Denae DuCharme

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Denae DuCharme has a tattoo. It is a simple one. No skulls or fire or animal totems. In the center there is a red ribbon with a loop. Above the ribbon it says Stroke and below the ribbon, Survivor.  Across the middle of the tattoo is a date, 4-2-2013, and written on the ribbon is Warrior, which is a fair assessment of anyone who is engaged in the battle to reclaim their life from the physical, emotional and psychological ravages of a stroke.

 

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In his 35 years prior to April 2, 2013 Denae had enjoyed a reasonably normal life. He had a fulfilling career in retail grocery management, a compelling personal life and a passion for bowling. And while it could be said that Denae was successful in all aspects of life he achieved significant recognition for his bowling skills. Denae’s average score was 220.  The highest score attainable in a single game of bowling is 300. That’s known as a perfect game.  Before the stroke Denae had bowled a 297, a 298, three 299’s and eight 300’s.

Strokes are not gentlemanly. They don’t confront you face to face and say “Put up your dukes”. They sneak up behind you and bash you in the head with a crowbar. That’s what happened to Denae. The results of this attack left him in a medically induced coma for 3 days, after which he was shuttled between Wisconsin hospitals for another 2 ½ months. The first week following the stroke he was unable to talk. Since he couldn’t swallow he had a breathing tube through his nose. And while he benefited from over a year of speech, occupational and physical therapy, the effects of the stroke have left him with only 50% of his feeling on the entire right side of his body. Although he can walk he can’t grab or grip anything with his right hand. His arm will move up and down but won’t straighten. Additionally he suffers from moderate to mild aphasia as well as diminished sight in his left eye.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary broadly defines Warrior as: “a person engaged in some struggle or conflict”. During the first few weeks after the stroke Denae was in disbelief. As reality crept in his warrior attitude enabled him to quickly process through the grief stages associated with his loss and fully accept the new paradigm of life as a stroke survivor.  Denae had 2 great reasons to push forward. “When I had my stroke I had 2 young children. Aiden was 5 and Addison was 2. I wanted to push myself to get better for them. I went for it and gave it my all.”

IMG_6968Not only was he able to look to his children for motivation but Denae is quick to point out  that he got support from a broad community of caring people. “I had support from my family, my work family, and the community. A Caringbridge site was set up. A benefit was held to help my family and it raised $35,000.” When asked if there was anything extraordinary about him that enables him to cope with the circumstances of surviving a stroke, he replied: “Just the strength that I get from the people who have my back.”  In terms of support there seems to have been a spiritual component for Denae as well. “I watched as others around me got mad at God. I never did. Eventually, it drew me closer to Him.” Denae also recognizes exercise as an important component to his recovery. During the first year after the stroke he exercised at his physical therapy sessions and walked. Now he is lifting weights, doing yoga, walking and he bowls twice a week.

The same winning attitude that brought Denae success in the sport of bowling has served him well in his battle to rebuild his life from the bombed out wreckage left by the stroke.  Since the stroke he has gotten his driver’s license back, participated in online dating, re-married, gone sailing, taken a ride in a helicopter, gotten his only tattoo, ridden an escalator, jumped in a jump park and moved 1,600 miles from his hometown of LaCrosse WI.

And, about that bowling; Denae remains as passionate as ever. The stroke forced him to switch to his left hand. After a rocky start (bowling a score of 2 for his first game) Denae currently carries an average of 116 and has bowled a high game of 165.

Clearly, you don’t have to be a stroke survivor to gain inspiration from this warrior. Never the less, for those who are struggling through the battles of life after stroke Denae’s story is not only an inspiration but offers unique insight into the process that has made him a winner in his battle.

Stroke Survivors Can!
Denae also is our first sponsored athlete, as well!!

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Steve August Fall Sprint Triathlon

The IMG_20180914_120528509_HDRSteve August Fall Sprint Triathlon was held over two days, a first for me.  No pressure, woke at a reasonable time, and I could go all out!  In short, I was going to have fun while challenging my limits.

Before I go on, this needs to be said.  I do the “races” for several reasons, all holding importance to me.  I do it the give inspiration for stroke survivors.  I do it the give empowerment to stroke survivors.  (Thank you for the kind and supporting feedback you have given to me!)  And, I do it because I like participating in triathlon and running events.  Stroke Survivors CAN!

Thanks, as well, to the Treasure Valley Family YMCA for putting this on and for offering me a discount helping make my participating possible!  Thanks, too, for all the volunteers who make events like this possible!  Thanks for my sponsors TurboMed Orthodics with makes my foot brace, and Rudy Project which supplies my helmets and sunglasses!

