Graham McCulloch is a sailboarding enthusiast who lives in Australia. A welding supervisor by trade, who was once responsible for designing and overseeing all wielding activities in his company, Graham’s favorite non-work pastime was to surf the winds where he lives on Lake MacQuarie (which is on the east coast of Australia, a two hour drive north of Sydney).
This special location is known on the Australian continent, and possibly around the world, as one of the best places to “sailboard” (also called “windsurfing”, which is similar but more for beginners).
But, on August 25th of 2007, Graham’s sailboarding came to an abrupt end when he experienced a hemorrhagic stroke on the right side of his brain, while dining at a McDonald’s restaurant in Toronto NSW Australia. Just like that, Graham went from being a capable, athletic 63-year-old man to being a stroke survivor with severe spasticity, and a paralyzed left arm and leg.
Graham was stabilized in an acute care hospital intensive care unit, and then slowly graduated from there to rehabilitation. He had speech therapy and grueling physiotherapy (physical therapy), to address his communication problems and left-side paralysis, as well as complimentary therapies such as Botox® and massage. Graham says that these various interventions helped him to recover somewhat, but he never got close to returning to his pre-stroke normal self, since he still remains paralyzed on his left side.
Even though he got a bit of relief, none of these standard or complementary therapies did anything to help the severe spasticity in his left foot, arm and hand. To complicate things, Graham’s left foot developed such a severe twist; that he couldn’t place his foot flat on the floor because of the tendon contractures on top of it. These contractures contorted the foot and turned it at a 45 degree angle, so Graham essentially was walking on the side of his foot, which (needless to say) made it extremely difficult to relearn how to walk.
Even an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) didn’t help very much, so Graham subsequently had surgery to alleviate this problem. The surgical intervention was successful, and he was once again able to place his foot flat on the floor which, in turn, enabled him to finally do his leg PT properly.
Just recently, he also had surgery on his left arm, to address severe post-stroke tendon contractures that made him unable to extend his fingers. Graham says that the surgery worked, and that after eight years, he can now concentrate on stretching, and strengthening, his left arm and hand.
Still, despite these palliative measures, Graham’s progress has been much slower than he originally anticipated. Like many athletes who have a stroke, his original goal was to return to doing what he did before his event, in this case sailboard. Now, his goal is more modest and realistic: to mow his own lawn. Since his stroke, Graham has not been able to tend to the landscaping on his own property, which has been a never-ending source of frustration for him, so he has set this as his ultimate, post-stroke goal.
But, for now, Graham says that his greatest achievement to date has been walking a distance of 15 meters (approximately 48 feet). He certainly wants to extend that distance, and now that the contracture surgery on his left arm was a success, he’s hoping to get back some strength and range-of-motion in that, as well. Hopefully, all of these will come together and bring him closer to the goal of mowing his lawn.
Graham attributes all of this post-stroke progress to the unwavering support of his wife, who is his full time caregiver. They’ve been married for 49 years, and he says that, even though it’s been eight years since his stroke, he’s still unable to do without her essential help and reinforcement.
Since Graham never has regained significant control over the left side of his body, sailboarding is obviously out of the question, and since his stroke forced him into retirement from his job, Graham now has to rely on other activities to fill his days. For example, many years before his stroke, Graham did photography, so he picked this activity up again once he recovered enough. His two favorite subjects: sailing, and his four grandchildren. He even acquired a more sophisticated camera which enables him to take higher quality pictures.
In addition to the still camera, Graham also purchased a video recorder and used it for a very special project: creating “visual timelines” of his grandchildren, from their births all the way to the present day. Quite an accomplishment considering that he has four grandchildren, including twins who are now nineteen years old.
Graham says he has nineteen years’ worth of video editing to do, in addition to organizing the video records into individual years for each grandchild, plus “burning” all of the video records permanently onto DVD’s. To help with this process, Graham taught himself to use a video editing program on his computer, which gives him more professional looking results. With nineteen years of editing waiting in his queue, Graham’s video project will certainly keep him busy for the foreseeable future.
When he’s not doing photography, Graham networks as often as he can with other stroke survivors, at a stroke recovery “club” that meets close to where he lives. This provides him with a social outlet among people who have shared a similar experience, and forces him to simply get out of the house on a regular basis.
Anyone who wishes to contact Graham McCulloch can reach him via the Stroke Network. His user id is aussie.