Thursday, September 26, 2013

Caregiver Tips

These Caregiver Tips were emailed to me by Cameron Von St. James who is a caregiver for his wife.  He wrote:
"My name is Cameron Von St. James and I was thrown into the role of caregiver when my wife, Heather, was diagnosed with a very rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma.  It was just three months after the birth of our only child.  We were initially told that she could have less than 15 months to live, but she was able to defy the odds and eventually beat the cancer.  During her treatment, I had to learn quickly to be an effective caregiver, and there were many times when I became overwhelmed by the role.  Together, we managed to fight through it. "

Caregiving is the same regardless of whether your loved one is battling cancer or coming back from a stroke.  It's a good list and no caregivers I've asked have been able to add to it.  The only thing I can add is don't think what the doctors tell you is set in stone.  They often underestimate the power of the human spirit.  
Caregiver Tips
  1. Accept all offers of help
  2. Take time for yourself
  3. Make your own health a priority
  4. Know your limits
  5. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family or even strangers if you feel overwhelmed
  6. Be clear and direct when asking for help
  7. Become an expert on the condition – Learn all you can
  8. Make lists
  9. Prioritize
  10. Get organized
  11. Join a support group
  12. Talk to other caregivers
  13. Budget
  14. Make use of technology
  15. Ask questions
  16. Carry a notebook everywhere
  17. Make use of any and all resources available to you
  18. Know your employment/compensation rights
  19. Try to maintain a normal schedule
  20. Always hold on to Hope!
Here are links to their blogs:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Videos from the Inaugural YoungStroke Expo

I recorded 3 beakout sessions at the Inaugural YoungStroke Expo in Litchfield, SC, on May 21, 2011.

Ellen Debenham, MUSC REACH
Ellen Debenham, RN, CCRC, from MUSC's Stroke Center talks about their REACH program which delivers stroke care to rural spoke hospitals.

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Tina Cronin, Young Stroke in South Carolina
Tina Cronin, APRN, MSN, CCNS, CCRN, CNRN, from Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, SC, talks about the causes of stroke in young adults and their impact.

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Jan Harper, Getting Back to Work After Stroke
Jan Harper, HR Director for Georgetown Hospital System, talks about the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) and everything you need to know to get back to work after a stroke.

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New PSA, Happy Anniversary, for survivor support groups

Amy Edmunds recently celebrated 10 years as a young stroke survivor.  She came up with the Happy Aniversary concept for this PSA and I shot and edited it.

Watch Happy Anniversary
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My third anniversary - April 4, 2011

I figured I should put up the pictures from my third anniversary before the fourth one!  I've talked about anniversaries in several posts here, so I won't try to come up with any new insights.  It's becoming a tradition for me to go to Brookgreen Gardens and celebrate the beauty in this world on a spring day.  In 2012, I plan on taking some other stroke survivors with me.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Click any picture for a larger view.  Click Read more for more pictures.

Live oaks and narcissus at the oak alley

Dyonisis and tulips

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Inaugural YoungStroke Expo

The first of a series of YoungStroke Expos to be held around South Carolina was held Saturday, May 21, 2011 at the Litchfield Campus of Coastal Carolina University.  The first YoungStroke Stroke Support Group meeting was held immediately after at Waccamaw Hospital's conference center in Murrells Inlet, SC.

The day started with a sunrise prayer, the Run! Walk! Roll! event, General assembly, 2 sets of 4 breakout meetings, the YoungStroke Champion Awards and PSA recognition, and then the finl set of 4 breakouts. Attendance was good, the breakouts were interesting, and it was great to see that many people out in support of stroke - young stroke, stroke recovery, stroke prevention, and stroke advocacy.

I won the first YoungStroke Art Competetion, which was judged by Paul Olsen, PhD, who is Professor of Graphic Design and Department Chair at Coastal Carolina University.  I entered my picture, There is Always Hope for the Future.
(Click it for a larger view)
Here's the back story on this picture.

There is Always Hope for the Future
(Great Spangled Fritillary at the Cowee Mound)

In addition to the physical work I was doing, I found it helpful to talk to a counselor and would recommend it to anyone in stroke recovery.  One day my counselor asked me if I had hope for the future. I replied, "That's a silly question, there is always hope for the future."  She said not everyone felt that way.  A couple days later I went to the Cowee Mound on my first photo outing since my stroke.  It is an ancient Cherokee village site and my all-time favorite place on earth.  I was in awe of the beautiful day at this beautiful place and when I took this picture, it made me think how could anyone NOT have hope for the future.  So, I named the picture "There is Always Hope for the Future” and made a print for her, my 2 PTs, my 2 OTs, & my psychologist at the rehab hospital, my psychiatrist, my chiropractor, and several others that played a role in my recovery.  When I took this picture, I knew everything was going to be all right.  

Here are some photos I took.  I also videotaped 3 of the breakouts, so I didn't get to shoot some of the other activities of the day.

Amy Edmunds, fondly known as
"The Stroke Lady"
Attendance was good

Friday, April 1, 2011


photo by Deborah Thomas (click for a larger view)

Recently I donated my services to YoungStroke to help them promote a series of Expos they are putting on in South Carolina, which has one of the highest stroke rates in the country.

This is from their page
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Stroke Survivor Donates Public Service Announcement

Ralph Preston, young stroke survivor, photographer, and videographer donated production of a public service announcement to promote attendance to YoungStroke's Litchfield Expo on May 21st. The PSA challenges the public's perception of stroke as an elderly affliction by featuring young stroke survivors sharing their stroke experiences. Included are young stroke survivors Larry White, Ann Hamilton, Clifford Brooks, and Marcus Rosenlehner.

