Daniel Vance - Disabilities

Besides surviving a heart attack and stroke in 2004, Walter Keplinger has a 25-year-old son with autism. He reads this column on Roseville Today online.

As for the stroke: “I knew it was happening almost immediately,” said 55-year-old Keplinger in a telephone interview. “I had just gotten up from bed to get ready for work. Suddenly, in the bathroom, my right arm went entirely numb. I was confused at first and shook my arm vigorously thinking I had lost circulation. Then I went to say hello to our dog and discovered I couldn’t talk. I then realized I was having a stroke.”

He woke his wife, who called paramedics that rushed him to a hospital. The last thing he remembered before losing consciousness was hearing a nurse say his blood pressure had “crashed” to 60 over 40. He remained in the hospital eight days.

Said Keplinger, “I was completely right-side paralyzed, but was able to gain just about everything back through physical therapy. The doctor said if I hadn’t immediately been taken to the hospital, I would have died because of my blood pressure crashing.”

Today, he has weakness in his right hand and difficulties in being able to vocalize certain words. His physician claimed his speech center was “almost completely wiped out” on the left side of his brain. Due to the stroke, he no longer rides a motorcycle and is unable to participate in certain physical activities with the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Keplinger also has a 25-year-old son with high-functioning autism. As a child, this now 300-pound, 6′ 6″ son enjoyed spinning pot lids on the floor for hours on end. Today, he lives in a group home, and has a steady job and a girlfriend.

One of Keplinger’s biggest frustrations has always been his inability to communicate well with his son, saying, “The only thing he has in life is computer games and it’s the only way he socializes with others. When we talk, I want personal information, which he’s reluctant to give. He wants to talk only about the stuff that interests him.”

Certainly, Keplinger has experienced his share of disability. As advice to people recently having a stroke, he said, “Believe you can fight through it and keep on fighting. You have to have the willpower. And if the doctor tells you to do something, do it.”

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