“Imagine standing on your left leg, lifting your right, and then trying to walk. That’s what having a stroke is like.” Reny Burckhardt vividly describes the process of recovering from a stroke. He’s done it not once, but twice.
His first stroke was back in 2005. Reny, then 50, was active and working in web development. He was taking groceries back to his Mount Laurel, NJ home one day after work, and that’s when he felt “the headache from hell.” His wife Jeanne called their primary care doctor, and soon Reny was being airlifted to Philadelphia.
That “headache from hell” was a major brain aneurysm. Reny had a stroke during surgery to fix it. At the time, Reny’s wife was told he had a 5% chance of surviving. But somehow he pulled through. He was left with weakness on his left side, so he went to Magee Riverfront for Day Rehab and outpatient therapy.
“They did a great job,” Reny says of his Magee Riverfront team. “Rehab brought me back 99%.”
In the years that followed, Reny was back to his active lifestyle, skiing and playing hockey with friends.
Then, one day in 2012, he felt that awful headache again. Reny wasted no time getting to the ER. Like his first stroke, this one hit during surgery for a brain aneurysm. But unlike his first stroke, this time, Reny’s right side was paralyzed, head to toe.
At 58 years old, Reny had to re-learn how to do everything on his left, non-dominant side. And it was hard.
“It took about a month for me to realize that this is my life now,” Reny says about living with the effects of his stroke. “If you haven’t had this happen, you don’t know what it’s like. It’s so much to take on, but you have to be strong.”
A few months ago, Reny’s neurologist recommended he see Dr. Barbara Browne.
“She immediately saw my hand and what I needed to do with my leg and wrote me a script for the Riverfront. I could’ve kissed her!” Reny jokes.
During this most recent round of therapy at the Riverfront, Reny had a very practical and also poetic goal: To learn how to get up after a fall.
He had fallen in the bathroom once when his wife wasn’t home.
“I laid there for an hour, humiliated,” Reny recalls. “I was used to doing everything for everybody and now I couldn’t help myself.”
The very next day, Reny started learning how to get up after a fall. He practiced a lot. Now he can enjoy playing on the floor with his grandkids.
“Never get down on yourself,” Reny says to fellow stroke survivors. “It’s too easy to quit. Just keep going at it.”
Reny’s goal for 2017 is to go skiing again. “The more you start doing, the better you feel,” he says.
With his most recent round of OT, PT, and Locomotor Training now complete, Reny has joined Magee’s Health & Wellness Center to continue his recovery.
To learn more about Stroke services at Magee, click here.
May is Stroke Awareness Month.