A Life I Could Not Imagine
I found coach and after two short months, I entered a sprint triathlon on Thanksgiving Day, 2015. I thought I was going to die but, more importantly, I was hooked. I had found new passion in life - I wanted to participate in triathlons to give stroke survivors hope! I began to say to myself "stroke survivors can," as a reminded to myself of why I was undertaking such a task.
The main reason I do the triathlons is very clear to me: To give stroke survivors hope and empowerment. As I said, I thought my life was over, and in many ways, it was. However, since that day in October 2015, I repurposed my life to helping stroke survivors find meaning and hope for their lives. I want to show them that their lives are not wasted; that through hard work, they can once again find meaning in their lives. Triathlons happen to be my passion. Each stroke survivor needs to find their own passion, their own life vision, something that motivates them to achieve more than they at first thought possible.
Prestroke, attending a conference in Boston, MA.
The Night That Changed Everything
After work one evening, my son asked me if I would join him and a friend with working out, something that I would infrequently. Not long into it, I suddenly felt exhausted and I laid down...right there on the floor. I was not able to walk or talk, and my face looked odd. Unbeknownst to me, I had a serious ischemic stroke. That was January 24, 2012.
Recovery Is Slow, But Steady
In fact, my life was over as I knew it. I had the learn all be basic of life again. I received invaluable support from my girlfriend (who later became my wife), children, colleagues, and friends. I had speech, occupational, and physical therapy from the hospital where I was a patient, and I continued outpatient therapy after being discharged. When I could no longer afford it, I relied on the health providers who graciously gave me discounts (some by as much as 100 percent). With encouragement from the Idaho State University Speech and Language Program, I helped start an Aphasia Stroke Recovery Support Program for stroke survivors.
I also improvised. After about 18 months after my stroke, I began working out, riding my bike short distances, light weights, and swimming. As my stamina slowly increased, I began to go on longer bike rides and swims.
Move to Hawaii & Ironman Experience
In June 2015, I moved to Kona on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. It had been my dream to retire to Hawaii, so now that I could no longer pursue my career in Idaho due to the stroke and aphasia (difficulty with speech and language), and after my wife was offered a job as a surgical technician at a local hospital, we decided to move. It must have been God intervening because soon after my move I found a new purpose in life.
On October 10, 2015, I volunteered at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman was a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 bike ride, and a marathon, a 26.2 mile run, all in succession and with a time limit. I was not interested in Ironman; it was something to do. I had a lot of fun and it got me thinking... “I could do something like that,” but maybe a shorter event.
So, I began training, despite my dislike for running, being 56 years old, tremendously out of shape, and despite my physical disabilities.
Kevin Rhinehart, Stroke Survivors CAN!
According to the American Stroke Association, "a stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States."
A piece of plaque traveled up my left carotid artery and various parts became stuck in my left brain, causing the affected parts of my brain to die. Because it was on the left side of my brain, speech was impossible, and the right side of my body was seriously impaired. I could read, but I could not identify letters. I had trouble writing, standing, swallowing, balancing, and had to sit in a wheelchair.
I had to quit my job that I loved, and I could no longer play my bass due to an uncooperative right hand.
In short, I thought my life was over...
Prestroke, letting off a little steam
Copied from the American Stroke Association web page
Life Before the Stroke
In the years leading up to my stroke, I was busy involved in my psychotherapy practice which I loved, helping people find healing from extensive damage caused by themselves and/or others. I enjoyed playing music, finding escape with my bass guitar. I also enjoyed family, friends, fishing, wine, Seahawks football, and volunteering.
Laurie Rhinehart pictured with me after my very first triathlon in 2015.
Stroke Survivors CAN!
Fast forward to today, I founded Stroke Survivors CAN!, a nonprofit to help stroke survivors begin to live again. The slogan says it all: Restoring Lives, Setting New Directions. At Stroke Survivors CAN!, we believe you can live fully again, restoring your life, and set for yourself new directions that can make a difference to yourself and the world around you.
Sure, there lots of grief to go through with something so traumatic, and we can help support you. And when you are ready, we will support you as you look for work or go on social security disability, look for an attorney, counseling, or look for further understanding of your stroke.
We at Stroke Survivors CAN! provides free:
So, from thinking my life was over, I found my new direction. Stroke Survivors CAN! Restoring Lives, Finding New Directions!
The bottom line is, don’t let anybody define who you are. Don’t let a diagnosis become a prison that keeps you from enjoying life. Don’t let self-limiting beliefs define who you are. Dream big. Ridiculously big. Stroke survivors CAN!
Kevin Rhinehart, Stroke Survivors CAN! © All Rights Reserved