It was the first day of September and Jim Cogdill was on his way to work at the car dealership that he has operated on Kingston Pike for 41 years. He had decided to stop for breakfast on the way when suddenly, double vision hit. Then his arm and leg went numb. Cogdill picked up his phone and dialed his soulmate Lori Boudreaux.
“I think there’s something wrong with me,” he told her.
“Are you just now figuring that out?” she teased.
In truth, Jim Cogdill isn’t the typical 71-year-old man. He is especially driven, exceptionally energetic, and unapologetically speaks his mind. But on that September morning when he explained his symptoms, Bourdreaux knew this was no laughing matter.
She met him at his doctor’s office a short time later, where Cogdill’s physician instructed Boudreaux to take him directly to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. Cogdill didn’t need any persuasion because in that short period of time, his legs had given way. He had walked into the doctor’s office, but he left in a wheelchair.
A Surprise Journey
It was remarkable for Cogdill to consider, the thought of having a stroke. A recent physical had resulted in a clean bill of health, and he was physically active.
He had experienced some dizziness on the tennis courts, but that had been diagnosed as vertigo. Cogdill’s job was admittedly stressful, and he’d been treated for high blood pressure. But he had always been able to handle the ups and downs of business though, and thought if he could survive news of Chrysler’s bankruptcy in 2009, surely he could survive anything.
“I guess when you get a little older, you have to start slowing down some,” Cogdill says with a grin. “When I was 70, I was living like I was still 20.”
The Stroke Challenger
By the time Jim was discharged from the hospital, the effects of the stroke were devastating. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t swallow, I had a feeding tube, and my balance was off,” Cogdill recalls. He could choose to accept his condition, or he could choose to accept the challenge of recovery.
It was an easy decision – he would do whatever it took to return to his active lifestyle. Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center offers intensive therapy during one-on-one treatment sessions with extensively trained staff, state-of-the-art equipment, and peer support. There is a holistic team approach to treatment that includes the patient and family members. Boudreaux was able to sleep on a bed provided in Cogdill’s room and offer daily support in therapy sessions. Cogdill was given opportunities to work hard to get his life back.
“I tell the patients we’ll take whatever you’ve got right now and teach you how to use it,” says stroke program director and physiatrist Sharon Glass, MD. “And as you get more neurological return and get your strength back, we’ll teach you how to use that, too.”
It wasn’t easy, by any means. “I went 11 days on a feeding tube and no water but the ice cubes they let you lay on your lip,” he recalls. “I had therapy four hours in the morning, every day, the whole three weeks I was there.”
Cogdill vividly recalls his first therapy session and being completely exhausted by just a few steps on a walker. He remembers learning how to perform simple, everyday tasks like taking care of his own personal hygiene. He also remembers the exceptional staff. “They were amazing,” Cogdill says.
Boudreaux agrees, saying it wasn’t just the expertise that impressed her, but the way they cared about Jim as a person.
“The therapists who worked with Jim got to know him and got to know what his interests and hobbies were,” she says, “and then they would incorporate that into therapy, which made it more interesting and more fun for him.”
Ping pong and tennis on a Wii game system were part of the rehabilitation process. Of course, there was also very serious and often grueling work with the therapy team.
Cogdill recalls a plunge in his blood pressure that caused him to pass out during therapy. One member of the staff quickly fell underneath him, to make sure he didn’t hit the floor. “That really impressed me,” he says.
An Unwavering Charger
After three weeks of physical, occupational, recreation, and speech therapies, Cogdill was ready to take his next step. He charged forward with outpatient therapy at Parkwest Therapy Center.
While his therapy continues and there is still a long road of recovery ahead, Cogdill only has to think about how far he’s come to feel positive about the future. There was a time when the stroke affected his ability to walk, talk, and swallow. Today, Cogdill only needs minimal help from a cane to walk independently into a room, sit down to drink a cup of coffee, and easily swap jokes with Boudreaux.
“I don’t look at it as a bad dream, but I look at it as just a big physical challenge,” Cogdill says. “It gets you to where you have to realize what’s important.”
The businessman who is driven to succeed says, “Now I’m driven to keep my health.” He is more careful about what he eats, and how much sleep he gets. And Boudreaux’s son Brandon has changed his college major to physical therapy after seeing how it transformed Cogdill’s life.
“The reason why I am where I am is because of these people,” Cogdill says of his therapy team. Without them, I would be unable to walk today.”