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

I addition, I donated a Video Invitation.
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

YoungStroke Expo Schedule

Litchfield, SC - May 21, 2011 at the Waccamaw Higher Education Center of Coastal Carolina University

Beaufort, SC - April 21, 2012 at Beaufort Memorial Hospital

To register for the Litchfield Expo, call 843.655.2835 or go to the
YoungStroke website.
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

To register for the Beaufort Expo, call 888.522.5585 or go to the
YoungStroke website.
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brian and Jan Healy agree to be interviewed

Brian and Jan Healy (photo courtesy of the Healys)

My wife, Deborah, saw an article in Sasee Magazine, a local women's publication, written by Jan Healy about a book that she and her husband Brian had written. Brian had a massive stroke on August 5, 2009 and they wrote a book together about his recovery called Navigating Through the Fog: The Story of a Stroke Survivor and the Woman who Loves Him

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Their website where you can purchase their book
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Their blog where you can keep updated on what they are doing
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

I have read their book and I recommend it to anyone who has recently been impacted by stroke.

Brian had such a massive stroke and made such a great recovery due to his attitude, his hard work, a loving and very supportive wife, and good therapy.  His attitude and recovery very much fit into what I hope to bring to people who watch my DVD.  He has become an advocate for stroke recovery by speaking and bringing his story of hope to as many people as he can.

Brian Healy speaking at the Orange County Stroke Rehab 
Network Stroke Awareness Picnic 2010: 
Living Well After Stroke

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In for the Long Haul

photo by Deborah Thomas

On Friday, May, 21, 2010 I spoke at Tri-State Stroke Network's annual conference in Durham, NC. Here is my speech, In for the Long Haul, without all the ad libs, live demonstrations, and Q&A.

By the way, you can click on the pictures for a larger view. I took the pictures, unless otherwise noted.

photo by Deborah Thomas

My name is Ralph Preston. I am a videographer and still photographer who had a stroke a little more than two years ago. I am not a speaker by profession, but speaking and writing have helped me to understand my journey. I hope when we are done, you have a better understanding of the importance of attitude and support in a successful recovery.

Friday, April 16, 2010


When I did things like climb to the top of a mountain 4 months into recovery, get back on my bicycle at 10 months, or get full range of motion back in my arm, people told me what I had done was "remarkable". I politely thanked them, but never felt that way myself. I thought about it a lot. Then, I started talking to other people who had done things that I considered "remarkable" in their recovery or in dealing with what life throws at us. None of them regarded what they did as "remarkable". One cancer survivor said, "What was I supposed to do, lay down and die?" I found this interesting and thought about it more. Maybe the fact that no one who does "remarkable" things considers them to be "remarkable" is the key to being able to do them. Maybe it all comes back to attitude, yet again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It had to happen sooner or later

I made it 2 years and 3 days without falling. Thursday, April 8th, I fell in my garden. I'm not sure what happened, or I might have prevented it. We're laying out the garden, so it is a minefield of string and stakes. Luckily, I didn't fall on the stakes that are marking the beds we are putting it. But, I did fall on my left elbow which poked into my ribs pretty good. I broke 3 ribs once, so I know that they are not broken, but anyone who has injured their ribs will tell you it's no fun at all. You ribs are connected to everything you do, including rolling over in bed while you sleep, or try to.

With all the 1000s of times I lost my balance and recovered and thought I might fall going up and down steps, climbing on ladders, and so on, it surprised me to just take a regular fall. At first I thought I was relieved that it had finally happened, but then I realized I had to think about not falling for the rest of my life, oh well.

If you have not had a stroke, you probably don't realize what it is like to live with one. I'm explaining this, not complaining. Since my stroke 2 years ago, I've had 6 or 7 moments where I forgot for a few seconds that I had a stroke. I have to think about every step, every curb, holding things, my balance. etc. In the beginning I described it as walking around with a cement bag on your shoulders, ever-present and adding o the difficulty of all tasks. Well, life has gotten easier, the cement bag may be gone sometimes, but the stroke is still ever-present. When I think about it, or it bothers me, or I can't do something as easily as I could before, I simply remember I am alive. That seems to be enough.

My second anniversary

My second anniversary was Sunday, April 4th, 2010. Anniversaries are a funny thing and you must be careful in how you look at them. At first, you think about them in terms of how your life changed. You tend to remember what you used to have and be able to do, not what you DO have and CAN do. Some people say anniversaries are hard. I was around some of that thinking early on, and guess what, they were hard. By the time I got to a year, I had changed how I looked at things and I refused to be influenced by anyone else's thinking. So, I decided that on April 4, 2009 that I would CELEBRATE my first anniversary. I thought about what I loved to do the most in this world and decided that was to be out taking pictures on a beautiful day finding the beauty in the worlda nd trying to capture it. So, I went to a couple of conservation properties to take pictures for the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee calendar that I do. That day I took one of my favorite pictures of 2009, Redbuds and Scooters. It's this month's (April 2010) shot in the calendar. It was a glorious spring day and I reveled in being alive and able to appreciate it.

Redbuds and Scooters (click for a larger view)

While I was there, I took a pictures of the lambs. They are so cute, who could resist? (click for a larger view)

This year, when I thought about how to celebrate my second anniversary, I thought about gardening and photography, so I decided I would do both. We are turning our back yard into organic vegetable beds, so I worked to finish the last 5 of 12 beds we are making this year. The other 7 have already been planted.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 North Carolina Stroke Association's Cycle for Life

The start, with Robin Jones of Mission Neurology in Asheville on the right in the light blue shirt. She had never ridden 24 miles and made it.

