It was four years ago this month when I wrote in this space about our oldest son, Alex, who suffered a stroke at age 25. Many of you expressed your concern about his welfare so I think it’s time to offer an update.
I still recall where I was when I got the phone call from my wife. I had been attending a morning networking meeting at the Fishers Chamber of Commerce and was on Lantern Road on my way back to Noblesvillle when my cellphone rang. Joni was on the other end with the news about Alex, who was attending grad school in Minnesota. Upon arriving home we discovered we couldn’t get a flight to Minneapolis until that night. We threw some things in the back of the car and started driving.
It was that terribly cold and snowy winter four years ago. Alex had been knocking icicles off the roof of the house he was renting in Minneapolis and injured an artery in his neck. Four days later, a clot that had formed at the injury let loose and went into his brain, causing the stroke. Some heroic measures by his then-girlfriend overcame the reluctance of the EMT’s to take him to the hospital. After multiple surgeries and several weeks in the ICU, he recovered. But things were different.
This happened during his final semester of school to earn his doctorate in violin performance. The stroke affected his motor skills and he wasn’t able to perform for his final exam. They let him give a speech instead and he graduated on time. But his career plans had to change. Despite years of practice to perfect his technique, he couldn’t perform at the level he once did, so he took stock and shifted gears.
He loves classical music and always wanted that to be his career. So instead of performing he decided to pursue conducting, and now conducts the student orchestra at the University of Minnesota-Morris. He also leads the Heartland Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra in Brainerd, MN, and freelances throughout the state conducting youth orchestras. His one-time girlfriend, Kate, is now his wife and she also has a doctorate in music, teaching piano to children and adults.
Alex has almost fully recovered in the past four years. There’s little evidence of the stroke, though he does conduct left-handed and doesn’t play the violin like he used to. But that’s not because he can’t play, it’s because he’s so busy conducting orchestras. He says the fine motor skills on his right side are coming back very slowly and he can feel progress. Performing in the future is not out of the question.
So as I reflect on that dark time four years ago I am grateful, not just for the resiliency of a 25 year old body but for the resiliency of Alex’s spirit as well. It had to be tough to face the fact that something he had worked so hard for was not to be. He could have resorted to resignation and self-pity, but he didn’t. He faced reality, looked for another opportunity and forged ahead. I’m proud of him for that. He’s an inspiration.
See you around the county,