Two weeks ago, I arranged to meet Mike Yuhasz Jr. at his dad’s (you will remember him as “the Legend” from an earlier blog post) place of residence. If you recall, Mike has suffered TWO strokes and survived to, most likely, see birthday #91 on December23/17! The goal was for Mike Jr. to record on video me engaging Mike Sr. (or Dr. Mike) in a variety of activities…showing that he is STILL mentally zoned in, STILL ultra-competitive, STILL as strong as an ox (on one side at least!) AND knows exactly what people are saying to him even if he cannot speak.
The big challenge when people like Mike Sr. are in nursing homes, long term care residences and the like is to provide on-going, progressively more difficult physical activities. The staff simply do not have the time and, many times, family members do not have the knowledge around the process of effective activity and how to implement it. In Mike Sr.’s case, he is surrounded by family and friends’ love, support and kindness. Beyond that, it is difficult to see their hero struggle with limitations. This is where I come in – yes, I consider Mike one of my heroes, yes, I do have the time to visit him but, more importantly, the focus within my company (Team Over The Top) has been creative activity for unique individuals. Thus, it came naturally for me to physically stimulate Mike Sr. as you will see in the following video clips.
Mike Jr. wanted to record some of the more unique drills I had been doing with his dad for about 4 weeks and use this as a base to monitor his progress over the next several weeks. It is my surmise that Mike Sr. has much more to give in the form of intense physical activity that translates into a deeper, more passionate love of family as he nears the end of life.
I have observed first hand his deepening, passionate love for his wife of almost 66 years, Nancy. He simply adores her and perks up at the mere mention of her name. It is truly magical to witness this! Yesterday, he seemed particularly passionate – I like to think the increased physical stimulation has increased ALL components of his being. I told Nancy his wedding anniversary gift is to take her to the island of Majorca – another ‘honeymoon’!!!
I proceeded to challenge Dr. Mike to chase me around the hallways (which he did by pushing off with his left leg whilst using it to also hold up his right leg!). You have to see this to believe it. I then asked Mike if he wants to go for a ‘run’, to which he lets me know “yes” with an intense yelp!! The faster I push him (as he holds both legs off the floor), the better he likes it. There is NO fear – only sheer exhilaration.
In the video clip below, you will see us playing catch with one of Mike’s soft balls. This was not a standard toss & catch. Mike actually threw the ball to me overhand – not underhand as per usual. I also tossed the ball to different areas of his body. After missing one or two, he locked on and never missed again – as if saying to me “make this more difficult!”
Next, it was back to the good doctor ‘running’ along the hallway but, this time, using the railing to pull himself along. You will notice in the video clip below that he actually FLINGS himself past breaks in the railing to the next section so that he does not need to put his foot down. This takes strength, power and perseverance. Sit in a wheelchair and try this – degree of difficulty = 8 out of 10!
After this, we went back to the ball toss – only this time, I bounced the ball to Dr. Mike. We had only done this once before. Again, after 1 or 2 misses, he locked on as if back in his days as a competitive athlete – and never missed again! I angled the toss, I varied the body part for the catch and I faked a few times before throwing the ball. With each drill, Dr. Mike got more focused and animated. I asked him “one more, Mike?” and he’d bellow out and nod his head”yes”.
We finished with a drill that initially I thought “no way Dr. Mike will be able to do THIS! Hell, I’m not sure even I can do this!”. It involved me tossing the ball off a wall beside Mike. He was supposed to catch it as it flew across his body. As you can see in the video clip below, after a miss or two, his laser focus kicked in yet again and he never missed. I increased the speed of the throw and even varied the angle (from either side, from the front AND even from the back with the ball coming over his head) of the toss. In every case, it was the same pattern – a few misses and then NO misses.
I will finish with a story about me taking Mike down to the physical therapy room to ‘check things out’. I found out that Mike USED to go there regularly to train on the hand and leg exercise ergometer. Suddenly, a number of months ago, he stopped the process. I had taken him there purely out of curiosity about 4 weeks ago. Yesterday, as part of our ‘running’ session, I took Mike back to the therapy room. The team were just closing up for the day and told me that ever since I brought Mike back there, he was coming in ON HIS OWN to use the hand ergometer – for up to 30 minutes at a time! Even Nancy had no idea he was doing this!
It proved to me categorically that, even after suffering 2 strokes and being rendered significantly limited physically, Dr. Mike CAN come back to a certain degree. His muscular strength and power along with cardiovascular fitness is improving weekly. Dr. Mike is possibly the exception but I like to think of him as a trail-blazer for others in like situations. Due to our weekly sessions and his ergometer training, Mike is getting stronger, faster and more animated – quite simply, there’s more oxygen coursing through his body and bringing him back to the ‘glory days’!!