Friday, I participated in a swim, a 750 yard affair held at the YMCA’s pool.  I biked 4 miles to the West Boise YMCA where I did some light abs workout and swam 500 yards to warm up.  Because I didn’t have to “save” myself for the bike or the run, I could go all out.  Remembering with my friend/coach, Karlyn Pipes said to me about arm spacing and shallow strokes, after a ten minutes rest, I found my lane, introduced myself the lane counter, and off I went at 12:30 in the afternoon.  I was hoping for 15 minutes.  I was surprised at the end of my swim to hear 12:30!  Good for me.

Saturday, I woke up at 5:30 AM, had coffee, and ran one mile to get my body up.  Then, I had an English muffin, peanut butter, and liquid nutrition.  Packing my stuff into the car, along with my bike, an S-Works Shiv, given by one of my old sponsors, Bike Works of Kona, Hawaii, I headed off the venue, a twenty minute drive.  Nice!!

After arrival, one of the first things I did was go on a short bike ride to make sure everything was in working order, and it was.  After unpacking my stuff in the transition area, I waited, spending time with another past Kona resident and himself an excellent triathlon, Jim Moore.

Because of the novelty of being two days, I figured I would go out hard on the bike and hope for best on the run.  I had been struggling with getting out of the 16 mph range, and I was later surprised that my average pace was just under 20 mph for all 20 kilometers!  38.16 time on the bike.

Next up was the run.  After spending 2+ minutes in the transition area, spending a considerable time with the orthodic devise needed to help with my right foot drop, I was ready.  Breathing was labored during this first part of the run, mostly because I had just gotten off the my bike, I had assumed. I was wrong, but I continued on to do 25:13 for 5 kilometers.  I pleasantly was surprised!

I had completed a half Olympic sized triathlon in 1:18:56.  I was stoked by my improvement on the three disciplines!  I challenged my limits, and I learned something.  I might be tired on the bike, and my breathing might be labored on the run, but go “fast” anyway!  Previously, when I would get tired biking or I felt I was out of breath, I would slow down.  That was my mind playing tricks on me.  I’ve got to be brave to challenge my limits!

Stroke Survivors CAN (inspire, empower, and be brave)!

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Ironman 70.3 Boulder

Thanks for making this possible!

Boston Marathon!

Well, I did it with help with tons of help. My wife, Laurie, came out to Boston in order to be with me. All my family and kids were super supportive. My older sister and husband came of from Virginia to cheer me on. Flip Herndon, my nephew, was my guide. Flip set a good pace and he was instrumental in digging deep on a challenging weather day. Social media friends came out, too. I was surprised to hear them yelling my name out on the course. That was a welcome source of encouragement. All the positive feedback was useful, too. Thank you to all my supporters. I want to express my appreciation to my sponsors as well. I say thank you: TurboMed Orthodics, Rudy Project, and XX2i. And, of course, I did it for stroke survivors to help them gain a sense of hope!

Walter, my wife and mine friend, gave us ride from Attleboro to Hopkington, where buses responsible to get us to the start line were. It was 38°, light rain, and light wind. There was a light coating of snow in areas. We had plenty of time. Unfortunately, the bus driver got lost. The driver that the Boston Marathon organizer arranged! What was supposed to take 10 minutes turned into 40+ minutes, plus he let us off 1 mile from the start line. I was so glad Walter gave me a poncho, hat, and gloves. Originally, I opted against them but I decided to put them on.

Flip and I started jogging towards a start line where I disposed of the poncho. Heading in the opposite direction were the mobility impaired runners, already out the the course. We missed the start! The “warm up” was welcomed, although the circumstances were not. I was really looking forward to starting with the other mobility impaired runner’s.

We got to a starting line and gratefully the starting official decided to let us start late, about 10-15 minutes after our group had left. For a while, the crowds were cheering for us alone. There was no one around!

Soon, the light rain turned into downpour and 25 mph headwind started in earnest. By the time I was a quarter way done, I was thoroughly soaked and shivering despite wearing the hat and gloves. My hands and feet were numb. By the time I was half way my pace had fallen drastically and my right calf and groin muscle were cramping. Flip was a voice of reason, keeping me encouraged and keeping me away from barriers which would have tripped me.

The last half was a blur. I don’t remember much of the course. I checked out mentally for the most part. My right calf and groin muscle, and the shivering were begging, “no!”, screaming for to me to stop. But Flip kept me running. And stroke survivors kept me focused. Over and over the saying “Stroke Survivors CAN” kept going through my mind. I was running the race for stroke survivors first and foremost.

