Having a stroke doesn't mean it's the end of the world.
Bob Watts of Minot is proof of that. He exercised, was active and had five Minot Daily News paper routes to deliver each morning. He ate healthy meals.
Things changed for him and his wife, Caren, in November.
Bob Watts rides his recumbent bike in his home.
The couple had enjoyed a quiet, comfortable evening at home watching television. "It was a normal night," said Bob.
"We were going to bed on the night of Nov. 4 when the stroke happened," he said. "I was folding up the computer and I called to Caren and had the stroke. That's just the way it happened."
There were no signs prior to that.
What to watch for
Specific early signs that may be a warning of stroke include:
--Trouble speaking or understanding speech
--Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, hand, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
--Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes (such as double vision, blurred vision, or blindness)
--Sudden trouble walking
--Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness
--Sudden loss of balance or coordination
--Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
--Seizures (in a small number of cases).
Fpr more information,, visit the Web site (www.stroke.org).
signs that require medical attention.
"It was due to high blood pressure and we didn't realize he had high blood pressure," said Caren.
"He was in the bedroom and I was in the kitchen chopping up some vegetables when I heard him call. When he hollered a second time I knew it was serious," Caren said.
She rushed to to the bedroom and found him trying to hold himself up, standing up as much as possible. "I got him onto the bed and that's when I saw the right side of his face changing."
She immediately called 9-1-1.
"The first thing you do when someone you know has a stroke is to dial 9-1-1. The timing is critical. If you wait too long too much damage will take place," Caren said. "They (medical personnel) said I had called in more than plenty of time."
"I saw his eye go out of focus on the right side and I saw his face begin to droop. Having dealt with this with my father I knew it was either a heart attack or a stroke. That's when I picked up the phone and called," she added.
"They (medical personnel) said I died between there and the hospital but I don't recall any of it," Bob said. He saw some white light but for about four days but doesn't know what happened, he added. That's when he was in the intensive care unit at Trinity Medical Center in Minot. He was moved from the hospital to the rehabilitation unit Nov. 14 and was released to go home Dec. 18.
"A stroke is something you never dream would happen to you," he said.
What's his advice to others? You should have the doctor check your blood pressure and your heart, but once you have a stroke you have to be determined that you are going to get well.
"I believe that God allows things to happen. For example, he allowed Satan to sift (test)] me but he wouldn't let him kill me so here I am making a recovery," he said.
He exercises a minimum of an hour to an hour and a half every day in his home.
"No matter how you feel, you have to work your way through it. I think you have to have a good person to administer to you and you gotta have a good person for PT (physical therapy) to work with. With those two things you can overcome it all," he said.
Dick Wohl of Trinity Home Health comes to the Watts home to help him with PT. Occupational therapy continues on a weekly basis and his speech therapy was completed at the end of January.
Determination has a lot to do with recovery from a stroke, which can take anywhere from a year to 18 months.
"They think mine will be a lot sooner," said Bob. "It was three months ago that I had the stroke and I'm already walking with a cane. If you just stay at it, you'll make it."
What does the future hold?
"The salt shaker is no longer on the table and I really study the sodium amounts on foods I buy," Caren said. Eating or using more sodium (salt) than the body needs can lead to high blood pressure in some people and high blood pressure could lead to heart problems or a stroke.
Exercise is a must and Bob, who is 72, said he'll continue to exercise daily. He is looking forward to the future when he has his strength back and has full use of his right arms and leg and that will come with exercise, he said.
What happens then?
"I'll go back to being a pastor. That's what I was before," he said. "I bought a projector for my laptop and I'm hoping to start a prayer study right now. I'm not going to stop at all."
The couple has faced many challenges since Bob had the stroke. His physical handicaps meant finding a new home and purchasing a lift chair so Bob can get out of the chair by himself.
There are also emotional reactions to deal with, especially the fear of losing the person you love.
"We have our up and down days but Caren is with me all the way. I truly would be lost without her," Bob said. "I couldn't do it alone. I have been truly blessed to have her."