Hope, Determination and Hard Work

Photo of Rob Plaskas

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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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!