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Starting Over

Jack and his wife, Carol,
and two children, Tyler
and Stephanie

It was Memorial Day weekend of 2002. I was 42 years old. I woke up Sunday morning and I couldn't talk. I don't know how long I was not able to talk. My wife and kids were wondering why I couldn't talk. When I put my shoes on, I fell down because my right side was weak. My wife, Carol, ran down the street to my neighbor and asked what's wrong. He said that I was having a stroke. Carol called 911 to get the ambulance. I tried to sit on the chair, but it was hard because I was weak on my right side. The ambulance came and took me to Abington Memorial Hospital.

I don't remember anything from my first 3 days while I was in the hospital. My sister-in-law, Donna came up to help Carol out the first couple days. The hospital had to run lots of tests on me. The doctors figured out that it was a stroke. Somewhere around this time, my therapy included memory games. My daughter, Stephanie at the age of 7 tried some of the games with me and I was able to work with her. On the 5th day, when I was in physical therapy, I found that I had a problem. When I was to write letters A thru Z, I wrote A thru G and I forget letters. I was learning to walk and talk with my family and friends. I even had to learn to take a shower again. I was started on an IV to thin my blood. I slept 3 hours a day and I was beginning to get really mad, because I was in the hospital for so long. On the 13th day, they took off the IV and said it was time to go home. When Carol got there, they couldn't hold me back. I WALKED down to the car and Carol drove me home.

For the rest of my life I'm taking Coumadin to regulate my blood. Since my stroke, 3 years ago, I have not returned to my job as an Air Conditioning and Heating Technician. I can't climb ladders or play sports. My boss asked if I was coming back to work and I told him I probably would not, because I would be in trouble if I were injured.

For 5 months I couldn't drive. I am currently taking speech therapy from Margaret Shafer and her students. They helped me to talk again because I have aphasia and apraxia of speech. I still have a lot of things to improve in my speech. Dr. Burke is my neurologist. I see him once a year to check on my progression. My family doctor is Dr. Lyons, I see him every 6 months. Dr. Lyons also checks my blood to see if it's too thin or too thick after each monthly blood test.

Every other day I walk 4 to 5 miles recommended by my doctor to keep me healthy. I am part of a group called, Young Stroke Survivors Support Group at Abington Memorial Hospital. We gather together once a month to hear presentations and interact with other stroke survivors. I also volunteer Monday through Friday in the Speech Therapy Department at Abington Memorial Hospital. I am proud to be able to write this story, although I would not wish this difficult experience upon anyone. It was a big change in my life but I am still going and will be learning forever.

Stroke Survivor, Jack Dittmar

Special thanks to Lauren Shaw, MerisaPalovcak and Carol Dittmar who assisted me in writing my story so I could share it with you.


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