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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Man works to turn life around after stroke

Monday, June 19, 2006

(Photo)
Glen Francis, a trainer at Health Facilities Rehab, helps patient Alice Huff.
SIKESTON -- Commitment, determination, perseverance, optimism, enthusiasm, focus, discipline, challenge and faith.

As a coach and physical education teacher for over 27 years, Glen Francis encouraged his students and athletes to always remember these nine words and character traits. After suffering a stroke, he too grasped these words in working toward a recovery and is teaching his patients at Health Facilities Rehab to do the same.

"I decided if I wanted to get better, I'd do those," he said.

Seven years ago in April, Francis suffered from a stroke. "It was totally a surprise," he said. "I was always in good health -- I'd exercise and train, but something happened."

His doctors never learned what caused the stroke, which put him in a coma for two weeks and the hospital for two months, but high blood pressure was thought to be a factor.

A year later, Francis, learned from his sister that doctors said he would never be in his right mind again. Although he couldn't talk when he woke up, he could write and focused on working to gain everything he lost.

"Hard work is my middle name," Francis said. "I was told I would never walk again, but I walked out of the hospital in two months."

He went from the hospital to Health Facilities Rehab, where he works out more than four hours every day, he said.

And his efforts have paid off. He is now able to do everything he could do before his stroke, with the exception of blinking his right eye. "I was so motivated, so committed to getting better," Francis said. "And I'm still that way."

He still has some skills to master. Since he has little use of his right hand, he ties his shoes with his left -- something he taught himself.

"The doctors said if I couldn't do it after a year, I'd never do it again," Francis said. "But that's not right."

He is slowly advancing. For instance, he can't run well yet. But, he practices on a NordicTrak machine, and ran 2,432 miles last year, and has run 1,314 miles so far this year.

After four years of rehabilitation and volunteering at Health Facilities Rehab, Francis joined the staff as a part-time trainer. "This is family," he said. His patients range from 15 to 92-years-old, with most being 40 to 60, and his close relationship with them is obvious by the way he greets them with a hug.

"I really love working here ... I miss teaching," he said. "Its almost the same thing, but the students are a little bit older."

Francis walks with a slight limp and said he is hard to understand if he is hurried or too excited. But, many don't know about his health history. "Most think I broke my arm," he said.

For those who do know about his stroke and following struggle to regain skills, he hopes he serves as a motivation.

At Health Facilities Rehab, he is also someone highly respected. In 2001, fellow staff and patients nominated him to be a part of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics torch run. He ran in the Jackson, Tenn., area, and some co-

workers even drove to watch him run.

"I was so proud," Francis said. So proud, in fact, that he spent $400 to purchase a torch, and shows it to those he meets.

His motivation and determination are still strong. He said: "One day, I don't know when, but one day, I'll be completely well."