My Father’s Struggle

On November 9th, 2009 my dad suffered a catastrophic stroke that took two thirds of the left half of his brain and his ability to speak, write or move the right side of his body. Prior to his stroke he worked in R&D at Oracle, was a mountaineer, motorcycle rider, avid shooter, photographer, coach and screamer of obscenities at the TV news. Right after the stroke, the doctors told us that he would never be any of those things again. He may not ever be all of those things again, but over the ensuing two and a half years he has regained quite a bit of his independence. He has had to fight tooth and nail to get every bit of it back.

DadThis was about 8 months after his stroke at one of his thrice weekly physical therapy sessions. The device on his arm detects the severely weakened nerve impulses to his right hand and amplifies them, allowing him a small amount of control over his paralyzed limb. One of the other side effects of his stroke was a heightening of his emotional states with the right side of his brain becoming dominant.

Mom, Dad, and JoshMy family has always been close knit and Dad’s stroke just served to bring us that much closer.

Don and DadWhile he was going through physical therapy, he had some of the best therapists in the state. The work that they did with him, and the distance that they took him was amazing.

Janelle and DadWith the help of a lot of therapists and doctors, my Mom and by virtue of being one of the most stubborn people to have ever graced the Earth, Dad has regained the ability to walk with a cane, go up and down stairs, and he is even relearning how to speak and write. It has been a painfully long process, but he has never stopped improving.
The PhotographerMy dad was the reason that I got into photography in the first place. When I was in second grade, he bought a Pentax K100 and taught me how to use it. Most weekends in the summer would find us up in the mountains, shooting pictures. About nine months before his stroke he got that old Pentax cleaned and put back into pristine condition. We thought that the stroke would be the end of his hobby as a photographer, but for the last three months he has been relearning the craft and figuring out how to work with only one functioning hand. It was such a joy being able to get back in the hills with Dad, taking pictures and enjoying his presence. Dad At Button RockOn the way up, he walked behind his wheelchair for the first 500 feet. It took some time, but we were in no hurry. And just as a quick tip, pushing a wheelchair up in the mountains is great exercise but keeping the chair from rolling out of control on the way down is murder on the knees!

Never Give UpEarlier this spring, my parents had a sidewalk put into the back yard so that Dad has access to it. As the cement was drying, Mom wrote this into the concrete. Those three words sum up so much about the last two and a half years. So much truth in such a short sentence.