It wasn’t the best of days for Mark Mace, of Mankato, Minnesota. One morning in 2005, he awoke to start his usual bathroom routine and on the way in fell down. Then he rose and fell a second time. The third time, he couldn’t get up.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” said 51-year-old Mace in a telephone interview. “So I yelled for someone to call 911. I couldn’t move my whole left side, so I knew it wasn’t just my arm being asleep. I prayed out loud, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, Lord, but you will have to help me through this.'”
Doctors determined Mace had a hemorrhagic stroke. A National Institutes of Health website says a stroke occurs “when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.” Symptoms can include sudden numbness or weakness, sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding spoken words, or sudden trouble seeing, walking, or having a severe headache.
“It affected me because I went from not depending on anyone to having to depend on others for about everything,” he said. “Today, I need help in cooking, bathing, and housework. I have a personal care attendant who comes in weekdays. I can do a few things still, such as use the stove and take food out of the oven. My right side functions well, so that helps.”
He lives with his small dog, Jackie Chan, who provides comfort and is a “great sounding board,” he said.
Emotionally, he struggles most with having to be patient. When accidentally dropping an object on the floor, for instance, he can pick it up only after a great deal of effort. He also has to show patience when trying to negotiate Wal-Mart aisles in his electric wheelchair and other customers fail to respond to his polite requests to move aside so he can wheel past. Sometimes he has to ask three or four times.
Another challenge occurs during snowy winter months when businesses and homeowners neglect to shovel their sidewalks in a timely fashion. One time, his wheelchair was stuck in slippery snow for 20 minutes in 20-degree weather before a goodhearted motorist on a busy street stopped to help.
As for advice for people experiencing a stroke, he kept it simple: “Follow through with what your doctor says and keep active.”