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.

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