Dennis S's Story

Updated: May 25, 2020

My story begins in 2015 when I was working for an after school program in Harlem where I was a chef teaching children about cooking with different types of food and letting them try new food that they had never had before. I loved being a chef and I loved showing the kids how fun cooking can be and my goal was to show them that being a chef is great and not the stress like they see on tv. My job over at Harlem children zone was to teach kids in kindergarten through 5th grade the basic steps of cooking such as, cutting up vegetables, showing them different type of ingredients, getting food prepared for cooking, and plating the food up for presentation. Whenever a kid was sad I always I tried to connect with them, make them laugh and show them a better side of life. I wanted them to forget their troubles and just have fun.

During the summers I worked for a laundry delivery service. It was a fun job to drive around Manhattan all though traffic was always a nightmare. Things where going smoothly until June 11 2015. It was a normal day, then I dropped off my last bag at a laundry mat and started to feel pain then next thing I knew I collapsed in the laundry mat the every one started trying to help me out and called 911, from there everything went dark. I had suffered a stroke. The doctors found I had significant hemoraging of the brain that was so severe, in fact, part of my skull was surgically removed in hopes of allowing the swelling to recede without further brain damage.

I didn’t have much memory of what happened but one year later I was told I had a stroke, and was in a coma for 2 months. I was slowly regaining some of my senses. Slowly I could start feeling my hands and arms all the time and I thought I was hearing people talking. I just tried to make facial expressions when someone was talking to me. It wasn’t an easy year for anyone, it was especially hard on my son who was a Senior in high school. As he told me, he was just eating lunch with a friend at school when it happened and then he got a call that he had to go with his mom and rush to the hospital. My wife told me, someone in the hospital called her and told her that I suffered a stroke and It was critical. When she went to Lenox Hill hospital, the social services spoke with her and explained that I might only hours to live.

She saw me and couldn’t believe what happened. Soon my son came to the hospital and my sisters. My sister Laura and my wife Jessica made the decision to do surgery because the doctors said there is nothing to lose because my body started failing. The surgery took more than 7 hours. Around midnight the doctors explained to my family that I was in a coma. The only thing that my family could do was wait. My wife was with me every day and my friends came to visit me. I remembered I could hear people but I couldn’t wake up. For 2 months, I fought for my life and during this time I also suffered a heart attack. When I woke up the doctors around me asked me what my name was. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t feel my legs and my left side was unresponsive. I also learned that I had aphasia, this means that I cant say the things I want to say. The words don’t come out right. I couldn’t walk for around 2 months. My life stared again in the hospital with a physical and speech therapist.

By October, 2015 I was discharged from the hospital and went back home. I felt so weak. When we had t appointments with the doctors ( neurologists and cardiologists ) they found another illness in my heart and I had to go into surgery again. Thank goodness everything was good and I stayed in the hospital only 7 days. By the end of January I had to go back to the hospital. I had to get another surgery in my skull. Thanks God for everything’s it was perfect. By February of 2016, I started my therapies again at NYU hospital in Manhattan. It was hard but I did finally leave the wheelchair and walk by myself. So far I have been recovering for 2 years. When I finished my speech therapy at the hospital, my therapist recommended to take private classes for people who has aphasia. I still have a lot of trouble speaking but I have improved so much.

Me and my wife found a group called Mona Griffin to help me. I have been doing speech therapy there for a year. Its still hard to express myself but I am making better and better progress with my speech, I feel I have good friends there too. As my wife always says, “baby steps is progress to recovery and my life in the future.” I want others to know that it does get better.

#Stroke #HeartAttack #Survivor #NYU #Chef #Aphasia #BabySteps

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