Stroke is not an exclusively old age thing. Many relatively young people succumb to it, oftentimes unexpectedly. For many young stroke survivors, their lives have basically ended at their prime, and they are forced to retreat into the background and just watch others live theirs. These three stories, however, show us that young stroke victims can not only survive, but thrive in spite of their condition. Whether it is intensive physical therapy for Jim Walsh, high-end robotics therapy for Brad E. Berman, or essential oil therapy for Iris Frey Doolittle, innumerable options exist for these people. What binds these amazing individual’s stories, however, is the tremendous role their families and communities had played to contribute to their recovery. Listen in as these people relate their inspiring stories to co-hosts Jerry Shelsta and Bill Deignan.
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“StrokeHacker LIVE” – Episode 7 – Young Stroke Warriors: Jim Walsh, Brad E. Berman And Iris Frey Doolittle
I want to introduce you to a tremendous individual. We had him on the 5 Minutes with Seany show. This is Mr. Jim Walsh. It’s nice to have you with us.
Thanks for having me, Jerry. I appreciate it.
We appreciate you jumping on and I’m going to tell you right off the bat for the audience what we are to do with the people that you’ve met Star Paul and Mike Gillespie. Jim has agreed to do this also. Everybody has relationships. We have stroke warriors that have challenges that they have overcome. We want StrokeHacker to be the host. Jim will have a guest on and he’ll be the interviewer. He will interview that person and bring it to life. We’re going to do that with Damont, Star, and others on the road. Please note on our Facebook page, if you’re interested in being on the show or in hosting, let us know. Jim, you’ve got an incredible story and some people may have met you on 5 Minutes With Seany, but do you mind telling everybody your story and what happened?
I moved out to California in 2014 looking for a new sales role. In the meantime, I was playing a little bit of golf here and there and looking for work and going back to school to finish my college degree. On March 29th of 2015, I was playing golf with a friend and ended up having a stroke on the back nine after I hit the ball with my driver. I ended up at a hospital in Redding, California. I was ten days in the hospital where they couldn’t figure out at first if I had had a stroke. The test then came back and confirmed that I did have a vertebral artery dissection in the brainstem area that led to a stroke in the medulla and then I did three weeks of inpatient therapy at a facility in Chico, California.
Did that make you not want to use that driver anymore after you had a stroke? How did that affect your game?
It made me think twice about going back to playing. I didn’t go back for a couple of years. I just went back to playing golf. I’m hitting the ball well and my balance obviously was off. I had to learn how to get all those faculties back. It took a couple of years. I’m doing a little bit of golf lately.
I wanted people to understand the story of what and where it happened to you. We hear about people having heart attacks and strokes on golf courses often and you were a very young guy. How old were you at the time?
I was 47.
How long did it take before you were barely functional? You came back quickly.
I would say the first six months, I was feeling very unsteady. The first year of working hard in my therapies and doing physical therapy three times a week made a huge difference in my recovery. At the six-month mark, I started noticing a lot of strength. My balance was coming back. My vision was being restored. I did a lot of core work in therapy and balance work, eyes closed type of exercises because those types of things are affected when you have a stroke whether it’s in the thalamic region or cerebellum stroke. Some of those things happen where you lose your balance and vision. You could have double vision, diplopia, nystagmus, and things like that. I had all those things.
Your story is remarkable and thank God you have been able to recover rather quickly. I believe it’s correct to say that you’re driving, you’ve finished your degree and you’re now applying for jobs in that degree field.
I am. I finished my degree after my stroke. I finished up my classes doing an online program, while I was recovering. I didn’t go back away obviously, but I enrolled about six months later after my stroke. I worked and finished it within that year’s timeframe and then continued to work on doing three days a week of physical therapy. I finally got my diploma mailed out to me.
That must’ve been exciting.
It was very exciting. It was a lot of hard work that went into it and it’s a relief that it’s over.
I am sure it is. A lot of the audience knows this, but for stroke survivors, stroke warriors, stroke hackers, short-term memory can be a real challenge, and the fact that you were able to overcome that alone and make it through school, remember what you’re learning is impressive. What’s your field? Where are you heading into?
