by Bob Russell, ©2022
(Nov. 1, 2022) — On August 5, 2014 I had a complete physical examination. My doctor said I had the metabolism of a very healthy 40-year-old man and if I continued my workout program I could very easily live to be 150 years old. I was 180 pounds of solid muscle and in the best physical condition since I was a Special Forces soldier at the ages of 19 to 21.
On August 19, 2014 I had a massive stroke that came out of the blue. When my wife told my doctor what had happened he said that was impossible based on my recent physical. After much discussion doctors surmised that an undiscovered blood clot in my abdomen had traveled to my right carotid artery. It only partially plugged the artery at first, increasing the blood pressure, which tore six pieces off the clot before plugging the artery completely. The biggest piece took out my left arm, the next one took out my left leg, and the others damaged the parts of the brain that control vision, speech, memory, balance, and emotions. The attending neurologist said it was like someone had put a shotgun to my head and pulled the trigger. More than half of the right side of my brain died as a result. He told others in the medical team to make me comfortable, that I wouldn’t live through the night. He later told me that I should not have made it to the hospital alive. At the hospital he told my family, after three days, that it looked as if I would live at least for a while but would be totally paralyzed, not able to get out of bed, ever. He also said I would be a mental vegetable as long as I lived, that I would never know who or where I was. I don’t remember anything about the ten days I was in the hospital nor the first three weeks in Claremore Nursing Home (I was there ten weeks).
At my first office visit six months later the doctor told me that in 25 years he had never seen anyone survive as much brain damage as I suffered. Now, eight years, two months and eight days later as I start this, my left arm is still totally paralyzed, I hobble around with a severe limp and still experience balance issues but I drive myself wherever I need to go and function pretty well. I have had two dreams that told me I would fully recover, the first in May 2016 and the second on April 23, 2021. I believe those dreams were messages from God telling me that He intends to restore me one day.
People have told me that the stroke was punishment for my earlier life of sin but I rejected that from the first time I heard it and I still reject that idea. I have believed that the stroke was from satan hoping it would get me back on his team as I had repented of my earlier life, was going to church regularly and praying, although not praying regularly enough. If this was done by satan to get me back it failed, as I am now happier, more content with my life, and closer to God than I have ever been. Almighty God either sent this or allowed it, but as a blessing, not as punishment or a curse. I believe He already knew He would sustain me through this.
The doctors told my wife we needed to find something for me to focus on so I would be able to feel useful. Marsha found out about the volunteer program at the local Veterans Center, a nursing home for veterans. I volunteered there for five years, amassing 8,534 hours before the covid scamdemic put a stop to the program. I was very limited in my abilities there but did everything I was able to do in the dining room and the recreation department. As a result of my time there I was able to affect the lives of hundreds of people, including fellow veterans and their families and employees and their families. There are people all over this country who know my story, people I will never meet but whose lives could one day be impacted by how I deal with my infirmity.
The greatest aspect that people notice is my attitude. I am always positive and confident in recovery despite the seeming impossibility of recovery. Almighty God is the master over the impossible and I believe He has a great plan for my life. I now attend four churches weekly, three on Sunday and one on Friday, serving at one on Monday evenings in the Celebrate Recovery program and in the Children’s church area of another on Wednesday. While very limited, I do whatever I am able to do and have found out that even the little I am able to do makes a big impact on others in both places.
I have a story that impacts others due to how much God has brought me through and how I have handled the situation. I could have become bitter and despondent but I knew that wouldn’t help me or others. I have days that I get discouraged and frustrated,
but keeping my thoughts on how I can serve God by serving His people keeps the “bad vibes” on the outside looking in and not causing me to lose my perspective. Everything happens for a reason and lasts for a season. How long this season will last is unknown but as long as it does I am going to keep my focus on God and live by faith that I will see my day of restoration. I pray every night that the next day will be THE day but when it isn’t I say, “Oh, well, it must be tomorrow” and I live each day this way knowing that God is pleased and will reward me one day for keeping an attitude of faith. Sometimes people ask me how I get through each day and I tell them God is my strength. His mercies are new each day and I take comfort in knowing that THE day will come, when God wants it to come, but until then it is up to me to continue in trust and faith. I am building up treasures in heaven each day and keeping faith and doing as much as I can for others, as that is what God wants from me. He doesn’t look at what I can’t do; he looks at how I do what I can do.
Marsha and I have talked about this situation many times, what it means and what the purpose for it might be. Whatever the answer to those two thoughts are, God has a plan that this fits into. It may be for me, for someone I know, or maybe for someone I will never meet but who has heard about my situation and does now or will in the future experience the same or a similar situation. It is a privilege to think that Almighty God, the Creator of all things, known and unknown by mankind, is allowing me to be a part of His master plan on earth. All I can do for now is keep faith and do my best in life to represent Him well. While being very disabled is difficult, I look at the things I am able to do, not on the things I am not able to do. Focus is very important. As a lifelong pessimist I find being an optimist in this matter challenging, but being optimistic is the only way to survive, and survive I will because God will sustain me as long as I will do my part until the manifestation of my healing is seen.
Giving Almighty God the thanks and praise He deserves can only help me in the long run and may very well shorten the time I am disabled. I know God will change His mind at times because the Holy Bible is full of cases where faith and prayer touched God and He either let His judgment pass or shortened the term of punishment for the people of Israel when they repented and asked Him for forgiveness and mercy. Again, I don’t know the reason for the stroke nor the planned length of its effects but I know I am doing what I should to obtain the mercy I ask of Him. All I can do is continue in faith and be the example He wants me to be to others. Many people are believing with me and praying for me, so it is important that I do my part to the best of my ability. People are always helping me when I need it and offering much more if I need it but I want to do as much for myself as I can. I decline when I am able to take care of something myself and thank them for offering. I believe it is important to not let people do things for me if I can do them myself. It isn’t pride that drives my independence but rather a need to stretch myself so I don’t let myself give up.
The only way I can lose is to give up and give in but that is not going to happen. I am a firm believer that God will do for me what I can’t do but He won’t do for me things I could do but refuse to do out of self-pity. People at the churches have all been very supportive and positive towards me and that encourages me to keep going.