Fred Jalass is a glass-half-full kind of guy. You know the type – someone who finds the good in everything that comes his way. But there wasn't a whole lot of good that came out of April 9, 2011 – the day he suffered a stroke.
"I just went over like I fell asleep," Fred recalls. "I couldn't move the right side of my body. I couldn't talk, I couldn't make any sounds."
But, as is typical for Fred, he didn't dwell on all that he couldn't do. Instead, he looked at the new challenges ahead of him.
"My motto was, 'Forget yesterday, think about today and don't worry about tomorrow'," he says.
"She's a slave driver," Fred says about his occupational therapist, Lauren Sheehan, OTD, OTR/L.
"That's the name of the game when it comes to stroke rehab," Sheehan explains. "The muscles and brain sort of lost their connection with each other so we're remapping the brain, taking on different parts of the brain that did not control that arm to begin with. We need to try to step in and remap that process of movement because the area that previous controlled it has been damaged by the stroke."
For Fred, remapping the brain can look an awful lot like an athlete in training.
"It's not that hard," he explains. "It's just coordination."
He's working on getting stronger, getting back a range of motion on his right side, and getting back to the things he loves about life.
"The first time he was able to hold the newspaper open on his own and read it, those are the things occupational therapists focus on getting people back to – those valuable daily things that bring them some amount of joy," Sheehan says.
Other than his family, what brings Fred a lot of joy is his bike. He plays a big role in the annual Bike Ride Across Nebraska (also known as BRAN). Before the stroke, he could pedal 100 miles a day. Now he can get on, but can't keep his right leg on in order to stay on.
But he's determined to change that. Fred's come a long way since April – he's back to work, back to driving and he believes he'll be back on his bike in no time. So does his team of therapists, who knew exactly what he needed, when he needed it.
"I haven't felt sorry about anything in my life," Fred says. "It happens for a reason and it always turns out well so I expect this to turn out well."