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Stroke victim's spirit lifted for Christmas
Stroke victim's spirit lifted for Christmas
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
Home for the holidays has special meaning this year for Philip and Laurette Castro and their five children. It was a grand homecoming for Mr. Castro, who returned to his home in Auburn on Christmas Eve after seven weeks at Cleveland Clinic and Metrohealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
His children, Miranda, 14, Elizabeth, 9, Alex, 8, and 6-year-old twins Angelina and Andrew, crowded around him that evening. One of the first things he did was to turn on the Christmas music.
He said he was going to blare the music and he did, with his family at his side after his long absence.
On the morning of Nov. 5, he was due to get up for his job with Waste Management in Glenwillow.
When the alarm went off, and he wasn't up and about, his wife went to check on him. "The dog had made a howling cry, like she was upset," Mrs. Castro said. Chloe the dog was right next to her husband when she found him.
"His eyes were fixed to the left," Mrs. Castro said. He was unresponsive and she immediately called 911.
Auburn Fire Department paramedics responded and called in a medical helicopter to fly him to Cleveland Clinic. Mr. Castro, 51, had had a stroke, the family later learned. The left side of his brain was involved.
"He didn't recognize his right side for a week and a half," she said. His head was mostly turned to the left and he paid attention only to the left side.
With his vision impaired, Mrs. Castro placed photographs of the children and dog, affixed to the hospital bed rail on his left side, so he could see them.
He had three stroke areas, with one large area on the left side of the brain and two smaller ones. It was a severe stroke, according to his doctors.
Speech control was affected and he did not speak for two weeks. While he now has full range of motion in his neck, and he has developed movement in his right hip and slight movement in the right shoulder, his peripheral vision still needs improvement.
He is using a wheelchair and can take steps with a four-pointed cane with assistance. "It's a slow process, but his progress has been tremendous," Mrs. Castro said. "The therapists have been wonderful."
Mr. Castro said he is renting and definitely not buying the wheelchair because he doesn't plan on needing it in the future. He said he is going to walk. He soon will participate in outpatient therapy.
He tells of how on one Sunday in the hospital that a volunteer wheeled him to church services. It turned out the man had a stroke six years before. It did not look like anything had ever happened to him, and he told Mr. Castro it took him nine months to recover.
Mr. Castro has told his wife and nurses he is going to beat that time. It has given him the hope and encouragement he needed. He also gives credit to the hospitals. "They took care of me," he said.
Dr. Richard Wilson, specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, said of Mr. Castro, "He's a great patient and is very motivated to get better.
"He's his own advocate, along with his wife. He continues to work through the pain and frustration," Dr. Wilson said. "He's made a lot of progress, and that's a good sign."
At home, the kids keep their father upbeat. Andrew had written a letter while in school recess one day to his father. He had all the first-graders in his class sign it.
Mrs. Castro volunteers at the school. "I hope Phil can come along, to show the kids his progress." Two mothers from the school initiated a campaign to help the family, inspiring others to provide a helping hand.
"The whole community has been wonderful," Mrs. Castro said. "Everybody has provided support.
Mr. Castro had worked 18 years for DHL Delivery in Beachwood before being among 170 workers laid off last January. He found a job seven months ago with Waste Management.
The family attends Church of the Holy Angels in Bainbridge, and church members including the moms' group made sure the children all had Christmas presents.
The Bainbridge Police Department hosted the children for the department's "Shop with a Cop" program. "That was a treat for them," Mrs. Castro said.
Bainbridge Food for Friends food bank has provided the family with food, and friends from DHL Delivery bought a wheelchair ramp and installed it at the Castro home. Waste Management also has helped out. "They've all been wonderful," Mrs. Castro said.
"The children were surprised at how much people wanted to do for us, through the schools, neighbors and the church and community," she said. "Even other area churches helped us."
Doctors say the most progress occurs in the first three to six months after a stroke, but it could take a full year before they know his full recovery.
Mr. Castro is on disability through Waste Management, and the family has applied for Social Security disability. However, it takes six months for a decision on the matter.
"We would love to keep our house. The kids love the schools," Mrs. Castro said. She is concentrating on the basics, paying the household bills.
This is not the first time the family has endured adversity. Andrew was born without an immune system, known as severe combined immune deficiency. He underwent a bone-marrow transplant at 13 months with his twin sister donating marrow, thereby providing him with an immune system to survive. Now, he is doing wonderfully, the family said.
Metrohealth's stroke unit social worker, Laura Pokorny, has worked with the family while Mr. Castro has been in rehabilitation.
During the holiday, the staff adopts a family in the stroke unit, and the unit adopted the Castro family, she said.
The stroke-unit staff, including nurses, doctors and social workers, presented gifts to the family Dec. 23, accompanied by a songfest, she said. It was an emotional time for the family.
"He cried and we cried," Ms. Pokorny said.
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