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My Story

"I was determined to
teach my left hand what
my right hand used to do.
It took time, but I have
been successful in this
quest. I have built
intricate model fire
engines representing
many different years." -
Ken Helverson

At age 53, I had a massive hemorrhage in my left middle cerebral artery. It resulted in complete right-side paralysis and severe expressive aphasia.

Seven years later I am able to walk slowly as my right leg has recovered. However, my right arm, which was my dominant side, remains paralyzed. Speech continues to be difficult for me. It is very hard to express myself. My recovery from stroke has been a long, frustrating process.

My wife Joy passed away a year before my stroke. I have been a widower for seven years now. I do not have a big family. I was an only child, and I live with my son Scott. Before the stroke, I was a parts expediter for a car dealership, and my hobby was building models. I frequently attended antique fire engine shows whenever I had free time.

The stroke changed everything. As I slowly regained some independence, my son installed a small vise on my desk so I could learn how to make models again, only this time with one hand, and not my dominant hand at that.

It was certainly challenging, but I worked very hard. I was determined to teach my left hand what my right hand used to do. It took time, but I have been successful in this quest. I have built intricate model fire engines representing many different years. I have a large collection.

People ask me why I like fire engines so much. My father was a volunteer fireman his whole life, and I am proud of him. He just retired at age 87! I currently own a 1939 antique fire engine that I like to start up in my garage. It brings back many memories.

I have had many losses: my wife, my health, my job and my independence. Although my days can be lonely, I find making model fire engines helps me through each day. I do attend a stroke support group once a month to socialize with others who have experienced losses such as mine.

My message to all stroke survivors is to stay motivated. Don't give up! As for my motivation and recovery, I have had strong faith in God. Cherish every day of your life!

Ken Helverson, Stroke Survivor
Abington, Pennsylvania

Originally published in StrokeCONNECTION Magazine (American Stroke Association).


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