Ken Combs thought an inner ear infection was acting up again. So, he didn't visit Keesler Medical Center until August 20th. While he was there, doctors gave him startling health news -- Gulfport's mayor had suffered a small stroke.
Almost three weeks later, Combs sat in his reception area. On this morning, he replaced his trademark tie and sports coat with a plaid oxford shirt. The mayor had mail to sort through, and phone calls to return. For a few minutes, the activity helped him forget about the stroke that put quite a scare into this 74 year old military veteran.
"You wonder if you're going to be physically or mentally impaired from it," he said.
Mentally, Gulfport's mayor seemed as sharp as ever. It was the physical aspect of the mid August stroke that had the mayor taking much smaller, but more meaningful steps.
"Rehab has been a lesson in learning how to walk again without thinking about it, just doing it naturally," the mayor said, "like all of us used to do it."
The mayor's stroke attacked the left side of his body. Even before doctors detected it, Combs was stumbling around the office. New medications and physical therapy three days a week have helped him return to work.
Despite the stroke, he still believes he can be an effective mayor.
"I believe I can," he said. "Hopefully I'm going to learn how to pace myself better."
One thing the mayor said he won't do is stop fighting for his city. So despite the stroke, he'll still drive to Jackson to chair a Mississippi Municipal League legislative committee. That committee will urge lawmakers to pass a municipal option sales tax bill. The mayor believes that bill can help Gulfport get out of debt.