BAXTER -- For many years, Larry Paulson delivered his own brand of coffee shop ministry, stopping into local cafes and talking about Jesus Christ over a cup of coffee with anyone who was willing to stop and chat.
But now, Paulson is delivering a new message at his favorite coffee shop haunts. He is telling others that life does go on after surviving a debilitating stroke.
He should know. The 56-year-old Baxter man suffered a life-threatening stroke two years ago, which left him partially paralyzed on the left side of his body.
Facts about strokes
Stroke is the No. 3 killer in America and the leading cause of serious, long-term disabilities, according to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.
Like the heart, the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood from the arteries that feed it. Otherwise, brain cells die. When a blood clot plugs an artery in the brain and cuts off the blood supply, the result is a type of stroke known as a cerebrovascular occlusion. This can happen in one of two ways. In arteries narrowed by plaque, the blood flow slows, and a clot called a thrombus is more likely to form. But sometimes clots form for other reasons in other parts of the body and "wander" through the bloodstream. If an embolus, as these clots are called, lodges in a narrowed artery in the brain, it can also cause a stroke.
Another type of stroke is when an artery in the brain bursts, flooding the surrounding tissue with blood. This is called a cerebral hemorrhage.
Ways to prevent a stroke include not smoking, treating diabetes, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling high blood pressure and getting regular medical checkups.
The early warning signs of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or confusion; and a sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Call 911 immediately if any of these warning signs occur, even if they last only a short time. Receiving treatment within three hours can greatly reduce the risk of permanent damage.
For more information, call the American Stroke Association in Minneapolis at 1-800-331-6889 or visit their Web site at www.StrokeAssociation.org.
Paulson is an honorary chairperson for the Brainerd Lakes Area American Heart Walk on Feb. 24 in the Westgate Mall. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. while the walk begins at 8:30 a.m. The benefit walk for the American Heart Association follows Stroke Awareness Week, which is Feb. 11-17.
Sue Huff of Baxter, who is Minnesota's longest living heart transplant patient, is also an honorary chairperson for the event. She received a heart transplant in the summer of 1978 at the University of Minnesota hospital.
Paulson suffered a stroke around 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1999. His wife, Hope, woke up to find her husband trembling and mumbling. His speech would come and go and he couldn't stand up, falling off the bed. His left side of his body was paralyzed after the stroke. He had to relearn how to walk, talk and move his left arm.
Paulson didn't smoke or drink and was relatively young to suffer a stroke. The stroke may have been caused by his untreated diabetes, which was discovered after the stroke. He also suffered heatstroke a month before he suffered the stroke. It also may have been a contributing factor.
It hasn't been an easy road to recovery. Paulson spent the first year after his stroke in a wheelchair. But slowly and surely, Paulson relearned how to walk and talk, though most of his left side of his body remains numb. He also suffers from short-term memory loss as a result of the stroke.
"I tell people that I walk like a duck, talk like a duck, but I'm not a duck," said Paulson with a smile. He has relied on his positive attitude and faith in God to get through this ordeal.
"Actually it's been a blessing in disguise," he said of the stroke. "I've been able to tell so many people about this, about how to prevent a stroke. The encouragement is what I want to give them. It really has changed my life, to slow down and realize how fragile life really is."
Paulson plans to walk in the benefit walk on Feb. 24 at the Westgate Mall, although he may only be able to walk one lap. He is hoping others will join him in participating in the event to raise money and awareness about strokes and heart attacks.
For more information on participating in the Brainerd Lakes Area American Heart Walk, call Shelley at 829-1699 or Kathy at 829-0839.
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