Kirk Disrude Illinois
Kirk Disrude was a healthy, 38-year-old PE teacher and coach. On September 6, 2011, he reached for a shirt, only to feel “as if a rubber band had snapped in my head. I totally lost my balance and fell,” he said. “I sat there for minute and thought, ‘This has to go away.’ Seconds passed, and then I thought, ‘This isn’t going away.” Kirk’s wife, Beth, was awakened by him calling her name. She thought he might be battling vertigo, or an extreme migraine. Then he became violently ill. With help she carried Kirk to the car and arrived at the Advocate Condell in less than 10 minutes.
The problem was traced to the hole that had been in Kirk’s heart since birth. His PFO caused a stroke. Kirk was in and out of consciousness for three days. While he lay in his bed his wife had one rule for visitors that echoed her husband’s athletic mindset: no crying allowed. “What we needed to convey to him was that he was OK and that he was going to be OK,” she said.
When he finally regained consciousness, he looked confused and asked his wife what was happening. He took a few seconds to collect himself and then muttered, “Is the baby OK?” Beth was 20 weeks pregnant. Kirk asked nurses to bring a monitor so he could hear his unborn son’s heartbeat. As the steady beat of Logan’s heart resonated in his room, Kirk and Beth fell asleep. They shared a hospital bed for the next four days.
After one week in the hospital and 11 weeks of intensive therapy at the RIC Wheeling, Kirk learned to walk, talk, write, eat and learn how to live a post-stroke life. His motivation through his therapy is credited to his wife for saving his life and their then unborn son. On 11/11/11, a date selected by the Disrude’s for luck, Kirk underwent heart surgery to correct his heart preparing him for his ultimate recovery challenge one year from his stroke: running the Chicago Marathon. They trained wearing special T-shirts; his read “Stroke Survivor” on the back, hers read “Life Saver.” The 26.2-mile run was tough. But Kirk and Beth steeled their resolve by thinking of other stroke survivors, everyone who helped with Kirk’s recovery and, of course, Logan. They finished in 5 hours, 31 minutes, 35 seconds.
Nowadays, Kirk occasionally naps, sometimes gets headaches, and the continued daily challenges in his new life. Most of all, he’s thankful to be alive, a sentiment that comes through in each email he sends. They close with, “To a healthier tomorrow.”
“It’s hard to have two boys, Logan (2) and Wyatt (6mos), sitting here and looking up at me with a lifetime ahead of them that I want to share, and know that I could have another stroke.”
Kirk has become a passionate volunteer for the American Heart Association. He’s worked at various association youth events, such as a “White Out” fundraiser at his school and a “Red Out” assembly at a nearby school. He participated two events with You’re The Cure and to meet with members of congress. Kirk has created “Project Live Long” for his high school students, requiring them to research one of the five main causes of death in the United States, then to come up with preventive lifestyle changes for themselves and their loved ones.
“We are still learning how to cope with challenges we face as a result of the stroke,” he said. “Yet we take our time and cross each hurdle carefully to make the best choice in our new life.”