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Picture of me in France at work before my stroke.

That is me inspecting one of the Martin Marietta fan reversers on the first A-330 aircraft in Toulouse, France, one month before my stroke on June 20, 1994.

My name is Steve Mallory.  In 1994, I was working as an Aerospace Quality Engineer for Martin Marietta Aerospace, now known as Lockheed Martin Aerospace.  That is me in the picture above checking out the part that we made.  I was at Airbus Industries in Toulouse, France on business.  I had been there for several weeks when one night at dinner I experienced a serious mini-stroke or better known as a TIA (transient ischemic attack).  Two days later, I had a massive brain stem stroke.  Brain stem strokes occur to less than 10% of stroke survivors and I had to have one! 
I still cannot believe it that a brain stem stroke happened to me. 

A brain stem stroke happens when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted in this area. This type of stroke can result in death, since the damaged brain stem can no longer control the body’s vital functions.

The brain stem controls involuntary functions like heartbeat, breathing, and blood pressure. Nerves that are used for eye movement, hearing, talking, chewing, and swallowing are also controlled by the brain stem. Normal brain stem function is vital to survival. Lucky for me, they cause little to no damage to the cognitive skills.  But, unlucky for me, they cause serious and varying degrees of damage to the motor skills. 

In my case, my brain stem stroke caused quadriplegia, Central Pain Syndrome, loss of speech, Dysarthia and various other severe disabilities associated with losing most of your motor skills. Some of my other side-effects are:

bullet Inability to walk
bullet Sleep disruption
bullet Hearing loss
bullet Inability to balance
bullet Loss of muscle tone
bullet Spasticity
bullet Difficulty with swallowing
bullet Loss of fine motor skills
bullet Behavioral changes
bullet Lack of concern about situations
bullet Impulsivity
bullet Depression
bullet Loss of short-term memory
bullet more...   

So, here I was, quadriplegic and unable to speak but extremely confident in my abilities and very determined to succeed!  I purchased an infrared head pointer so I could make the cursor move anywhere on the computer screen.  I needed a way to type so I downloaded an on-screen keyboard.  The on-screen keyboard lets me type anything I want.  I move my head and my infrared head pointer acts like a mouse and moves the cursor to that spot on the computer.  I move the cursor to a letter on the on-screen keyboard and click.  When I click on a letter a list of words beginning with that letter pops up.  The more letters I type the list of words becomes more refined.  This is called Word Prediction.  I move the cursor to the word I want and click.  I can sometimes type out a 10 letter word by just typing the first three letters.  I click on my word from a list and then the on-screen keyboard types it out.  

After my stroke, I had dozens of questions about what happened to me.  I thought strokes only happened to older people and I was only 36.  I found a message board just for stroke survivors.  We were all thrilled to be talking to others who could empathize with each other.  We started meeting every two weeks in a chat room.  A common topic of discussion was having a website where just stroke survivors and stroke caregivers could meet. 

In 1994, using a computer was brand new to most people.  It was especially difficult for stroke survivors, as things like logic and deductive reasoning were skills that were usually damaged by their stroke.  Fortunately, my brain stem stroke did not affect my cognitive skills.  I was one of the few who knew how to use a computer and they all knew it.  I volunteered to create our website.  Now I just had to figure out how to make web pages.  I turned to the Internet and found a tutorial on HTML.  Slowly, I taught myself how to make web pages. 

Eventually, I created a network of websites that now make up The Stroke Network website.  The website had an awesome message board that had dozens of forums to post about our problems and receive responses from stroke survivors who live all over the world.  A blog for each member to write about personal issues with life as a stroke survivor.  And a gallery where each member could upload personal pictures to the Internet.  The website also had a very nice chat room so our members could discuss issues caused by stroke or just for socializing.  In addition, there were dozens of resources for stroke survivors to browse through.  There were many links to articles, websites, books to purchase and sites for financial assistance to the disabled. 

Having a nice website can get quite expensive.  I could not keep paying all the bills out of my own pocket.  The website was becoming popular among stroke survivors and stroke caregivers. Our membership was quickly growing.  My next step was to setup a 501(c)3 non-profit organization so it could take over paying for everything from me.  In 2001, The Stroke Network officially became registered as a tax exempt non-profit organization.  It has been an on-line stroke support group for over 20 years.  Its mission is to provide on-line stroke support and information.

Also, I have started a blog that has stories of inspiration written for stroke survivors.  As examples, one blog is written about how I learned to communicate with others.  Another blog explains how I built up my non-profit organization.  

Melissa and I started dating in the 10th grade of high school.  Three years later, after we graduated, we were married.  I was married at 19 in 1977.  She came with me to Fort Riley, Kansas where I spent four years in the Army.  We have been together now for over 40 years.  When I had my stroke, besides being my wife, she also became my full-time caregiver.

We have two beautiful daughters, Traci and Erin.  They were only 9 and 12 when I had my stroke.  They both quickly accepted my new condition and even learned to help their mother with minor caregiver chores.  Now, they are married.  I have two great son-in-laws, plus three precious grandchildren.  Traci is married to Pete.  They have one daughter, Livi and one son, Petey.  Erin is married to Ryan.  They have one son, Ryder. 

Even though my stroke caused loss of speech, Melissa, the girls and I have learned how to communicate with each other.  After my stroke, I had to retrain myself how to form letters and to pronounce words.  I could not vocalize but I relearned how to move my lips, my tongue and how to make my facial muscles move so I could form words.  This led to me being able to whisper words or mouth out phrases and full sentences.  I practiced and practiced! 

Eventually, mouthing out words became our primary means of communication The entire time that I was relearning how to properly pronounce words, Melissa and our kids were teaching themselves how to read my lips.  We have become quite good at communicating this way. 

None of this would have been possible without God leading the way and showing me what to do; see which scripture verses have helped me on this long journey. I love the Lord so much!  He drastically changed my life and made something positive happen.  So, in order to do something positive with myself I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping other stroke survivors. I am very driven about assisting them to find on-line stroke support and information. I now know that this has always been God's plan for me. 

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Favorite Scriptures

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2Cor 4:18

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.   1 Timothy 6:9 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30

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