Crossing the finish line, I was toast. No celebratory gestures, nothing. I gave it my all. I was spent. I scored a personal best time in adverse weather conditions. Now I wanted to get the the medical tent for symptoms consistent with hypothermia and cramps. But on my way I did want to make sure I was going get to a medal. Stroke Survivors CAN, but I wanted the medal to commemorate me having done the Boston Marathon in such brutal weather conditions. The volunteer taking care of me quickly returned with my medal.

What I learned from this:

I couldn’t do it alone. Having survived a stroke, you would think that was a given. Apparently, I needed a reminder. I couldn’t do this race without lots of help. From Flip, my guide, family and friends, all the encouraging words on social media, and stroke survivors…I am grateful and salute you!!

I can keep on running even when my body yells “stop”. Through Flip, I learned a new level of perservance and mind over matter. I can keep on running with cramps and cold.

Human spirit is strong. There were other mobility challenged runners out there who were told to give up running years ago. But they were out the under the same miserable conditions. Amputees, blind, height challenged, all sorts of medical conditions… my respect to them all and the guides that supported them!

Do not let a diagnosis put you into a box. Challenge it, stretch it. You never know how far you’re going to go. This goes for athletics, and also daily rehabilitation. We stroke survivors are resilient and we have a lot to offer!

Stroke Survivors CAN!

Kevin Rhinehart

My story this year (so far)

 

Emotional Support

I could not do what I do without all the emotional support. I owe a lot of thanks and acknowledgement for that support. First, there is a God who loves me and desires the best for where I’m at. I am thankful to God for the many miracles he has done in my life, and to my supportive and hardworking wife, and my kids and family. Thank you!
Secondly, my thanks go out to all my friends in real and virtual life who continue build me up in a variety of ways. (To all my virtual friends on social media, I wish I could meet you all in real life!). I would be honored if you’re on Facebook to “friend” me!
Finally, I am thankful for a Board of Directors who believes that I have a story to be told. With them, Stroke Survivors CAN! can bring hope to a far greater population than I could by myself.

Foundation

Stroke Survivors CAN, a nonprofit organization, is about giving stroke survivors hope. It is about my experience with a stroke, and finding purpose through athletic events to bring hope to stroke survivors where they are at, whether or not they pursue athletics.
Stroke Survivors CAN continues to make good progress. We are waiting for the IRS to issue the 501(c)(3) as a nonprofit entity. In the meantime, the legal stuff (By Laws are Articles) are done, donated by an attorney. We have a mailing address, office space, and accounting services, donated by a generous business; and a board committed to make Stroke Survivors CAN successful.
High on the “to do” list is the creation of a web page. I have strokesurvivorscan.org already reserved. I’m also thinking about a logo.
Stroke Survivors CAN, a nonprofit organization, is about giving stroke survivors hope. It is about my experience with a serious stroke, and finding purpose through athletic events to bring hope to stroke survivors where they are at, whether or not they pursue athletics.
Stroke Survivors CAN! continues to make good progress. We are waiting for the IRS to issue the 501(c)(3) as a nonprofit entity. In the meantime, the legal stuff (By Laws are Articles) are done, donated by an attorney. We have a mailing address, office space, and accounting services, donated by a generous business; and a board committed to make Stroke Survivors CAN successful.
High on the “to do” list is the creation of a web page. I have strokesurvivorscan.org already reserved. I’m also thinking about a logo.

Training

Training goes on uninterrupted, except when I’m traveling. My typical week contains light weight lifting, stretching, core work, swimming, cycling, and running. The amount I swim, cycle, or run varies, depending on what I have coming up. A typical week has me swimming three days a week, cycling (and spin classes) four day a week, and running three days a week, with Sundays as my off day.
Running both short and long distances wouldn’t be possible with TurboMed Orthodics. It helps immensely with foot drop resulting from my stroke. Thank you, TurboMed. You are a huge part of my story!
After the Boston Marathon April 16, 2018, I’ll train for a half Ironman, and perhaps, a full Ironman, as well as participate in some local races.

Interviews

As a part of giving stroke survivors hope, I was privileged to do a number of interviews with newspapers and TV news stations. Talk about intimidating (especially the TV spots). I’m thankful for editing!
I’m also learning to speak to groups. When you have aphasia and are self-conscious about having aphasia, this is NOT easy! A work in progress I am. I recently spoke at a stroke survivors support group at Milford Regional Medical Center, outside of Boston. If you would like to see some of my interviews go to my website http://www.kevinrhinehart.com  .
Competitions
Let me be clear on this. I participate in athletic events as a way to give stroke survivors hope. Sure, I enjoy the events, and, quite frankly, I am still blown away by my “successes.” I’m writing this, for example, on my way to the Boston Marathon! But my goal is the same – give stroke survivorsrs hope.Stroke survivors are a determined bunch, whether it is getting up for the day, or athletic events. Stroke Survivors CAN!

