Editor’s Note: In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, here’s a story of hope that against all odds, this local resident tells the story of his sudden illness and miraculous recovery. For newcomers to town, Ken and Blondie ran local favorite Blondie’s Deli for several years in Overgaard. May each of us be thankful in all things—we never know what tomorrow will bring! Now here’s Ken’s story in his own words…
I was asked and encouraged to write my story of my medical dilemma that occurred last summer for it is truly a story of inspiration and triumph.
As most of you may know I accepted the position of the Food & Beverage Director for Hon-Dah Casino-Resort and Conference Center in Pinetop in February 2013. Shortly thereafter, we closed the Deli and Blondie retired.
On August 26th, 2016, I came home from work not feeling the greatest. I should have for I was starting my vacation for a week the next day and it had been four years since our last vacation. I laid down for a while to hopefully feel better and I did for a short period of time. Well, I awoke my wife and told her to call 911 for I knew something was askew with me. My head was pounding and I was nauseous. So the good people at Heber-Overgaard Fire Department arrived very quickly and noted my blood pressure was very high so off we went to Summit to be checked out. By the way, the last thing I remember was being wheeled in and seeing the ceiling lights in the hallway. The following was told to me by my sweet-sweet wife.
She said the doctor came in the room and stated he wanted me first in CT-Scan. Came back and reported to my wife that I had a brain-bleed and needed to be flown to Barrows Neurological Hospital in Phoenix for further treatment. I asked her if I was going to die? She said no, but wasn’t really sure I’d make it through the night and several nights thereafter while in ICU.
Arriving by helicopter at Barrows in Phoenix I was treated by Dr. Peter Nakaji who is the head of Barrows Neurological. So, there again I was treated by the best doctor they have. He performed five emergency brain surgeries to stop the bleeding. My diagnosis was a hemorrhagic brain bleed, a mini-stroke if you will. I was in a coma all of September and awoke October 12th, 2016. I had to learn how to talk and walk again.
They have an outstanding staff at Barrows-Phoenix. Now why is it that all therapists are young women who always lie?! They’d go, “Come on Ken, 10 more!” I’d say, “But I did my 10!” Reply, “Sorry I lied! Do 10 more!” Always pushing to get you stronger-better. They are a true blessing for what they do for at times I was not the easiest of a patient.
This is where I must inject about the great people of Heber-Overgaard! They would see Blondie around town and ask her how I was doing? The constant prayers kept coming from our church members at First Southern Baptist-Overgaard and the monetary love offering they gave Blondie and Mama Jean. I had a lot of visitors and prayers while I was in ICU, most of which I can’t remember, until the nurse pinched me to wake me up. Oh, that hurt by the way. My wife kept up my progress via the “Caring Bridge” which is where my boss got his updates on me. Hon-Dah kept my job for me…WOW!
Well, it was quite a struggle the first few months post hospital. I was in a wheelchair, then the walker then on to a cane, now on my own head of steam. We had some amazing friends that helped us out during my recovery. Spencer Porter and his family kept us up with firewood and propane. He also fixed a flat tire for us. Always there at the ready to help. Also, Doug and Jill Moore and all the other people – way too many to mention.
So, it begs the question: How is it that 60% to 70% of the people who have what I had do not survive? How is it that a 16 year old Avondale boy has only “one” bleed and he came out as a quadriplegic? I come out pretty much intact. Well, I’m here to tell you it is the power of prayer for I know firsthand it works. Plus, the prayers and support of my wife Blondie and my mother-in-law “Mama Jean” and their unconditional love and support through the good and bad times and having to travel to the valley several time to see me.
A special thank you to all those in Heber-Overgaard who kept me in their thoughts and prayers. There is no way I could ever thank them enough. I’ve been back to work since November 2016 and getting better every month.