My degree is Organizational Leadership and I’m looking to get into medical device sales. I’m interviewing for document management solutions type of positions and then I eventually want to transition it to a medical device sale.Ensure that you have people who are going to advocate for you so that you can get the services you need to recover. Click To Tweet
Jim, I think you understand in StrokeHacker, what we’re trying to do is build a community of stroke hackers. We include stroke hackers as people who’ve recovered from stroke, all the people in the medical community and people recovering from other kinds of things, other injuries are the kinds of ups and to set them back. They can help people find inspiration, motivation, and information here at this site, you’ve clearly been working at that. You’ve also worked hard to accomplish the recovery. What kind of insights and stroke hacks would you say you can offer to our audience to help them recover and help them to come back to an independent lifestyle?
When you first are recovering, whether it’s in the hospital or an inpatient rehab facility, you might be in a dark place like I was. It’s very important to have somebody that advocates for you and makes sure that you advocate for yourself. You’re not going to feel like doing that for the first however weeks or months. Make sure that you have a family member, wife, girlfriend, a boyfriend that’s going to advocate for you so that you can get the services that you need to recover. That’s first and foremost. I realized the importance of that. I had my oldest sister, my girlfriend, and my stepmother advocate for me. They were very instrumental in me getting those services that I needed for the first few weeks when I was just recovering. There’s no way I could do that myself.
Where you verbal at that time? Was your language back?
It was. I had a pretty significant stroke in the brainstem, in the medulla area. I had double vision. My voice was very hoarse. It was not strong at all. I had a vocal cord paralysis that I didn’t know about until later. My voice started to come back. It took a little while but people could notice after a few months that I had had a stroke, based on my speech.
From a spiritual, emotional perspective, you talked about an advocate. That’s obviously very important and that help, but from your gut level, you said you were coming from a dark place. How did you get out of that? How did you move it on to the next step to go to the “I can, I shall, I will” mindset and to stop feeling sorry for yourself, move forward and go, “What’s next?”
Not everybody is a spiritual or believes in a Higher Power. I have been believing in God and I prayed every day when I was in the hospital for ten days. When I was in inpatient rehab, I felt horrible because I was still recovering and I prayed for God to give me strength every day. I tried to stay positive. There was some depression setting in. It’s normal for somebody that’s gone through a significant stroke that I had gone through. I think that’s what pulled me through. It got me stronger. My faith was strong and then I worked hard in physical therapy, occupational, and speech therapy that they had set up for me at my inpatient rehab. On a spiritual level, I was very connected to God and helping me through this. I was asking for strength every time I thought of it, at night when I prayed and in the morning when I woke up and during the day. What helped me get through was His help and then my inner strength and grit to make it happen.
Jim, we could talk for a long time, but not everybody wants to hear us talk that long. I surely appreciate your jumping on. It was fantastic. We wanted everybody to meet you so that when you come back as a host, people would’ve seen you, they’ll know a little bit about your story. We appreciate you sharing and sharing so genuinely and authentically what has happened to you. Thank you, Sir, for being on and we look forward to seeing you here soon with your own guest on this thing.
To those that have had a recent stroke or it’s been many years since your stroke and you’ve had a lot of difficulties dealing with it in general, with pain. I’m experiencing that as well. I’ve got some pain on my left side and sensation issues but, make sure that you keep advocating for yourself and do those therapies. Get the help that you need. Don’t rely on one doctor or one therapist to tell you what’s going on with your situation and that’s the best you’re ever going to be. I made sure that I can talk with several doctors. I make sure to get extra opinions and I was getting the right advice. Make sure that you’re exercising every day and trying to stay positive. Those were instrumental in me getting better.
I’ve recovered tremendously and it takes time. It might take somebody 1 year or 5 years. I’m still recovering. I’ve made a huge difference in my recovery as far as making sure that I’m exercising every day. I’m sleeping well. I’m getting to bed at the time. If you have sleep apnea, make sure that you’re wearing your sleep apnea machine every night. You don’t want to have another stroke. These are all different things that you can do to get better and it takes time and stick with it. You will notice those little victories that I experienced that’s going to help you recover and give you better self-esteem or confidence.