I had not ridden 24 miles in more than 10 years, and not since my stroke, but I knew I could do it.

On a beautiful fall day the North Carolina Stroke Association held their 2009 Cycle for Life at Hanover Vineyards in Yadkinville, NC. I rode the 24 miles in about an hour and a half, which is about 16 miles per hour. I was happy with that.

My brother Glenn started the You Go Ralph Preston Fund, and since he donated enough to be a sponsor, it was on the back of all the T-shirts. It was kind of strange seeing my name on all the T-shirts. Thanks Glenn! You got me good.

Special thanks to all my family and friends. We raised $1,700 at last count!

Dan & Judy McConnell
Harvey & Janice Fouts
Ronnie & Judith Neumann
Denny & Kathy Hammack
Beth & Eric Moberg
Dick & Gill Heywood
Margaret & Al Ramsey
Russ & Robin Langley
Merritt & Lucille Fouts
Niek & Janis Bergraat
Bob & MaryBelle Wells
Helen Thomas
Rick & Jeanne Falknor
Pat Mercadante
John & Jean Crose
Forest & Jewel Tindall
Kathy Fannin
Glenn Preston
Barbara McRae
Rick & Lita Hinson
Bill Fouts
John & Marta Thomas
Pratiba & Yogi Kakad
Bob & Nancy Tolles
Susan Johnson
Peter Denning
Johnny & Mary Jeff Pearce
Fred Greaves, Jr.
Kate Waterfall
Charlie & Laura Vargas

Here's more on the tour (will make it a hyperlink soon)

2009 North Carolina Senior Games

“They” say I shouldn’t have the balance to ride my bike. Luckily, “they” weren’t there the last February when I decided to throw my leg over my mountain bike and ride off down the beach. I was training for the local Senior Games last year when I had my stroke on my stationary bike. So, that’s why I did them this year and went on to the NC Senior Games where I got my butt whooped by guys with $5,500 bikes who ride 350 miles a week. My truck isn't worth $5,500 and I don’t drive 350 miles a week! I did ride the 10K in less than twice my 5K time, so I felt good about that. I won my category, guys who had a stroke, as I was the only one there that had a stroke.

Speech to Tri-State Stroke Network on September 23, 2009

Laurie Mettam, the Executive Director of Tri-State Stroke Network asked me to speak to their group and I did on September 23, 2009 via a conference call. My PowerPoint was on their server, so those that wanted to could follow along. I have no idea how many people were on the call. It's a little strange talking to a group you can't see. And, I had to tell people what they should be looking at and when to advance the PowerPoint. But, it went well. It was only slightly different than my speech at Life Care Centers of America. If you want to read it and see the PowerPoint, it's further down on this blog.

I understand that your presentation was a great success. Hopefully, it will jump start more movement toward getting funding for your DVD. You are incredibly talented and successful on so many levels.
Warm regards, Laurie Mettam

Hi Ralph, I just wanted to take time out to thank you for sharing your story and making the presentation today for the NC Stroke Care Collaborative (NCSCC) and the Tri-State Stroke Network (TSSN). It was important for us to be reminded of the human side of a stroke and that, in addition to all of the clinical information that is important to help people with their recovery, there are many important supportive actions that are necessary to keep stroke survivors motivated to live up to their full potential. I very much appreciated your positive attitude and approach to recovery. You were an inspiration to me and I am certain to the other participants. I wish you all of the best with securing funds to make the stroke video that you aspire to create to help others who must walk down a similar recovery path to your own. Take care, and again, on behalf of the NCSCC and the TSSN, I thank you!
Sylvia W. Coleman, NC Stroke Care Collaborative

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Story in North Carolina Stroke Association's "Update Stroke"

I was asked by the North Carolina Stroke Association to write about my recovery and my Stroke Recovery DVD project. Here is the article from their "Update Stroke" publication. I am also a letter writer and rider in their Cycle fro Life event this October. There is an entry on the event below, complete with links about the ride. Scroll down or click here. Click it, it's a hyperlink.. Here's a link to the North Carolina Stroke Association Click it, it's a hyperlink. And, here's one to Update Stroke. Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Telling the Story
By Ralph Preston, Asheville, North Carolina

As with everyone who has had a stroke, my world changed the day it happened to me. On April 4, 2008, the day began, like so many others, with me on my stationary bicycle, pedaling hard as I trained for the upcoming Senior Games. As I neared the end of my ride, I became aware that my left leg was not working right. The terrifying trip to the hospital and the diagnosis of right-side hemorrhagic stroke seemed unlikely to happen to me, a 58-year-old who was in such good physical shape. But it did happen to me. I became a statistic:one of over 700,000 people per year who experience a stroke.

I was hospitalized at Mission Hospitals in Asheville, NC, where I progressed from the neurological wing of the hospital to the rehabilitation facility at CarePartners, which is located in Asheville. I graduated to the outpatient physical and occupational therapy sessions as I was discharged to my home in Franklin. Once I was medically discharged, and on my own, I began to ask many questions about my experience. I was seeking answers that could give me a clear picture of what I had experienced. Each physician and therapist I saw in during the post-stroke phase had a piece of the puzzle, but it seemed that no one had the whole picture, due to the overwhelming complexity of the stroke syndrome.

