Stroke Recovery, Philly Style

Nobody expects to have a stroke. Especially not when they’re 31 years old. But that’s exactly what happened to Josh Crompton in April 2012.

“I was getting ready for work and, without any warning and with the force of what I can only imagine a gunshot feels like, I collapsed,” he said. “Then paralysis set in on my entire right side.”

Strokes among young people are on the rise for a variety of reasons. For Josh, the culprit was an ateriovenous malformation (AVM), a group of blood vessels abnormally connected with one another in his brain. The AVM, which he has had since birth, burst, sending massive amounts of blood into his brain. After surgeries and stabilization, Josh was sent to Magee for the next steps – literally.

“When I got there, I had no use of my right side – my arm and hand, leg and foot were all paralyzed,” he said. “Doctors, friends… everyone was trying to prepare me for the worst. But I told anyone that would listen that I would walk out of Magee.”

And he did. After two months of inpatient therapy at Magee, Josh had regained much of the control back in the right side of his body, and was writing, feeding himself, shaving and, yes, walking. But as monumental as that day was, the most inspiring moment of his recovery was like a scene out of a famous Philly classic.

Josh Crompton climbing Art Museum steps

Josh Crompton climbing Art Museum steps with PT Mark

To help Magee patients acclimate to the real world before they are discharged, therapists will often take them on outings into the city to practice skills they’ll need to navigate outside the Hospital. Josh’s assignment for the day was to hail a cab and practice giving the driver directions. He hopped into the taxi with his physical therapist Mark and recreational therapist Jenna, and directed the cabbie to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Josh recalled, “I looked at Mark and said, ‘Do you want to try the steps?’ He laughed – he didn’t think I was serious. I didn’t really think I was serious. At that point I hadn’t climbed more than four steps at a time.”

But Mark, who had been with Josh throughout his therapy, had confidence.

“He said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ So I did.”

Was is easy? Absolutely not. But after clearing the first batch of the steps, then the second, then the third, Josh was committed. Like Rocky, there was no going back.

“It wasn’t graceful. It was slow and labored,” he said. “But when I made it to the top of those steps… it was one of the greatest days of my life.”

Josh still climbs those steps on a regular basis. He has returned to his job as an assignment editor at CBS 3 full-time, and has also become an ambassador for the Delaware Valley Stroke Council, finding avenues to raise awareness that strokes can and do happen to young people. While he says he still has a way to go, he feels great about the progress he has made – and he knows who to thank.

“The doctors at the acute care hospital saved my life,” he said. “But Magee gave me my life back.”

Check out Josh’s “Rocky Cut” of this monumental moment in the video below.

Story originally appeared in Can Do! Spring 2013 issue.

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