Hope, Determination and Hard Work
My name is Jonathan Robert Plaskas. I’ve lived in Springfield, Illinois, since 2004. I am 41 years old and work for the Illinois House of Representatives. I love socializing, recreational sports, traveling, wine tasting, exploring and flirting.
When I was 17 years old, I had brain surgery at a renowned medical center in Chicago. They removed a benign tumor and an abnormal mass in my left temporal lobe.
Before the surgery, I never imagined I would have huge complications — after all, I had one of the best neurosurgery teams in the country. Then quite unexpectedly, the unimaginable happened.
During my brain surgery, I had a massive hemorrhagic stroke caused by a rupture of my mid-cerebral artery in the hippocampus region, deep in my brain. My neurosurgery team used extraordinary measures to keep me breathing by getting blood reserves back into my body. I was wide awake and in normal condition while all this was happening. My neurosurgeon got the clamps on the injured vessel, and in the right position, to save my life.
I was put into an induced coma and remained in intensive care for a week. When I came out of the coma, I discovered I had total right-sided paralysis and global aphasia.
I needed a lot of therapy, so I was transported to an excellent rehabilitation hospital in Wheaton, Illinois, to re-learn how to speak, move my right leg and arm, access my short-term memory and adjust emotionally. I worked hard and was able to walk with a limp when I was released after a four-month stay.
Before my stroke, I was a popular student at Oswego High School. I was respectful, polite, funny, romantic, responsible and very flirty. I never got into fights or was jealous with any of my girlfriends. I was a good student academically and participated in sports.
With my willpower and my family’s support and encouragement, I returned to school the next fall. Many of my friends stood by me that year. Because of the cognitive damage from my stroke, high school was very hard, but I graduated and enrolled in community college to keep learning and help my recovery.
I began exercising every day by myself at the campus fitness center. After a few years, I did not limp and my right hand opened outward because of my determination, willpower and hard work. My right fingers were still paralyzed, so that became my next recovery goal.
At that time in my life, I rarely communicated with my friends from high school and made no new friends because I believed people would judge me as someone who was not talkative enough and no fun. I did not try to get a girlfriend. I was lonely. My GPA was low, but I managed to get my associate degree in education and transfer to Illinois State University.
At ISU, my life changed for the better in every possible way. I was exercising and studying more and making friends. I was determined not to be shy towards women, so I had a student speech therapist help me with my language. It worked! I made myself go up to women I did not know and begin a conversation. They could understand me, which increased my confidence and self-esteem. In three years, I got my bachelor’s degree in communication studies.
In 2004, I got an internship at the Illinois state capitol. There, I made more friends from our class of interns. After my internship was over, I was hired full time and currently work as a communications analyst for the Illinois House of Representatives.
In 2014, I completed my master’s degree in human services at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Because of my short-term memory damage, I could only take one course a semester. Had I taken more than one class, I feared I would get behind in my assignments. I maintained an A- average in my studies. I was able to graduate because I had great tutors and support and encouragement from my family as well as great friends off and on campus.
I have an optimistic attitude in my new life.
Nowadays, I have more confidence in my relationships with my family, new friends, girlfriends and workplace associates. I have an enormous number of friends in the Springfield area.
I work out five to six times a week. As a result, my partial paralysis has almost healed because of my determination and hard work. I can jog, give good handshakes, hold a pen and write sentences with my right fingers, and talk and comprehend without difficulty.
The people who gave me support and encouragement to deal with my stroke and to keep developing recovery goals inspired me by believing in e. I continue to strengthen my body, mind and spirit.
I want to inspire hope in others with severe injuries and their families. I am writing a book about my recovery. It’s titled Recovery; A Story of Hope, Determination and Hard Work and it will be available sometime in 2019.
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