By John Yurgens
“Darkness to light”
It’s Always darkest just before the dawn
A few years ago my life was darker than I ever recall
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The dawn came and the light of day is so sweet
We must survive the darkness to appreciate the light.
I give thanks daily for the gift of life I have been given
I can only hope and pray I can do justice to the gift of life.
This second chance I have been given.
We have all heard, “your life can change in an instant” or “in the blink of an eye”. Skeptical? Well, does John have a story for you.
First a little background. I met my wife Kay, while working on a show with Port Huron Little Theater ( now Port Huron Civic Theater). Married for 30 years; we raised four (4) children and now we have four (4) amazing grandchildren.
After securing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Science in Administration, I worked many jobs accumulating over 20 of supervisory managerial experience. In 2010, I finally found a job I absolutely loved at Blue Water Developmental Housing. Then, without any warning, my life changed in an instant on November 12, 2013 (11/12/13) when I suffered a right hemispheric cerebral aneurysm that ruptured and a stroke.
I convinced myself and my doctor, that I was ready, willing and able to return to work (40 hours per week), only five (5) months after my accident. CVA (cranial vascular accident), Part of that five months included a month in ICU and three weeks inpatient rehabilitation. Looking back, I realize how foolish I was. Unaware of the extent of my deficits – let alone what my deficits actually were; that attempt failed miserably. I have made the statement “family and friends try to understand, but the only way they can truly understand is experiencing stroke survival first hand.” I pray to God they never truly understand the struggles that come with surviving a stroke.
I isolated myself socially several months; my life was destroyed mentally, emotional, physically and vocationally. I wallowed in self-pity. I finally realized I need to be thankful to be alive. Many people do not survive an aneurysm or a stroke. I survived both. I thank God everyday for my second chance at life and I attempt to make a difference every day. My daily goal is to make the world a better place one person at a time. It may be as simple as greeting everyone with a smile, “hello” and “how are you?”
Unable to drive due to my visual impairment (legally blind), I learned to access the public transportation system here in the Blue Water Area. It is a great system and gives me independence and freedom. I ride the wave six (6) days a week; I rely on family for my rare out of town appointments. I have met so many great people on the buses. We are like family. If I miss a day and I forget to tell the driver or passengers ahead of time, they worry; they know I’ve had health issues. I have people approach me and claim “I look forward to seeing you on the bus! You always have a smile, you’re always happy, very curious and you talk to anyone and everyone. I think it is so great!”
With a suggestion from my speech pathologist I began volunteering at Lake Huron Medical Center working primarily with stroke survivors. I attempt to offer hope and encouragement. If anyone knows how scary and lonely it is to wake up in that hospital bed and not have a clue what the future might bring it’s me.
Now, I volunteer at Lake Huron Medical Center. I work primarily with stroke survivors. My goal is to give hope and encouragement survivors and their families. It is so rewarding when a stroke survivor or family tells me ‘you give me so much hope for my future” or “you give me so much hope for my dad’s future.” There are times I need to fight back the tears. I am so humbled when I get that feedback.
With another suggestion from my Speech Therapist, I discovered the “Stroke Network”: an on-line stroke support group. I joined The Stroke Network on January 2015. In early 2016 I submitted a few poems that were published in the online newsletter Stroke net In June 2016 I was asked to consider becoming a volunteer contributing writer for the Newsletter, I agreed. My column is “Healing with poetry.” I also participate in two local support groups; McLaren Port Huron group meets the first and third Wednesday of the month from 10-11 am. The support group at Lake Huron Medical Center (formerly Mercy) meets the second Tuesday of the month from 2-3 pm. All three Support groups have been beneficial to my recovery. Simply to be able to discuss issues with people who truly understand the challenges that we face is so helpful.
I have been blessed with the gift of writing I have written poetry for more than 40 years. Over the last three years it has proven very therapeutic, and it has aided me in sorting out the new me and my new normal.
I am humbled, honored and blessed to have the opportunity to share some of my writings with people; it provides some insight into “one Man’s Journey”. I hope some of my words offer some comfort to others along their journey, whatever that journey may be. After all, we are all in this together. We must look out for each other.
I have met so many great people on the buses. We are like family. If I miss a day and I forget to tell the driver or passengers ahead of time, they worry; they know I’ve had health issues. I have people approach me and claim “I look forward to seeing you on the bus! You always have a smile, you’re always happy, very curious and you talk to anyone and everyone. I think it is so great!”
Recently, John stopped by BWHL to tell us about the new book he’s writing. Happily, I report that John continues to be a light in this world; his gumption is remarkable! Through all he’s been through it’s astonishing to see the eloquent writing continue to poor out of him. Re-reading the story above makes me stop and say, if he can do it, so can I! Shine on, John Yurgens!
If you’d like to help in the efforts towards supporting John’s book, email me at: email@example.com