I began to realize the many questions I had might be the experience of others in stroke recovery. Since my physical, mental, and emotional recovery was a priority, I set out to regain as many of my pre-stroke abilities as I was able. I am a videographer and still photographer by profession, and I wanted to be able to take pictures with my camera again. While working out every day was difficult and time-consuming, I felt strongly that there was nothing more important. I kept a positive attitude and worked every day to rebuild my body.
Starting with assisted laps in the driveway, I worked my way up to hiking five miles on the Appalachian Trail four months after my stroke. I was back on my bicycle and cycling within 10 months, pedaling as much as 20 miles at a time. I walk almost every day, and I work out to an exercise video, as both help to restore coordination and balance. I recently competed in the Macon County Senior Games by cycling 10 kilometers in 24 minutes and coming in second.

I will compete in the September NC Senior Games in Raleigh, and I will be will be cycling in the NC Stroke Associations annual benefit ride, “Cycle for Life”, held each year at Hanover Park Vineyard, in Yadkinville, NC. I will be writing letters for the event in my effort to raise money for the NC Stroke Association’s Grant Program.

My stroke opened up an opportunity as I navigated through the recovery process. I began to piece together answers to the questions most stroke survivors have, as they try to live with change, and begin anew. With my professional background as a video producer and director with over 30 years of experience, I decided to use my talents to gather information about stroke syndrome and provide it to the people who need it most: people in stroke recovery and their caregivers. I am planning a DVD featuring stroke professionals answering as many of these questions as possible. Several levels of exercise will be featured and guided by physical and occupational therapists. I believe a positive attitude plays such a large role in recovery. To that end, persistence and hope will be underlying themes of the DVD. This project will help the thousands of people actively engaged in recovering from stroke, as they meet the day-to-day challenges toward healing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ram Dass agrees to be interviewed

Yes, you read that correctly.. I asked him if he would do an interview for my Stroke Recovery DVD and he agreed. You get nothing of what you don't try for, so I decided to write to him. He is the spiritual leader for my generation and the author of "Be Here Now". He had a stroke in 1997 and was the subject of the PBS documentray "Fierce Grace". I am currently reading his book "Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying" to prepare for that interview. I feel he will add a lot to my Stroke Recovery DVD!

For more information on Ram Dass go here
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

To purchase "Still Here" go here Still Here
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

For more information on "Fierce Grace" go here Fierce Grace
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

To purchase "Fierce Grace" go here Fierce Grace
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Here's a search of all his work Ram Dass
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

To see a clip from "Fierce Grace" go here Fierce Grace clip
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Here's my letter to him.

Ram Dass,

I am a video producer who, after having a hemorrhagic stroke on April 4, 2008, discovered the gap that exists in stroke recovery once you leave the rehab hospital. So, I decided to try to bridge some of this gap by creating a DVD on stroke recovery. TriState Stroke Association is going to apply for a grant from the Centers for Disease Control to pay for the video production. If that does not come through, I will figure out how to raise the money or pay for it myself.

Shortly after my stroke, my daughter bought me a copy of "Fierce Grace" and I first watched it while I was still in a rehab hospital. I have watched it several more times since then and found a lot of wisdom and truth in it. I would like to interview you for this project, if you are willing. I would like to talk about the importance of attitude in stroke recovery, some of your experiences, and about making sense out of some of the things that happen to us in life. I'm sure there are other areas of conversation that would come up in the interview. I am also more than open to any ideas you might have.

I know you are a busy person, but I also know that you have been impacted by stroke and probably would like to impart some wisdom to others on a stroke recovery journey similar to yours and mine. Proceeds from the video would support stroke recovery and prevention. I've attached my proposal (and pasted in this email), a quote on attitude, and a few pictures that tell the story of my recovery. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ralph Preston

Here is his reply.

Yes, I am interested in interviewing for your DVD.
Ram Dass

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor declines an interview

For more information on Dr. Jill bolte Taylor and "My Stroke of Insight"
Dr. Jill bolte Taylor and "My Stroke of Insight"

Click it, it's a hyperlink.

To purchase "My Stroke of Insight" hardcover go here My Stroke of Insight - hardcover
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

To purchase "My Stroke of Insight" paperback go here My Stroke of Insight - paperback
Click it, it's a hyperlink.

Help me to convince her by posting your comments here.

My letter to her.

Dr. Jill,

I am a video producer who had a stroke 14 months ago tomorrow. I am producing a DVD on Stroke Recovery to help bridge the gap that exists when you get out the rehab hospital and have to manage your own recovery. I made quite the recovery due to my attitude and the hard work I was able to do because I maintained a good attitude. Rather than explain it all here you can go to my blog and read about it, My idea is there in detail, too.

What I would like to know is would you be willing to do an interview with me for the DVD. I would ask you questions about attitude, perseverance, what you did when you were down, what you did to keep from getting down, etc. I feel that attitude is key to any recovery.

I would also reread your book and come up with some other questions. By the way, my wife, who is a writer herself, also read it and said you are a very good writer. I would work with you in any way you desire. I would come to you or meet you somewhere in your travels. It would take between half an hour and an hour, depending on how much time you could spare. I could submit questions in advance. You can tell me your conditions.

Everyone I have spoken to at rehab hospitals, neurological units, and stroke centers loves my idea. I am working through Tri-State Stroke Association, because they offered to write a grant. We are trying to get the Centers for Disease Control to fund it. If that is the case, the DVD will be given away (or sold for duplication and shipping costs only). In any case, I am not looking to profit from this or off of you. I want to help as many people as I can through the stroke recovery process. There would be an appearance fee that we will be paying. You can donate it to your favorite organization, foundation, or charity, if you don't want it yourself.

