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Stroke victim 'gets on with life'

October 17, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Feb. 8 is a day Cindy Yeakle will never forget. Keith Yeakle, her husband of three years, suffered a major stroke that affected three areas of his brain.

He was transported to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he was diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome. Cindy Yeakle said it is a rare blood disorder that causes the body to form platelets, which cause recurring blood clots.

Further complications resulted in both of Yeakle's legs having to be amputated, and he also lost his ability to speak and swallow. Cindy Yeakle said her husband had surgery the day after his 47th birthday on March 9 and doctors didn't know if he would live.

Not only did Keith Yeakle live, he has overcome insurmountable obstacles to return home, where he receives ongoing therapy. His ultimate goal is to be able to drive again.

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Keith Yeakle began with speech, physical and occupational therapy while at Hopkins. He was transferred to Beverly Healthcare in Hagerstown by ambulance on March 20, almost six weeks after his stroke.

Barely able to communicate and lying on a stretcher when he arrived at Beverly, Keith Yeakle was evaluated and a plan was developed for his treatment, said Bill Clapkin, admissions/marketing director at Beverly.

The goal, as impossible as it seemed, was for Yeakle to leave Beverly "under his own power."

Yeakle's treatment plan included three areas of therapy, focusing on daily skills he would need to function independently at home.

It was back to basics for Yeakle, who had to learn to swallow and smile through speech therapy. He advanced to being able to hold conversations with the staff to relearning reading, writing and phone skills.

Physical and occupational therapies worked on dexterity and balance needed for him to use his artificial legs. After months of hard work, Keith Yeakle was able to leave Beverly on Sept. 1.

"He has a guardian angel. He's so determined, so motivated. He just wanted to get on with his life," said Cindy Yeakle, 48.

She said Keith doesn't have much memory of what happened to him. Formerly a heavy smoker, he has given up smoking and takes blood thinner to prevent a recurrence.

"Everybody's amazed. I've got to give Johns Hopkins credit - that was the start. Beverly took it from there," Cindy Yeakle said.

The couple, who lives on Clinton Avenue in Hagerstown, have been together for 12 years. They met at Lenox Distribution, where Cindy Yeakle still works.

Keith Yeakle was injured on the job in 1997 when the back arm of a forklift snapped his back in half, Cindy Yeakle said. He was on disability at the time of his stroke.

The couple is grateful for the support of friends and family through the long recovery. It has been a time of faith building.

"We got closer to God. Without Him, we couldn't have pulled through," Cindy Yeakle said.

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