By Dr. Don Gibson
Kelly Graham has never been sick a day in his life. The retired Auto Rental VP, day trader, devoted husband and father never slows down. He is an avid athlete and marathon runner.
In January, Kelly had a deposit of amyloid in one of the blood vessels in his brain. This deposit caused an abnormal weakening of the vessels resulting in a hemorrhagic stroke. The bleeding in his brain caused severe impairment of his mobility, speech and cognition. He had emergency surgery, a multi-day ICU stay and inpatient rehabilitation. Now Kelly, fiercely independent, is dependent on others to walk, talk and perform basic activities of daily living. But that’s not the story we are telling today. We are telling a recovery story.
Kelly, his wife Cristi and his daughter Tori began the long road to recovery and formed Team Kelly~ Believe in Miracles. This journey includes countless medication adjustments, his Mercy primary care team, a host of physical therapists, speech therapist, occupational therapist and a neurologist. There are good days and there are bad days, but Team Kelly never gives up.
On a routine follow-up visit, his primary care doctor, Dr. Don Gibson recalls that significant progress has been made, however Kelly voiced frustration in his loss of ability to do things he once could. He did not want counseling; he already had an excellent support team. He did not want antidepressant medications; he was never one for taking medications. He just wanted to be better, faster. At that appointment, Kelly needed a gentle reminder that his condition could have been much worse and that he needed to continue to work hard.
“I don’t think Mr. Graham was ever one for being coddled, I think he needed to be challenged,” says Dr. Gibson.
“I see stroke patients every day who can’t run a 5k, YOU can.”
“I see stroke patients every day who can’t walk, YOU can.”
“I see stroke patients every day who can’t talk, YOU can.”
These are the words Dr. Gibson shares with Kelly, who has been his patient since before the incident, as the family calls it. The frustration is still there because the recovery is slow. Kelly has been released from physical therapy, approved by his doctor to exercise with a trainer, and if he thinks and talks very slowly, can articulate a perfect sentence.
Fast forward to Labor Day. It’s a perfect day for the Mercy Franklin Classic, slightly overcast skies, perfect temperature with a roomy and relatively flat course for Middle Tennessee. Kelly Graham, a 65 year-old hemorrhagic stroke survivor completes something never considered possible seven months prior, finishes the Mercy Franklin 5k independently – his own health care center!
“I need to keep reminding myself, this is not my last chapter,” said Kelly. Congratulations to the Graham family, all of us at Mercy believe in miracles too!
Pictured at the Franklin Classic are Team Kelly: Brian Graham, Kelly Graham, wife Cristi, daughter Tori and his Primary Care Physician, Dr. Don Gibson.