I know you are a busy person. I think you have a lot to contribute. I think it would benefit those in stroke recovery to hear your thoughts. You know how important that can be when you are recovering. Ram Dass has agreed to an interview. "Fierce Grace" and "My Stroke of Insight" were big influences on me and helped me. That is why I am asking you. I have asked Chuck Swindoll, but not heard anything. I have lived by his Attitude quote. I am also going to ask Dr, Wayne Dyer, who is a friend of Ram Dass and lives near him in Hawaii. I intend to ask Lance Armstrong, who did not have a stroke but knows a thing or two about attitude and recovery. When I saw Bob Woodruff on ABC last night I thought he might also be a great interview. He has journeyed far. Feel free to suggest anyone else you might know. So, there you have it.

Ralph Preston

Her reply from Dr. Katherine Domingo

Hello Mr. Preston --

Thanks for your message and sharing your story and idea. Dr. Taylor is certainly cheering you on with anything that may be of help and value to stroke survivors. At this point, her schedule is very busy and she is not in the position to accept this wonderful offer. However, she does wish for great success and is grateful for the work you are doing to help stroke survivors--and congratulates you on your own recovery and rehabilitation!

Thanks again,
Dr. Katherine Domingo

"Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space." ~ Jill Bolte Taylor

Saturday, June 20, 2009

North Carolina Senior Games

Since I was the only one in my age group that showed up to bicycle, I won 3 gold medals at the Macon County Senior Games and qualified for the 2009 North Carolina Senior Games. I will ride my bike in them to draw attention to stroke awareness. They are Sunday Spetember 27, 2009 in Raleigh.

North Carolina Stroke Association's Cycle for Life

I am going to participate in the North Carolina Stroke Association's Cycle for Life event on Saturday, October 3, 2009, at the Hanover Park Vineyard, Yadkinville, NC. I am one of the "letter writers" for the North Carolina Stroke Association for this event. Here is the letter I'm sending out to family, friends, and business associates. If you want to help out, you can too. Just send a check to North Carolina Stroke Association at P.O. Box 571002, Winston-Salem, NC, 27157-1002, and put my name in the memo line. You can also come out and cycle or enjoy a day at the winery, have lunch, and do a 1-mile walk around the grounds.


I would like to thank all of my family and friends who have supported me in my journey these last 15 months. The outpouring of love and support I have received means a lot to me, as did the cards, phone calls, emails, discussions, and hugs. I thank you all.

Most of you know about my stroke, my recovery, and my mission to help others through the recovery process. One good way to do that is through stroke prevention. If you don’t have a stroke, you don’t have to recover from it. Stroke prevention is exactly what The North Carolina Stroke Association does through their community grant programs.

In talking with people since I had my stroke, I’ve realized how prevalent stroke is. Everyone I talk to knows someone whose life has been affected by stroke. I’m sure you do, too. It not only changes the lives of the affected individuals, but families as well.

I’ve worked hard to regain my abilities. I was able to get back on my bike and ride 10 months after my stroke. Because I can, I’m going to ride my bike to help others. So, on Saturday, October 3, 2009, I’m going to participate in The North Carolina Stroke Association’s 6th Annual “Cycle for Life 2009” bike tour to raise awareness and money for their stroke-prevention efforts. Here’s where you come in. I’m asking for your financial support as I ride.

Many of you know how much I loved running and cycling prior to the stroke. It will be my great pleasure to show that it is possible to make physical progress through perseverance. I will be one of only four riders who have experienced a stroke.

With your support, we can save thousands of lives by preventing stroke. Please help me to make this a reality. You may make your check payable to The North Carolina Stroke Association and mail it in the self-addressed envelope. Your contribution supports The North Carolina Stroke Association’s Grant Program. In 2008, this program awarded $40,000 in grants to rural hospitals to implement stroke-prevention programs. It is a 501(c)3, so your contribution is fully tax-deductible.

I hope you are able to help this worthy cause. And, if you want to enjoy a beautiful autumn day at a North Carolina winery, come on out to Hanover Park Vineyard and cheer on the riders.


Ralph Preston

P.S. If you want to find out more about Cycle for Life 2009, visit North Carolina Stroke Association Click it, it's a hyperlink. Or, Cycle for Life 2008

On-line registration will be avaliable July 1st
Cycle for Life...2009 bike tour registration brochure
Cycle for Life...2009 Team registration form
Cue sheets and Maps for: 65 mile course, 40 Mile course, 24 Mile course, 7.5 Mile course

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Speech to Life Care Centers of America

Monday, June 1, 2009, I spoke to a group of Life Care Centers of America rehab hospital directors in Cleveland, TN. I was honored to be asked. I have to say they are the warmest most genuine group of people I have met lately. I suspect it is part of their corporate culture. Here is my speech, without the ad libs and live demonstrations.

By the way, I recently discovered you can click on the pictures here for a larger view. I took the pictures, unless otherwise noted.

My name is Ralph Preston. I am a videographer and still photographer. I live over the mountains in Franklin, NC. These are pictures I took there.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Macon County Senior Games

The start (photo Linda Mathias)

Crusing along (photo Linda Mathias)

The finish (photo Linda Mathias)

I had my stroke training for the 2008 Macon County Senior Games. So, when I got back on my bike in February 2009, I decided I would ride in them in May 2009. If I'd known I would be one minute behind the winner, I probably would have trained. I think I can go to the NC state finals in September where lots of people can beat me, none who have had a stroke though.

Thanks Linda for coming out with your camera!

Here is a link to the story The Franklin Press did.