Kevin Rhinehart

Stroke Survivor, Triathlete

The end of 2017 and start of 2018!

2017 saw some amazing things!  I completed seven events, with six considered by me to major events, all with improving times.  My presence on the internet rose considerably,  facilitated by my athletic achievement, making my story a source of inspiration to many more people, especially stroke survivors!

I would not have accomplished so much had it not been without so many people encouraging me.  Thank you for your kind gift of words!  It really means a lot to me!

For 2018, so far, I plan to enter the Boston Marathon (I got accepted!).  Additionally, I have put my name in for the lottery for Ironman World Championships (October, 2018).  I also have my eye in two Ironman 70.3: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (June) and Boulder, Colorado (August).  I will continue making local races, too, and long as it is affordable.

I also have been working on speaking topics.  As you can see from my interview, speaking is TOUGH!  Thank God for editing!

As always, if my story has touched your life, I would like invite to do make of donation.  All gifts are used for triathlon expenses.  You can go through GoFundMe or by sending me a check to Kevin Rhinehart, 531 Hahaione St., 12B, Honolulu, HI, 96825.  Contributions, both great and small, are greatly accepted!

Stroke Survivors CAN!
Kevin Rhinehart

If you see an error my in editing, please understand it goes along with my stroke.  Please let me know!

Humbling Experience

A little before Thanksgiving, I received word that I had been accepted to participate in the Boston Marathon, a running race covering 26.2 miles.  Wow!  The number one marathon in the world, complete with strict time standards, with top marathoners from all the world… I was (and am) humbled to be chosen!

Back up a few years ago to late January 2012.  I had just suffered the serious stroke, taking away my ability to communicate and walk, a career which I loved, and hobbies.  I was just existing.  For a more detailed account, click here.

Then came Ironman.  I was thinking sprint or Olympic sized triathlon, maybe someday in the far off future a Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run, a half marathon, 70.3 miles to complete it) by the time I started training in October 2015.  (For a full detail of events I’ve participated in, go here.)  I never would have dreamed I would go from being new to running to a Half Ironman under a year!

  • Sprint triathlon… ((Tri)ptophan Turkey Day Triathlon, Nov. 26, 2015).
  • Olympic triathlon… (Lavaman Triathlon, Apr. 10, 2016).
  • Half Ironman… (Hawaii 70.3 Ironman, Jun. 4, 2016).

On a whim, I decided to entered my name into the lottery for Hawaii residents for the World Championship Ironman, held in Kona, Hawaii.  Much to my surprise, I was one of the several people picked.  I never ridden that far on a bike and a marathon, oh, my.  Back in October 2015, I could not run continuously for one mile!  Maybe I bit off more than I could chew, so to speak.  Well, I was not fast, but I did it, humbled by it all, beating the 17 hour cut off time, barely!

  • World Championship Ironman… (Oct. 8, 2016)

Through Ironman, I had finished the marathon in sufficient amount of time to be eligible for the Boston Marathon in the Physically Challenged division.  I have never considered myself to be an athlete, and certainly not with the world’s top triathletes and marathoners!   And I still do not consider myself to a runner.  Fast I am not, but persistent and determined I am!

Why, you may ask?  I do it for stroke survivors.  There is stuff several times a day that reminds me I am not was I used be as far as stroke is concerned.  It is a hassle!  But for someone who thought my life was over, I have found a new life, one that is involved with helping stroke survivors rediscover life!  I found with my new life lots of support, too, from encouraging words to volunteers to gifts financially to sponsors, and more.  Again, I am humbled.

I never would have even considered a marathon if it were not without James “Kimo” Cuizon and TurboMed Orthotics.  Kimo introduced me to TurboMed for foot drop, a result of the stroke.  TurboMed was life changing.  I hope to participate with Kimo in the Boston Marathon, also a wearer of TurboMed (for a different reason other than stroke).

One more thing before I sign off.  Participating in the Boston Marathon and Ironman takes a considerate amount of money.  Registration fees, travel and lodging, training equipment, and so forth quickly adds up.  I invite you to join with me in making this all possible by giving through GoFundMe.  All gifts are appreciated, whether large or small!

So, Boston Marathon, here I come, humbled and grateful!

Stroke Survivors CAN!

KR