If you have to take some type of medicine that’s going to make you feel better, whether it’s an antidepressant, make sure that you’re doing those things that are going to make you feel better. It’s going to give you more self-esteem and confidence to continue on with your recovery. I had to learn how to walk again. My swallowing was affected drastically and my vision. I had double vision, diplopia, and nystagmus. I had all that. It all got better by going and getting those services I need. If you don’t have the funds, try and get a loan. Try to find somebody that will take you pro bono. If you have vision issues, go to a vision specialist, make the calls that you need to make, and you’ll find somebody that will help you for a lesser fee.
All these things are going to help you get better and make sure you get on it away. If you haven’t been able to afford these services and its 3 years, 5 years, 10 years since your stroke, do it now. It’s never too late. There are people that can help you out there. Start with your different local services. Call different doctors, neuro-optometrists to help you with your vision. Some of these people will take you for a smaller fee or take you on for free, pro bono like I was able to get. You just have to make the calls and stick with it.
I love the animation, the commitment in your voice, and the desire that you want to have to share to support other people. It is great information. Keep going, keep pushing, take it step by step. No, it doesn’t happen overnight and push it forward to the “I can, I shall, I will.” It’s the mantra of StrokeHacker.com. Thanks for being on. We’ll see you with a guest. For our audience out there, we’ve got the StrokeHacker.com website. Please come and join us. Join the community. Be part of what we’re doing here. You too can help benefit other people like Jim is helping and we’ll continue to help him as he moves forward. Go down and share the show. Hit the share button. Send it out to your friend and family. Let’s grow this community so that we can help more prospects. That’s how it takes place with you helping us to grow. Jim, thanks again.
We’ve got a tremendous story of an outstanding athlete. A guy who had done three marathons and was straining for his fourth marathon when he had a hemorrhagic stroke. The next thing he knows, he woke up a month later. Please welcome, Brad Berman. Welcome to the show. It’s great to see you here.
Thanks for having me, Jerry.
It is my pleasure. We met Brad when we were doing 5 Minutes with Seany shows. I’m doing a show with Brad then but as now we’re meeting more people and we’re telling more stories, I wanted to get him back on because he’s got a very compelling story. Brad, could you fill us a little bit on what happened with your whole situation here?
I was in the middle of training for my fourth year in August of 2013 when all of a sudden I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. I immediately had a third of my skull removed and placed into my stomach for safekeeping and then I was put into an induced coma for a month.
Some people know about this, but that shocks me because Sean Entin went through the same procedure. They put the piece of your skull in your abdomen. Can you feel it in your abdomen?
Yes, you can knock it when it’s in there. When I woke up, I didn’t know what was in my stomach. It was a very weird feeling.
To be in the hospital, to wake up a month later and to feel something hard in your gut which you can’t even imagine what it is. What did you think when people said you’ve been out for a month? You told me before, you’ve never been in a hospital before. What was that like?
It was disorienting and confusing to me because I had always fancied myself a health nut. I took incredible care of my body. I ate well. I exercise like crazy and it never occurred to me that something catastrophic happened to my body at a young age.
At that point then, once you got all those bits and pieces put together and understood your situation and what was next, what was the level of issues that you were challenged within recovery? What all did you need to accomplish?
I woke up and was completely paralyzed on my left side. I had to regain the use of my left arm and my left leg which was extremely challenging. I also had some issues back then with short-term memory, which improved over time. A lot of things like speed had to come back. Everything slowed down because it was shut down for a month. It took a while to get everything going.
How long were you in the traditional hospital? When did you kick into more of a rehab facility?
I was in the hospital for about a month and then I was moved into NYU in New York City to have my skull replaced. I moved to a rehab in Rockland County, which is not far from here. I was then moved to yet another rehab in White Plains, New York, where I did the bulk of my rehab.
Brad, you did some cool things and innovative, sort of new technology in some of your rehabilitation. Can you tell us about that?
When my wife saw it happened to me, her goal immediately was to help me begin as much as I could physically because I was in such bad physical shape. What the doctors were able to tell her at the time was that the most promising physical rehabilitation technology that exists is something called robotics therapy. The best thinking about neuro-rehab physically is that the way they get to reconnect the brain with the affected body part is through high repetitions. It’s something that no physical therapist could do because I don’t think any of them have the stamina to get to through 1,000 or 2,000 repetitions. At the time when I was in the hospital, MIT was producing these robots that could help you focus on a body part and within 1 hour or 1.5 hour, you could end up doing up to 1,000 or 2,000 repetitions.
