A musician-turned-realtor sits down for dinner one day and his world is turned upside down. Mid-way through his meal, he has a stroke, and is rushed to the hospital where he ends up spending the next five weeks in a stroke ward.
Sound like the beginning of a bad joke? Well, it was no joke when out of nowhere on Sept. 19, 2010, fifty-four-year-old Moses Cherrington experienced an ischemic stroke on the right side of his brain while he was taking his evening meal.
Moses was admitted to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton City, south of Auckland, New Zealand, where he began a grueling physical therapy regimen to learn how to walk all over again. He also participated in occupational and speech therapies to improve his functioning and impaired linguistic skills, however, therapists couldn’t do much for his memory. Moses says that he doesn’t remember much about this time in the hospital or the following months. He had to rely on his wife and family to fill in the memory gaps for what took place during his hospitalization and rehabilitation.
At the end of five weeks, Moses went home from the Waikato acute care hospital. Since he didn’t have the benefit of a specialized rehab hospital, and he wasn’t offered any out-patient therapy, Moses had to get creative. He engaged a personal trainer to develop an exercise and informal “balance therapy” program for him, so that he could continue making progress. He has followed this special routine for the past four years.
In the months following his stroke, Moses’ mind began clear up. It was only then that he realized the gravity of his situation: that he had experienced a life-changing event and things would never be the same. During this time, his “new condition” was difficult for him to accept. It took him awhile to hit his stride so that he could begin to move forward. But now, nearly four years post-stroke, Moses’ moods have taken center stage. Despite making physical progress, he continues to experience anger and other negative emotions. He says he’s very grateful to his spouse of twenty four years, and to his four children, and to other family and friends, for tolerating his unpredictable mood swings.
Erratic moods aren’t the only post-stroke residual that Moses has to contend with. He says that he continues to wrestle with balance problems and a lingering fatigue. He addresses his balance issues with the informal program developed by his personal trainer however the fatigue is another issue. Fatigue can’t be contained, only accommodated, As with many stroke survivors who have this residual, it continues to shape Moses’ decisions and direct his life choices.
For example, earlier in his life, Moses was a full-time musician who played tuba (and, occasionally, percussion) in the New Zealand Army Band. At some point, he had to sideline his musical profession and move into a more “conventional” career as a realtor, but, he continued to keep active in music one way or another.
At the time of his stroke, he was conducting a local band, and preparing them for a concert (the band actually played their concert while Moses was in the hospital). Just recently, he was asked to conduct the band once again. However, this would require Moses to travel a significant distance just to attend practice sessions. He’s uncertain that his fatigue will allow him to do this, so his decision is on the “back burner”.
Up until his stroke, Moses had also been working as a realtor, but, he wasn’t able to go back to work because his employer felt that he would be an insurance risk. So, instead of returning to his job, Moses steered his life in new directions.
He says that being unable to work post-stroke was demoralizing, so he decided to concentrate on “learning how to learn”. To facilitate this process, he’s taken many on-line classes through Coursera, EdX and the Christian Leadership Institute, where he’s studying for a theological degree. In addition to the degree, his coursework has also included such brain-challenging subjects as “Intro.to Financial Accounting”, “Data Science”, “How to Reason and Argue”, and “Intro. to Human Physiology”. “Contract Law” and “Evaluating Social Programs” are just two more of the upcoming classes that he plans to take.
At one point, Moses also applied to a local college to study law. By taking only one course there, he set a challenge for himself: to assimilate the contents of that complicated course without becoming overwhelmed or overly fatigued (to his satisfaction, he succeeded).
Moses has also kept busy by volunteering his time to causes that are meaningful to him. His volunteer efforts have been just as varied as his coursework. They include counseling a youth Toastmaster club, and serving on the Board of Directors of local community centers. Currently, he’s sitting on two boards, one as a board member, and the other as a treasurer.
Last but not least, Moses also writes a column for StrokeNet, the Stroke Network’s e-newsletter. Since he has to submit his articles by a deadline, he says that writing the column has had a beneficial “side effect”: teaching him valuable time management skills that he carries over into other areas of his life.
Moses says that he hasn’t been able to accomplish all of the above by himself. He credits his wife, and his unwavering faith in Jesus, as being the crucial elements that have enabled him to put his life back together. Moses also wants to share some advice: once you’ve begun to recover from your stroke, you should get to know your “new self”, and then do something with this discovery. But, be aware that it may take some time to do this. It took Moses 4 years to gain traction, so he says to be patient but that it will happen.
Anyone who wishes to contact Moses can do so via the Stroke Network, where he connects with other stroke survivors. His user ID is: mcherrington.