Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Home Again  

Current Amount Raised 
Lets get the momentum going!  I have kicked off the fundraising with a $100 contribution.  I will match the first $1,000 donated and then hope to have other donors that match donations.

There are other ways to donate.  You go into any one of the 2,100 BB&T branches and make a deposit to The Starfish Project’s account.  If you use electronic bill pay the information for that account is bank routing number 053201607 and account number 5225362140.  Checks can be made out to The Starfish Project and mailed to 1758 Wachesaw Road, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576.  All of the account information is set to The Starfish Project, which we did a couple of years ago.  I don't want to change it all over a name.

A mutual friend, George Barr, who knew that we both had suffered strokes introduced me to Deborah Dorland three years ago.  Since that time, I have watched a series of events unfold in her life.  
I watched her rebound from her stroke.  I have a good idea what it took to do that.  I’m happy to have played a small part in it, but the credit is all hers!  I watched her learn how to draw again and do her art with her left hand, no small feat.  I watched her grow amazing things in pots in a parking lot that look like they came out of the finest vegetable garden, and I have learned to love her indomitable spirit!  I watched her rally the other nursing home residents in good times and when they were up to their knees in floodwater in their wheelchairs, and I learned of her big heart.

I watched her suffer at the hands of Mother Nature during a 1,000-year flood.  I watched as circumstances put her life out of her control.  I watched as she failed to qualify for some assistance, was hours away when most of the flood relief help took place and passed her by, and was offered solutions that don’t meet her needs.  I watched her handle all this with grace.

Recently, she expressed a desire to get back into her house and I’ve decided it is time for me to stop watching and help her get her life back.  So, I’m going to raise the money necessary to fix her house. I will work with a contractor to insure that licensed professionals due the plumbing and electrical work and anything else that should be done by contractors.  I will coordinate any local volunteers and her friends that want to help her by working on her house.  I will do whatever it takes to help Deborah get home again. I would like to ask you to help me.  The simplest way to do that is to donate. 

If you would like to participate, contact Ralph Preston at 843.947.0010 or email

Project Tasks (coming soon along with total budget)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Starfish Project

I let WPDE channel 15 know about the Starfish Project. They came out and did a story and we were the lead story on the news. To me, it is every bit as important to model this kind of behavior as it is to do the actual work. Think about the way the world would be if more people did what we did yesterday. I'd like to send a HUGE thank you to all the volunteers and contributors - you rock! We'll be over there Thursday at 10 am to finish up the landscaping and painting - join us if you can.

WPDE story on The Starfish Project

Current Amount Raised 
Lets keep the momentum going!  We are only a few hundred dollars away from of our goal of $2,500 and we are going to need $2,700 to do everything we want to do.  We had to replace all the fascia boards on the house.

On Saturday, October 25, 2014 we are going to fix up a stroke survivor’s house in Murrells Inlet, SC.  I hope you can join us.  Please Like The Starfish Project Facebook page, so that your FaceBook friends become aware of it.  Also, we’d appreciate it if you’d spread the word to your co-workers and friends.  You can email them the link to this page. 

The stroke survivor “lives small” on a disability income, so anything we raise is money she doesn’t have to spend. 

We’ve set a goal of $2,500.  Materials for the roof alone will be almost half of that.  All it takes is 125 people giving $20 or 25 people giving $100.  This is a great way to help if you can’t make it on October 25th.  If you have $20 you can contribute, that would be great.  All donations large and small are welcome.  We don't have 501(c)3, or official nonprofit status, so you won’t get a tax deduction – just the satisfaction of knowing you helped someone.  She currently has a small window air conditioner and an electric space heater.  When we exceed our goal, we’d love to install a mini split heat / air conditioner.  

There are 3 ways you can donate.  You can use the PayPal link above to donate using your credit card.  Checks can be made out to The Starfish Project and mailed to 1758 Wachesaw Road, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576. Or, you can go to any BB&T and ask to make a deposit to The Starfish Project's account.

If you would like to participate, contact Ralph Preston at 843.947.0010 or email

Myrtle Beach Building Supply is helping us out with materials by offering us a 10% discount.  Please support them and buy local!  

It is serendipitous that her house is named The Starfish.
I end all of my speeches to stroke professional and stroke survivors with The Starfish Story.

the starfish story

There was once a wise old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. One day as he walked along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man, and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead was reaching down to the shore, picking up starfish, and very gently throwing them into the ocean.

“Good morning! What are you doing?” asked the wise man.  The young man paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The sun is rising, and the tide is out. And if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

“But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish all along it? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man, listening politely, bent down and picked up another starfish, throwing it into the sea past the breaking waves. Turning to the old man, he modestly replied, It made a difference for that one.”

Project Tasks 

Roof – John Thomas, lead.  We need several people to help him, roofing experience is a plus.  We probably will strip the roof on Friday, so we can get the roof done on Saturday and so we can get all the old roofing off and down without dropping it on everyone on Saturday.  We’ll also need a whole house tarp.

Painting – Helen Thomas Romano, lead. We need several people to help her, painting experience is a plus.  We probably will caulk and prep on Friday, so we can get all the painting done on Saturday.

Yard – Deborah Thomas, lead. We need several people to help her, knowledge of plants is a plus.  Restore the planting off the deck; restore the front fence line – lantana, rose of Sharon; all sticks and branches to be removed; weeds removed; bushes properly trimmed under the homeowner’s direction; what to do about the treehouse?

Deck – We currently don't have a lead.  We need someone familiar with pressure washing and deck sealing.  There is one deck board that was never installed that I will get the carpenter to install.  The paint crew can help with the sealing, if they are done.

Ramp / Pavers / Gate – We currently don't have a lead.  We want to paint the handicap ramp to preserve it and we want to add sand to the paint so it is less slippery.  The paint crew and deck supervisor can help with this after the painting is done and the deck sealed.  The survivor will need access throughout unless she stays inside.  The gate needs fixing so it will close.  We'd also like to put pavers from the end of the ramp out to a small pad for wheelchair access to cars.  Currently, there are roots that make rolling a wheelchair very difficult.

Bathroom / Exterior door / carpenter – We currently don't have a lead.  We need someone who is knowledgeable in general carpentry to do several simple projects and probably some that will come up.  One is to install a couple of grab bars, probably right through the bathroom tile.  Some trim around the newly-widened bathroom door would also be nice.  The main entry door also needs attention – maybe we can get a used door that fits as a replacement.  Otherwise, it needs to be cut down and shored up.  There is one board on the deck that needs to be cut and added.

Sheetrock ceiling – We currently don’t have a lead.   We need someone knowledgeable in sheetrock repair to take this on.  There is a small soft spot that could be patched.  We don’t think the entire ceiling needs to be done.  We’d do a walkthrough prior to the 25th, so we can have the proper materials on hand.  The carpenter could possibly do this if he has the knowledge and time.

Security System – We currently don’t have a lead.  She gets people knocking on her door unannounced.  We would like to put a simple camera aimed at the door and displayed inside.  Nothing fancy.  If someone with CCTV and security experience wants to do more, that would be great.

Logistics, Lunch, Drinks, Fill in – Can’t hammer a nail to save your life and don’t know flowers from weeds?  No problem.  We’ll need people to run to Home Depot for unexpected supplies, get or prepare lunch, and handle drinks to name just a few things. 

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