Explain a little bit and give people an idea of what the machine does for you or with you to get those reps to workout.
What the machine does is it will give you a goal as to what you need to do whether it’s squeezing your hand and your arm and to the extent that you can do it on your own, it allows you to.
Was a lot of it like an electronic pulse or is it a physical or mechanical component that’s moving the part of your body or helping you move that part of the body?
The different machines are tailored to hit a body part. I had one for the arm, one for the hand, and one for the ankle. We worked with these machines that help you to reprogram certain body parts.Get the help that you need. Don't rely on just one doctor or one therapist to tell you what's going on. Click To Tweet
You used all of these years ago when you were rehabbing and to your knowledge, how much has that expanded as far as more robotics, more hospitals, and more people using this type of therapy? Are you aware of that at all?
The technology is expensive so it’s not well-distributed around the country. What my family did was they sat with our rehab hospital which is a great one and said, “What do you need to fund this program?” They gave my wife a number initially to have a lower limb robotics program, we are going to be $650,000.
Is it just for you?
It’s for the machines themselves and to staff them. You have to hire people that are experts in using them. To fund the program, they asked for $650,000, and then within a year, my family had raised mostly my wife, $850,000 and they funded the program. It was amazing.
You actually went out and raised that amount of money, your family did rehabilitation to support your rehabilitation. It’s Burke Rehab in White Plains, New York. Over how much time was that amount of money raised?
It was raised within a year. My wife maintained a full-time job while I was sick and she took on this task with the hospital, which was almost a second full-time job out here.
I would say more than a second full-time job. That’s incredible and then you have two small children too. They were little when you had your stroke?
They were 4 and 2.
We’re running up against our needle here when it comes to time. At this point, what’s the level of your recovery? What all are you doing now several years after your stroke?
I’m driving. I’m working full-time as an attorney. Physically I feel a lot stronger. I’m not where I wish I wouldn’t be, I’m not running yet, but I’m doing a lot of biking and weight work because my body is so depleted. It was a long and frustrating road. I would tell people that are reading. As hard as it is, the whole key is to have faith in your body and to stick with it. A lot of people use the word perseverance as I was trying to get better. It’s not as smooth and fast.
What do you think helped you to persevere? What drove you to keep pushing when it was bumpy and you wanted to give up and when it wasn’t a fun thing to do?
My goals were, as you said I have two little boys, I had a vision in my mind of what kind of father I want to be. I want to be active. I was a good athlete, I want to go back in sports. I wanted to teach them something like hard work is important and it pays off. My wife a is true inspiration because, as a man, I wanted to impress the girl.
Brad, I appreciate your coming back on the show and sharing your story. He welcomes the opportunity to talk to people. Part of his story is his wanting to continue to help others to recover and do what he has done and continues. You made a comment to me before we started the show, Brad. You hit on that point also. You said that people need to recognize that the recovery will go on longer than what you’re initially told in the hospital.
Some people think that their recovery is as long as the insurance company will cover their therapy, but it continues. I’m about to hit years, and I would say every month I could feel a change.
In years, you’re still feeling improvement and enhancements.
I still feel a significant change happening.
That’s fantastic but you’re still working at it too?
Yes, it takes a lot of work.
Brad has been so kind and also, we wanted to reintroduce the audience to Brad because he’s also going to come back as a guest host. Because of his being a young stroke survivor, stroke warrior, he has a lot of young people that he knows is familiar with, who are in recovery, who are stroke hackers themselves. Brad is going to start talking to some of these people, get them on this show to talk about their experience. We all want to learn from one another. Go to StrokeHacker.com. Join our community. Be part of this, share this show with your friends and neighbors if you would. Brad, we appreciate your time and I look forward to having you back on as a host here pretty soon.
I look forward to it. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Sir. We’ll talk to you soon.
It sounds great. Thank you.
I’m super excited to have Iris Frey Doolittle on the show. She is a remarkable stroke survivor. How are you doing, Iris?
I’m doing great, Bill. How are you?
