Stroke motivates patient to work hard to recover and get back to life

Stroke survivor directs a Christian sports ministry and continues to travel and attend college sports games.

Robby Speer is delegating more these days. He’s had to slow down a little since he experienced a stroke in 2018.

“I realized that if I’m doing everything, someone else isn’t getting the chance to,” Robby said. “It’s been good for me to learn the importance of giving others the opportunity to do what they can.”

Robby directs a Christian sports ministry based in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Slowing down for him doesn’t mean he’s sitting around. He still travels for work and plans to attend a lot of college sports games this year. He just has to get a ride now.

Signs of stroke recognized and treated quickly

Last year, at age 62, Robby showed signs of a stroke after a surgery to treat atrial fibrillation, a heart condition. He had weakness in the left side of his body and trouble speaking.

According to Lindsey Siewert, APRN, clinical nurse specialist with Norton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, numerous steps were taken that proved vital to Robby’s stroke treatment.

“The medical staff immediately recognized the signs of stroke and took quick action,” Lindsey said. “The patient was taken by ambulance to Norton Brownsboro Hospital, a Comprehensive Stroke Center, where he underwent surgery to remove the blood clot in his brain and stop further damage.”

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Effects of stroke severe, but progress made in rehab

Robby’s stroke was severe and significantly impacted his functioning.

“When I first met Robby, he didn’t have use of one side of his body,” said Madeline Ratliff, physical therapist at Norton Brownsboro Hospital. “He and his family were overwhelmed.”

Despite this, Robby was determined to get better.

He began rehabilitation with Madeline and others right away. Although the therapists eventually had to take away Robby’s phone during rehab — he had continued working on his ministry while in the hospital — Robby worked hard to make progress in his recovery.

“Whatever we asked him to do, he did it,” Madeline said. “At first, he needed help just to stand. But when he took his first steps and transferred to a chair, that’s when he really started to make progress.”

According to Madeline, therapists have a unique role in recovery after a stroke, because they give patients hope.

“Patients who have had a stroke have just experienced a very quick trauma to their body and are dealing with changes in their ability to function,” Madeline said. “But we get to come in as therapists and determine what is working and get patients moving toward recovery.”

Robby agreed that his therapists and other providers were vital to his recovery.

“I learned to appreciate the therapists, nurses and other providers who don’t usually get credit for everything they do,” Robby said. “They were wonderful to me and my family. I really grew to love and appreciate them.”

Making changes to reduce stroke risk

Ten months after his stroke, Robby has made several lifestyle changes to improve his health. He has lost weight, eats a healthier diet, drinks more water and has, reluctantly, slowed down.

According to Madeline, many of these changes can help reduce the risk for a second stroke.

“One of the biggest risk factors for having a stroke is having already had a stroke,” Madeline said. “I love my job because I get to spend a ton of time with my patients, and I get a lot of time to educate. Robby was really motivated to make lifestyle changes, and that’s important because there are stroke risk factors patients can change.”

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Robby is using his ministry to help raise awareness about stroke risk factors and help others reduce their risks. It’s one of the many things he’s grateful he gets to do today.

“I believe the Lord is not done with me,” Robby said. “My thought is, when he’s done, he’ll put the last piece in. Until he does, there’s more of the puzzle to be put together.”

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