Keith Taylor survived a stroke and is encouraging others
Last updated 5/25/2021 at Noon
Keith Taylor just “felt off.”
Taylor, then 47 and living in Newburg, was uncharacteristically tired and lethargic. He was making preparations for a work-related trip to Seattle the next day but decided to just lie down for a while. He was still in bed when his wife came home from work and stayed there until the next morning, when his wife left early for work.
Taylor had grown his Salem-based large manufacturing firm to include three partners, with him acting as sales manager. He was physically fit, with no health concerns and a healthy blood pressure. The next morning, still planning on his trip north, Taylor received a phone call from his nephew who immediately realized something was wrong with his uncle, who was making no sense as he spoke.
Taylor’s wife, Babette, immediately came home from work and drove him to the hospital in Newburg, where they determined he had a stroke and transferred him to Providence St. Vincent’s in Portland. He only spent one night there before being transferred to Oregon Health Sciences University.
It was at OHSU that they determined Taylor had experienced the stroke due to a rare genetic disorder called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), that effects blood vessels. Either the small capillaries are abnormal, and these are called telangiectasias, and/or the capillary connection between arteries and veins are abnormal.
Capillaries are tiny blood vessels. They connect arteries (which carry blood away from the heart) and veins (which return blood to the heart). These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can burst, causing bleeding and other complications. The symptoms and complications depend on where in the body these abnormal blood vessels form. People with HHT may develop abnormalities in larger blood vessels (like Taylor) called arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). AVMs can form in the lungs, brain, spinal cord, and liver. If a parent has HHT, there is a 50 percent chance for each child to inherit it.
“Life as we had known it was gone. Everything changed,” Taylor recalled.
This was 11 years ago. Now living in Central Oregon, Taylor speaks out on his experience in order to encourage others, which is especially on-point in May, which is Stroke Awareness Month.
He remembers standing staring out his window two months after the stroke, morosely questioning “What good am I?” and seriously considering suicide.
“I had lots of life insurance and my family might be better off without me,” he recalled. “It was a very dark time.”
That’s true for many stroke victims.
Taylor experienced many of the common residual effects of a stroke: mood lability (including tears), frequent memory lapses, fatigue, and confusion. When he returned to work, he couldn’t recall customers’ names or the company’s product line and finally his partners bought him out of the business he had grown, causing another big change in his life. He experienced feelings of not being able to “settle,” so he and Babette moved a number of times until they finally settled in Redmond. Taylor grew up in Prairie City, having been born at the old St. Charles Hospital on the hill in Bend, so it felt like coming home.
Eleven years later, Taylor’s life is very different than at the time of his stroke. A decade ago, conventional wisdom said that any improvement made following a stroke was as good as it would get within a year-and-a-half. Taylor and his wife didn’t accept that prognosis.
Taylor has been driven his whole life to be a good example for others and that desire is the foundation for what he is doing with his life post-stroke. He got connected with Stroke Survivors Oregon, which is headquartered in Bend, and is now a member of their board of directors, speaks on behalf of Stroke Awareness Oregon, and teaches stroke survivors to not give up.
Taylor has a website, www.strengthafterstroke.com, where he explains his 15-module computer program for stroke survivors, called B.A.S.E. which stands for Belief. Attitude. Strength. Energy. Each module is five to 20 minutes in length with a follow-up PDF for participants to fill out to help them regain their own power and strength in order to live a full and productive life. He will also be offering a Facebook group and online trainings.
“Overcoming challenges on your own is almost impossible,” says Taylor. “The B.A.S.E. program can help a stroke survivor learn the best practices I developed, while working with hundreds of stroke survivors to enable faster progress in recovery efforts.”
Taylor points out that the neuroplasticity of the brain makes it possible to keep getting better for a long time. The type and severity of the stroke will influence the recuperation possible.
“As long as you are willing to work at it, it will come,” he said.
“Working at it” includes, among any number of activities, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, reading, writing, and staying involved with your community. Stroke survivor support groups can be especially helpful in healing.
For more information on stroke and available resources, contact Stroke Awareness Oregon at www.strokeawarenessoregon.org, 541-323-5641, or [email protected]trokeawarenessoregon.org.