I’m doing awesome. We just met when we started this up so I haven’t gotten an opportunity to get to know her. We’re going to do that. I have seen her as a frequent contributor to the StrokeHacker group and she’s always got a smile on her face and has something positive to offer. When did you have your stroke?
It was in May 14, 1985.
We’ve sadly seen a whole host of millions of people who have had their stroke since then. I hate to say you’re a pioneer of any sort. Certainly, you are someone who has been able to thrive and teach others. I’d love for you to give a brief description of your early childhood. You’ve told me a little bit about some of your career. If you could tell me a bit about that and lead into what it was like when you had your stroke.
When I was born, I was singing in a plain piano. It was something that I did naturally and my mom said, even in the womb, she could feel me singing and playing the piano. The piano has been my life. Music has been my life. I graduated from a liberal arts college with a degree in Piano Performance. I was doing a lot of different things with the piano. I had been teaching since I was fifteen years old. That was my life. A few years after I was married, I had this lovely stroke. It changed everything. I thought I’d never play the piano again. I was bummed about that. About six months after I had the stroke, my mom said, “You’ve got one hand, don’t you?” I realized I still had my left hand, my left foot and so I continued to do performances that way and made a living one-handed.
How in the world did you just do that with your left hand?
On YouTube, I have a pile of videos. Search for Iris Frey Doolittle and you’ll see videos of me playing the organ. There’s one of me playing the piano, but also, I have a lot of little videos that show me doing things now that I have started using a protocol. When I had the stroke, I became a lefthanded pianist and continued doing that until 2014. Even now, I still do that. I was not sleeping very well and had complained on Facebook at 2:00 in the morning and my husband’s cousins said, “You should try lavender.” I tried lavender and it changed my life.
I started using essential oils and that was in August. By January of 2015, I knew I had to share this. In 2016, I was at a conference with a friend of mine and she tried eight different oils on me topically. You can use oils topically, aromatically and you can ingest most oils if they are pure and the best there is. Five minutes after she was done, my hand which had been curled, now lay flat and the arm was relaxed. Everything on my affected side was relaxed. I knew then that there’s something to this. I started using this protocol for myself for months and realized that there were a lot of things happening. I could reach up into cupboards, get a glass out of the cupboard, set it down, and then I could let go and the hardest part is always letting go of that hand that would not let go before. Now, I can do that. I’m just doing laundry with my hand, putting clothes in, taking them out, turning on the washing machine, and things like that. You can look on YouTube and see those various things.
That’s amazing and I’m sure you’re probably continuing to amaze people who maybe in a few years haven’t seen your progress who have known you for a long time as not being able to. Let’s talk about the piano.With a positive attitude, you can do anything. Click To Tweet
What do you want to know?
I want to know what’s it like. Are you able to implement that hand in a big way or how do you do it?
The right hand is playing scales not very well but each finger is working independently now. I’m a public speaker, and on my speaking engagements, I am now playing at the end of the program a hymn with my hand first playing the melody, then I go to the left hand to finish it out. It’s playing and that is wonderful. Every time I practice, I get choked up because, “I could use both hands. This is amazing.”
I hope that all of you out in there in the StrokeHacker world will hit us up on the StrokeHacker group. I’m a little bit upset with myself for not having investigated this further before the show. That’s an incredible story. You have a blog, it seems, and it’s IrisFreyDoolittle.blogspot.com and where else would people find your work?
I’m amazed at your story. I’m sure a lot of people will want to investigate that further. It struck me the first time that I saw you, being a part of the StrokeHacker group. You do seem a little unique to me in that I don’t always see people who have had a stroke so long ago and I don’t know why that is. We’ve seen a lot of people that are 5, 10, 15 years post-stroke, but not 33 years. Could you contrast and compare what it’s like from what you witnessed now as far as stroke protocols go compared to when you had yours?
They had not invented the drug TPA when I had my stroke. That came out maybe a year later. At that time, if you had a stroke, you were going to sit in the background for the rest of your life and that irked me to know that I was going to have to sit and watch everybody else live instead of living myself. TPA helped a lot. I’m on several different young stroke survivors’ groups because I want them to see that with a positive attitude, they can do anything.
I hear this all the time, it’s all about mindset. What do you say to the people going through similar things when you can tell they’re stuck?