Here it is, also.

The Franklin Press
Living In Macon
Resident hopes to create needed resource for stroke victims
By Colin McCandless

A local resident is working to develop a video project that would empower stroke patients to take charge of their own recovery, while helping address a gap in the health care system.

A professional videographer and photographer with 30 years experience, Ralph Preston of Franklin is collaborating with the Tri-State Stroke Network in seeking a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a DVD on the various aspects of stroke recovery.

Preston wants to bring attention to the issue of strokes and help make information more accessible to stroke victims and their caregivers.

He knows firsthand what it's like to experience one. Preston suffered a right-side hemorrhage stroke last April at age 58 while he was training on an exercise bike for the North Carolina Senior Games competition.
"My stroke was completely preventable," Preston said. He had marginally high blood pressure and chose not to take his blood pressure medicine, he recalls.

Preston spent 5 days at Mission Hospital in Asheville and then 17 days at CarePartners, a rehab hospital (also in Asheville).
Following his release from CarePartners, Preston discovered a gap in the health care system concerning strokes: it proved difficult finding critical information to facilitate his own recovery.

He found there are no "stroke doctors" in the area, that family doctors often do not have much knowledge about strokes and that the information a patient needs to medically manage their recovery is spread out over a large number of sources.
Upon seeing this problem and experiencing the frustration as a patient, Preston derived the idea of creating a DVD to try and address that gap. The project would allow him to utilize his video production skills to develop a user-friendly, accessible resource that will help others like him in their respective road to recovery.

According to Preston, the purpose of the DVD would be to compile in one place most of the information a stroke patient needs for their total recovery. All of the information would be menu-driven so the patient could watch just the sections that pertain to their individual needs.

The DVD would be designed to provide useful information to patients at any stage of recovery and would contain, among other things, outpatient facility information and therapeutic exercises to do at home. The program would be aimed at patients just released from a rehab hospital and could be given to them as they are discharged from the facility, according to Preston. Because recovery continues over the patient's lifetime, Preston said the program would be valuable at any stage of the process.

It will feature interviews with psychiatrists and psychologists, stroke patients and their success stories, doctors, rehab-center managers, etc.

There would be sections on therapies and modalities for the most common stroke issues, post-stroke medical information, physical therapy and stroke prevention. Additionally, there would be a section geared towards family caregivers on how to equip a home for stroke patients, along with information on blood pressure, cholesterol, clots, blood thinners, etc.
In addition to stroke professionals and stroke victim testimonials, Preston has gone after spiritual/motivational teachers that he intends to interview for the video, including Ram Dass (accepted), author of "Be Here Now" and Dr. Wayne Dyer.
He also plans to ask seven-time Tour de France cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong to appear in the video.

Preston emphasizes that the video would exude a positive tone and stress the importance of maintaining a good attitude during the recovery process.

Preston hopes he can get the CDC grant money for the stroke recovery video this year and put together the DVD by May 2010. (May is "Stroke Awareness" Month). If the CDC funding falls through, he will seek other funding sources (foundations, etc.).

His wish is that the video can serve as an inspiration to others. "It's not about me," Preston said.

He has shopped the DVD concept with stroke professionals in the state and region who have been supportive of the idea, including the executive director of the Tri-State Stroke Network (who are funded by the CDC), and the North Carolina Stroke Association.

Preston explained that he also learned during his research for the DVD that the tri-state area of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina is part of the "Stroke Belt," usually defined as an 8-12 state region (typically including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee), according to the Stroke Network's website

It so named because the region typically features higher death rates from stroke than the rest of the country.
Within the stroke belt, the highest stroke death rates are clustered in the coastal plains regions of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; this region has been called the "Stroke Buckle." The stroke death rate in the Stroke Buckle is two times greater than that in the rest of the nation, according to the Stroke Network.

This has become an added focus for Preston's DVD since North Carolina shares in this dubious distinction.
In April, Preston also started a blog at that describes his own recovery experience and the plan to produce a stroke recovery informational DVD.

Preston said he hopes the website will eventually feature some type of stroke resource section either with a question and answer page, an interactive place where people can pose inquiries to stroke professionals and get feedback or a link to stroke information.

Preston's Road to Recovery

Since suffering his stroke last year, Preston has relearned to use his cameras again, including his 26-pound broadcast camera, which as a professional photographer is most important to him.

Along his road to recovery, Preston did walking exercises daily, and it took him a couple months before he could build up to walking two miles.

Three months into his recovery though, he was able to walk three miles out and three miles back on the Appalachian Trail to the top of a mountain with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. He has also walked seven miles on the beach.
Ten months following his stroke, Preston was also back riding his bike again.

Preston recently rode his mountain bike 22 miles on the beach in less than two hours and rode a 20-mile bike trail in an hour and 15 minutes.

He walks or bikes every day in addition to doing his daily occupational therapy exercises.

Additionally, Preston intends to ride in and be a letter writer to raise money in the NC Stroke Association's annual fundraising "Cycle for Life" bike ride event this October.

The NC Stroke Association is also featuring him in the June issue of Update Stroke. Preston has been asked to be a motivational speaker at Life Care Centers of America's annual meeting in June.

On May 7, thirteen months removed from his stroke, Preston completed a 10-K bike race in the very same Senior Games competition for which he was training when he had his stroke.

