Stroke survivor shares his recovery story - - The News for South Mississippi

Stroke survivor shares his recovery story

Ronnie says friends, family and hospital staff have all encouraged him on his recovery journey. (Photo source: WLOX News) Ronnie says friends, family and hospital staff have all encouraged him on his recovery journey. (Photo source: WLOX News)

The number of people who have strokes in the United States continues to climb, even though experts say a majority of cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes and regular doctor's visits.

Experts are trying to bring more awareness to stroke prevention and treatment throughout the month of May, which is National Stroke Awareness Month. Statistics show that every 40 seconds, someone in the US has a stroke, and every four minutes one person dies from a stroke; making it the fourth leading cause of death. 

One Coast man is sharing his heartbreaking story at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, hoping to help others avoid going through what he's going through.

Just five weeks ago, 62-year-old Ronnie Davis was enjoying his retirement. Without any type of warning, Davis says that life seems like an eternity ago.

"I got up, and just like that, it was a stroke," said Davis.

One minute he was enjoying a Saturday crawfish boil, and the next minute he was in the hospital fighting for his life. Davis suffered a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed on his right side.

"I lost control of my whole side just like you turned the right side off with a light switch," said Davis. 

Since that time, he has been undergoing extensive and often grueling rehabilitation at Singing River Health System's Comprehensive Rehab Center. Occupational therapist, Ashley Mitchell, has spent a lot of time helping Ronnie regain some of his independence, as his brain heals.

"Our goal is to teach his brain to teach his body what it has to do again. How it has to help his arm move, his leg move, help him stand and walk," said Mitchell, who notes that Ronnie is making tremendous progress. "They're teaching me how to walk, and how to talk again," Ronnie said tearfully.

He  apologized for breaking down several times during the interview, saying that crying easily is one of the side effects of the stroke.  

Despite those moments, Davis managed to focus on having a positive attitude; something he's well known for at the CRC. 

"It's wonderful just to be able to walk again, thank God. I want other people to see this and know they can't give up," said Davis. 

Even though he was a former, long-time smoker with a history of high blood pressure and diabetes (all risk factors for stroke), Davis didn't see his doctor on a regular basis.

"I thought 'I'm a macho guy and I don't have to do this,' so I didn't," noted Davis. "Please go to a doctor and get checked."

Experts say getting regular checkups is critical. Patient care manager at the rehab center, Cindy Carrigan, RN, says adults of all ages should know their blood pressure, cholesterol number and get the proper health care.

"Eighty percent of strokes are preventable if we know the risk factors, and take care of ourselves and know our numbers," said Carrigan.

Ronnie says he learned the hard way and still has a difficult journey ahead.  However, the thoughts of suicide he had early on have gone by the wayside, thanks to support from his family at home; and his new family at the Singing River Hospital.

"You have to grasp why and if you don't, you'll go down just like me. At first I wanted to take that gun, but no. I'm good to go now. I'm going back and I'll be stronger than I ever was," added Davis, who is now at home where he will continue recovery. 
Friends and family are hosting a special benefit concert May 18 sponsored by the Crooked Letter Brewery at the Juke Joint in downtown Ocean Springs, from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.

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