It’s a fine line between helping and say, “It will get better.” You have to take each individual person and find something good in what they’re talking about and encouragement is important.
What about the recovery protocols that you witnessed these days compared to what you were offered or were you offered anything?
They gave me physical and occupational therapy for a while and I had wonderful people helping me with that. Now, you can do all kinds of things for getting your fingers to go again. There are all kinds of therapies you can use. Music therapy is wonderful. What Sean is doing with the Bulletproof Labs is amazing. Things like that, you’ve got to go out and find them quite often. They are there. Don’t give up. “Never, never, never give up,” Winston Churchill.
We have another mantra here in this community a lot. I hope that anyone that is stuck right now listens to that. We’re going to do more and more of trying to bring everyone’s ideas to the table. Part of this show is designed to get people like yourself to share what it is you’re doing. I know Sean and none of the people that I’ve been encountering through this and that I’ve been witness to have been utilizing essential oils for their therapy. Not that there aren’t people doing it, but similarly, I would hope and pray that more and more people bring whatever modalities they’re experimenting with. Bring it to the table, talk about their experiences because that’s the goal here.
Another goal is, to get my mug off of the air so to speak. I don’t want to keep doing this. I’m not very good at it. I’m more of the technical guy who’s trying to help support the community. We’re putting out an all-call to people like yourself that want to carry on a conversation like we’re doing here. Myself and Denise and a couple of others who are on the team here, we will be happy to set up the technical side of it. Let’s say that you were going to host a show. You would be sitting there like you are. Get a link in an email or a text from us with a link. You click on it and you’re on air, you’re on camera hooked to the internet and then we’ll bring on whatever guests you want to speak to them. They’ll witness the same thing.
They’ll get an email, click on there. We can talk for a couple of minutes before we go to air to get to know each other and it sounds low pressure. I want to encourage, anyone in the community who thinks, “I’ve got something to share,” or “I know a remarkable stroke survivor,” or a medical professional. Anything, any person that you think can bring something to the community and share with it, we want to support that. We want to be here as your support to be able to do exactly what we’re doing here and sharing in a show format. We’ll do it as much as somebody is willing to do it. I’m mentioning that to you, Iris, because I think you really want to do that.
The same goes for blogging. We’ve started adding more and more blogs to the StrokeHacker site because admittedly, there’s a lot of great content about Sean on there, but that’s a starting point. The goal is to have more and more of the people in the community be profiled and sharing there. From a blog standpoint, you don’t have to be a professional blogger, you don’t even have to be able to compose sentences that well. Share your story with us by email at Info@StrokeHacker.com and then one of us, probably Denise, who’s vastly more talented at it than any of us, will format it and proofread it and help compose a blog, telling your story or sharing something that is relevant to the community. We’re putting the all-call out for that as well and hope we can quickly get people involved in that way. We’re always looking for new ideas. If you’ve got ideas, shoot them to us. What else do you have to add for us, Iris?
Iris’ Protocol is in the United States. It’s in Canada. People are talking about it in Africa and in England.
Do you have it written down somewhere or is it a podcast? What is it?
I’m working on an eBook and hopefully, we’re going to get this out soon. It will be for sale for $5 talking about my protocol and also the essential oils that I use daily for my stroke symptoms and general health. It will be on my blog as soon as I get everything together.
It’s IrisFreyDoolittle.blogspot.com. I know you must be super excited for that to finally be coming out in public format and we’ll be excited to see that ourselves. Feel free to share it to the community and maybe when you host your first StrokeHacker live show, you could talk a little bit about that. Our StrokeHacker live shows should automatically be going over to our YouTube channel. That’s YouTube.com/strokehacker. I would love it if you would share it with your friends or into other stroke community groups and let’s share. That’s what this is all about.
I want to thank you, Bill, Sean, and everybody on your team for what you’re doing. This is so important.
We agree or we wouldn’t be doing it, but, thank you. Iris, it has been a pleasure and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to connect with you again soon. Thanks, everybody.
- Burke Rehab
- Iris Frey Doolittle – YouTube channel
- Twitter – Iris Frey Doolittle
- Instagram – Iris Frey Doolittle
- dōTERRA – Iris Frey Doolittle’s page
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