"It was kind of like completing the circle for me," Preston said.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Recovery

I had a right-side hemorrhagic stroke on April 4, 2008. I spent 5 days at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC and then 17 days at CarePartners, a rehab hospital also in Asheville. I have made quite the recovery. I am a photographer and videographer and have relearned to use my cameras, which is most important to me, including my 26-pound broadcast camera. I have walked 7 miles on the beach. I have walked 3 miles out and 3 miles back on the Appalachian Trail to the top of a mountain with 1500 feet of elevation gain. I got back on my bike. Recently, I rode my mountain bike 22 miles on the beach in less than 2 hours and rode a 20-mile bike trail in an hour and 15 minutes. I walk or bike every day as well as doing my OT exercises every day. I am enterd in the NC Senior Games, which I was training for when I had my stroke. I am going to ride in and be a letter writer to raise money in NC Stroke Associations “Cycle for Life” bike ride this October. They are also featuring me in the June issue of Update stroke. I have also been asked to be a motivational speaker at Life Care Centers of America’s annual meeting in June.

I live by this attitude quote. It saved my life and allowed me to make the recovery I did. I am in the process of making a poster with this quote and a "magic moment" shot between a patient and therapist at CarePartners. "Transferring Knowledge, Power, and Love" is what I made up to describe the magic moment I am looking for. I think it should hang in every rehab facility in the country in the staging area where everyone will see it.


“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is to play on the one string we have and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. An so it is with you…we are in charge of our Attitudes!”

Charles Swindoll

I have developed methods for integrating PT & OT into normal life. For OT I do everything with my left hand. I dubbed it, "The Affected Hand Olympics". For PT, I balance on my affected leg when standing in lines. I look at the horizon, close my eyes, or look left or right while walking on the beach to improve balance, etc. Of course, this is in addition to walking or biking every day and doing my OT exercises every day. I believe you are either going forward or you are going backwards. See the post called "Integration: Beyond Involvement" for more on this.

Me & Kathy (my PT) walking out of CarePartners
photo by Deborah Thomas

Standing on a 2 x 4 with my 26-lb. Betacam at a Habitat build
photo by Andy Leonard

Doing an interview in the mud at a Habitat build
photo by Andy Leonard

The pictures here are all post stroke. I am told I am the one of the few in recent memory that walked out of Care Partners. In the first Habitat picture, I am standing on a 2" x 4" with my 26-lb. Betacam. Look at that left-hand involvement in the Habitat interview shot. The Habitat pictures were taken 5 months after I left Care Partners.

There is Always Hope for the Future
(Great Spangled Fritillary at the Cowee Mound)

My therapist asked me one day if I had hope for the future. I replied, "That's a silly question, there is always hope for the future." She said not everyone felt that way. Two days later when I was at the Cowee Mound (an ancient Cherokee site and my favorite place on earth) taking this picture of a Great Spangled Fritillary, it made me think about hope for the future. So. I named the picture "There is Always Hope for the Future" and made her a print. This was at about 7 weeks on my own, when I was getting better at getting up from kneeling, like I did to take this picture.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Integration: Beyond Involvement

When I was at Care Partners rehab hospital in Asheville, NC, they preached "involvement" with your affected hand. Not an easy thing if you can't pick up anything or use your arm. First, I had to build up the strength and the coordination in my hand to be able to hold anything. I did this by squeezing putty and stretching rubber bands, the ones that come with the mail. I kept some of each in the car, so as my wife drove me to doctors appointments I could work my hand. I did a lot of wrist-stregthening exercises, too. I kept a hammer with me when I was sitting on the porch or riding in the car.

I also had to build up my shoulder to where I had some range of motion and some strength. I did that by holding a light weight by my side and drawing circles with it, both clockwise and counterclockwise. I also got a wooden dowel at the hardware store and used my unaffected hand to raise my affected hand over my head.

Eventually, I could raise it on my own and I could keep my hand on the computer keyboard. I wanted to be able to drive a car again. I had had a field of vision test at my eye doctors before the stroke, so I had one after. I lost very little, so I headed out with my wife as the driving instuctor. I passed, That was a big day. I started driving with my left arm. I found things like driving, lawn mowing, and vacuuming where you are holding something steady and steering to be beneficial. In the begining, my arm would sway for no reason, so I was careful every time I met a car if I was driving. Eventually that went away. You can't do too much damage with a vacuum cleaner. Yes, I vacuum left handed. I always will. Mowing was good in the early days after I learned to walk well enough to take it on. It involves pushing and I live in the mountains where there are always hills. I found it good for building up stamina. I had to push myself continually to rebuild my stamina. In the begining simple tasks and anything that used my brain drained me. Eventually, I could ride my bike for a couple hours without stopping. Next, I want to learn how to run again.

Once I got some function back, I could start to think about involvement. So, I got down the vitamins with my left hand and arm. I had trouble doing it, so I'd get them all down and then put them back. Get them down and put them back.

Every time I have trouble doing something I do it over and over again until I was satisfied I am doing it right once. So, if my hand shook when I was going to pick up something and I didn't like it, I repeated the motion until I was happy and picked it up.

Once I achieved involvement, I tried to figure out ways to use my affected side in everyday tasks - integration. I got tired of how long it took me every day to do all the exercises I was doing at the time. When you integrate it's like free PT or OT time. It doesn't come out of your time like pulling on a rubber band does. If you balance on your affected leg while your gas is pumping, you are doing PT and the time does not come out of your life, it's extra therapy time.

I walked and walked and walked some more. I walked on my toes I walked on my heels. I hopped in place. I hopped from side to side. I hopped laps. I high-stepped laps. I did ankle dips and raises on a step. I practiced going up and down steps. I walked on every kind of surface and terain.

