clot that occurred close to my brain stem on the right side," he said, pointing to his neck.

With blood pressure in the triple digits, both top and bottom, Gipson was in bad shape.

"I was at ETMC about a week, maybe a week and a half, and then I was transferred to Health South for rehab," he said. "Down there at rehab, I chose to be positive about the situation, do the best I could, and work hard. I even went over what the therapist had told me to do, and she'd say, 'OK, that's enough Don!'"

Don Gipson shows off a few of his “Celtic Woman” CDs. Gipson, a stroke survivor, credits this music and humor for helping him overcome the challenges of recovering from a stroke.
His recovery was gradual, he said, but one morning, a miracle occurred.

"My hand on my left arm was curled," he said, clenching his fingers together to demonstrate. "One morning, I felt the need to stretch, and all of a sudden, bang! I was able to move my fingers independently. In that instant there, my brain found another pair of wires."

He still has trouble in what he calls the "leg department," and operates on a "dual drive system."

"My right leg is on automatic -- I don't have to think about it, but my left leg is on manual, so I constantly have to remind myself to instruct it in the proper way to walk," he said. "If I'm not paying attention, I catch myself not walking properly. Unfortunately, my dancing days are done; I can't dance the Virginia Reel anymore!"

But just because he can't dance doesn't mean he's not still striving to improve himself and face challenges.

"I do things that I haven't done before," he said. "Even though I realize there are some things I can't do, I've challenged myself to do things like get involved with the Tyler Civic Theatre. Just this last July, I was a member of the show 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' in which I was cast as Erroneous, the befuddled old man, and thanks to the stroke, my walking was fitting the part!"

When he's not on stage, he's listening to the morning song of the birds at Tyler State Park where he is a Park Ranger II.

"I've been working out here more than three years," he said. "I get to see deer, wildlife and meet all kinds of new people. It's a great job."

His physical and mental activities, as well as the exercise, are all important parts of his recovery, he said.

"They have a saying down at Health South, 'If you don't use it, you lose it,' and by being in the play, I had to constantly use my brain, with memorizing the lines, the cues, the pace and everything that goes into theatre in order to get my character to come alive. That was one of the challenges. I think that's another thing that a person who had a stroke needs to do: challenge themselves, all the time, whether it be a small or a large challenge."

And when he lists the people he's grateful for - the doctors, the nurses, the therapists, friends and family - he doesn't forget Celtic Woman, a musical group who provided him with inspiration and spiritual rejuvenation.

"When I saw their first special come on, the song that really got me going was 'You Raise Me Up,'" he said. "While they were singing that song, I actually got up from bed and stood up and said, 'Okay, I'm accepting this challenge and I'm going to do it.' And I did, thanks to a lot of people."

His advice for stroke survivors is simple - think positively and remember; you have to have a sense of humor about the situation.

"When I tell other stroke patients my story, I tell them, don't give up," he said. "You don't have to sit in your chair and waste away. Get up and do what you have to do in order to get over these things and you will get over it. It might take a long time, it's not easy, but you will do it."

Feature Writer
Sunday, September 06, 2009
TylerPaper.com/Tyler Morning Telegraph
Tyler, Texas
Always Remember All Things Are Possible With God !!
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