This weekend (the 20th), it will have been three years since I suffered a stroke. Little did I know as I drove home from work that day that in literally a split second my life was about to change forever.

I had come to work uncharacteristically early, about 7 a.m., and worked an extra long day — preparing for a hearing before a school board up in Clay County. When I got home at about 7 p.m., I settled onto the bed, but started feeling a little hot. So I got up to cut up the air and stepped into the bathroom, where my legs buckled under me. Fortunately, my wife, Carolyn (Nikki), was just in the other room, so I called for her and she rushed in and attempted to get me to my feet, but my legs were like spaghetti.

Nikki called for an ambulance, but the closest one was in Smith’s Station. Some paramedics did come and one carried me to Nikki’s SUV. We were off to the emergency room where we eventually had a teleconference with a neurologist, who told me I had suffered a stroke. I must confess that at that time, I did not even know what a stroke was. However, I soon found out that it was something very bad.

I had battled throat cancer in 2001, but as it turned out, that illness was not as devastating as this one. After 70 radiation treatments and a couple of operations, the cancer battle was essentially over, but three years later I continue to suffer the terrible effects of the stroke.

I thought I would soon regain the ability to walk, but I can do so only with the assistance of a walker. I have great difficulty swallowing from my weakened throat muscles — partially from scar tissue from my cancer 18 years ago. My voice remains weak, although speech therapy has helped. I cannot drive myself and have to be assisted with showers.

I largely quit taking Nikki out to eat because it is so much of a hassle to get in and out of establishments. And my participation in discussion groups, which I used to enjoy much, has been sporadic at best.

And while we used to attend church just about every Sunday we were in town, our attendance recently has not been exemplary, although we do watch on live feed via the Internet and try to send a check every month, albeit not in as large an amount as when we were working. The leadership at Auburn United Methodist Church is fine with that attendance scenario under the circumstances.

And one of the worst results is that I have had to retire from the active practice of law. I am a person who never wanted to retire but law is just too strenuous a profession to continue indefinitely while still reeling from a severe illness. Most days, I just don’t feel like going to work. And I certainly do not feel like getting up and fighting with someone, which is what you have to do daily as a lawyer.

During the last three years, I had made continuous rehabilitative progress, until this past December when I negligently fell and broke my leg/hip. Man did that hurt! Nikki and I spent our 42nd anniversary (Dec. 18), Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital. Moreover, from a walking standpoint, I essentially had to start over.

People ask me what lifestyle I led that caused a stroke. I really do not know. During the five years previous to the stroke, I signed in at the gym more than 700 times (for the Bama fans, that is about twice a week). I ate vegetables and rarely indulged in red meat. I had not smoked in 25 years or so and I did not drink alcohol anymore, except for an occasional glass of wine.

In brief, I had adopted the healthy lifestyle that is supposed to ward off such dreaded diseases, but it didn’t work, probably at least in part because I am diabetic.

There is no history of strokes in my family, although there is a history of diabetes and heart disease among the men.

I have told people, if you are going to have a serious illness, make certain your spouse is a registered nurse. And I must say that Nikki, RN, has been absolutely wonderful in helping me during this ordeal. If she ever decides to leave me, I am going with her.

Numerous therapists have also been outstanding. There have been too many to call them by name, but the special ones know who they are. And, of course, I owe a debt of gratitude to the nurses and doctors at the various facilities, including my personal physician, Dr. Reed Cooper. To them all, I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Retired Auburn Attorney Don Eddins is publisher of The Auburn Villager newspaper and auburnvillager.com. Before going into law, he was state Capitol reporter for The Huntsville Times and state editor for The Columbus Ledger. Email him at doneddins@auburnlaw.us. 

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