How could someone is a good a shape as I was get his stamina wiped out? SImple answer, stroke. I believed in pushing myself a little every day. Steady pushing yields steady progress and soon I was able to do some things that meant a lot to me. Walking to the jetty and back at Hunginton Beach State Park was my first big accomplishment. When I got there I thought, "Can I make it back?" I had been so sigle-minded about making it to the jetty, I forgot I'd have to walk back. But I made it, and that was just another step and another confirmation that if I set my mind to it, I could do it. I could recover.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Here Is My Idea

Proposal for Stroke Recovery DVD

I am a professional videographer and producer with 30 years experience who is developing a DVD on the various aspects of stroke recovery because this information is not easily available to the people who need it most: stroke survivors and their caregivers. I know this to be true because I am a stroke survivor myself and it has been difficult to find critical information to facilitate my own recovery. It would be a significant boon to stroke patients and to the stroke community to have most of the information needed in one convenient location that could be accessed easily, at home. Because a DVD enables the user to navigate to the specific information they need, the user could watch only the material they wanted.

The idea for this stroke DVD was born out of need and frustration. On April 4, 2008, I had a right-side hemorrhagic stroke. After 5 days at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC, I was released to CarePartners, a rehab hospital also in Asheville. After 17 days there, they determined I was able to go home. When they discharged me, I was left without a source of information about stroke in general, my condition in particular, and my recovery therapies. I did attend 30 physical and occupational therapy outpatient sessions (all my insurance would pay for) and followed the instructions I was given so that I could continue the exercises at home. Every day, I wished my therapists were there to go over the recovery routines with me. While I made lists to remember what exercises I needed to do, what I really wanted was to watch them on TV and follow along. Another source of frustration was that I was released to the care of my family doctor and quickly discovered that there are no “stroke doctors” and that the information a patient needs to medically manage their recovery is spread out over a large number of sources.

The purpose of this DVD would be to bring together in one place most of the information a stroke survivor needs for their total recovery. All of the information would be menu-driven so the patient could watch just the sections that pertain to their individual needs. The DVD would be designed to provide useful information to patients at any stage of recovery and would contain, among other things, outpatient facility information and therapeutic exercises to do at home. The exercises should be used often so they would be easy to get to from the main menu. The program would be aimed at patients just released from a rehab hospital and could be handed out to them as they are discharged from the facility. But, because recovery continues over the patient’s lifetime, the program would be valuable at any stage of the process.

As anyone who has dealt with stroke can tell you, a positive attitude is critical to recovery. The entire DVD would have an overtone of how important it is to maintain a good attitude. It would also stress that each recovery is different and that your recovery is governed by the principle that you will get out of it what you put into it. The program would feature interviews with psychologists and psychiatrists on attitude, grieving, moving on, and being the best new you that you can be. It would also interview stroke survivors who have great success stories and show them involved in normal or surprising activities. It would then explore how they achieved their successes and how much attitude and perseverance had to do with it.

There will also be sections dealing with post-stroke medical information; interviews with various doctors on bleeding strokes and clotting strokes (these would be two different DVD menu choices); and information on blood pressure, cholesterol, clots, blood thinners, etc.

I would also include a section on therapies and modalities for most of the common stroke issues. There are many new technologies out there to make patients aware of like VitalStim, AutoAmbulator, It's Never Too Late, and SaeboFlex to mention just a few.

In the physical-therapy section, several therapists would address the numerous questions that stroke patients have about their recovery. The exercises could be demonstrated so that the patient would see the correct way to perform them. There could also be a separate section, facilitated by physical therapists, on three or four levels of exercises the patient can do at home to strengthen their affected side and improve balance. It will include demonstrations and tips on how to walk better, including heel-walking, toe-walking, high-stepping, and hopping, because at home it is hard to remember everything you did at PT. The program would also stress how important it is for the survivor to continue to do the exercises on their own, and would include tips on how to integrate PT into the patient’s day-to-day activities. Similar sections would address occupational therapy, as well as arm and shoulder therapy, following the same format as the physical therapy section. Both of these sections would include exercises demonstrated by OTs. All of this is aimed at helping the patient overcome deficits.

The DVD could also interview rehab-center managers on their facility’s particular stroke-recovery philosophy and feature a brief tour of the facility. It would also include information on how to prevent another stroke, such as by losing weight, managing blood pressure, decreasing risky behaviors, eating healthily, being active, and staying involved with other people.

There would also be a section for family caregivers dealing with how to equip a home to optimize it for stroke patients, such as using shower chairs, wheelchairs, and other adaptive equipment, in addition to addressing the challenges of day-to-day life with a stroke patient.

In short, this DVD would bring together much of the information currently known regarding strokes and present it in an easy-to-use format that would empower the stroke patient to take charge of their own recovery, thus facilitating a more successful outcome. I hope that you will be excited by this proposed DVD and will want to work with me to bring it to fruition. I have the involvement of the National Stroke Association and their Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery Network (SRN) and they are going to provide me with some guidance. Their website will be an important research tool. If it meets their guidelines, they will promote it on their website and through their newsletters. A portion of the proceeds will be dedicated to stroke prevention and recovery.

Me Blogging!!!

Me blogging, imagine that! I don't text with my cell phone, or have a Blackberry, do MySpace or Twitter. My cell phone accompanies me when I work, or hike, or ride my bike, but I'm low-tech whenever I can be.

I started this blog to keep everyone informed about my idea for a Stroke Recovery DVD and as a easy way for people to share comments and suggestions, which I am more than open to. If you would like to discuss this idea, rather than blog, call me at 843.947.0010.