Like many people who’ve suffered a stroke, Green Bay’s Joe Holl didn’t realize that’s what was happening at the time. By the time he finally agreed to go to the hospital, it was too late.  The damage had been done, but he did survive.  Now, fighting every day for nearly half a year to regain some of what he lost, he says he doesn’t want others to make the same mistake he did.

“First of all, don’t be stubborn like me,” Green Bay’s Joe Holl is not afraid to admit his own personality quirks.

“I’m a stubborn type of person,” Holl acknowledged.

He’s also smart enough to know that particular trait did not serve him well when he woke up one morning last March not feeling quite right.

“I noticed I was having a harder time walking and moving my right hand,” Holl recalled. “I just figure it’d go away.”

A self-employed handy man with a family at home, Holl had work to do.  So, even when others noticed he wasn’t himself…

“The pastor asked me if I was ok because he said I was slurring my speech,” Holl explained. “I said ‘Yeah, everything’s fine. I’m just tired.”

…but there was one person he couldn’t fool: Mrs. Holl.

“She said, ‘Alright, enough is enough. If I’ve gotta get people over here to hog tie you I’m taking you to the hospital!”

Doctors confirmed Holl had suffered a right-side stroke, but by that time there was little more they could do for him.

“If it’s within a certain time frame medication can stop it,” Hall explained, “but because I was already feeling bad when I work up that morning, then went the whole day, they couldn’t determine exactly when it had started. I was outside the time parameter. So, the stroke, for me, did the full amount of damage.”

Holl’s story is a good example of why the acronym BE FAST is so important in recognizing the symptoms of a stroke.

B – balance

E – eyes, vision issues

F – facial weakness, uneven smile

A – arm (or leg) weakness, unable to raise limbs evenly

S – speech

T – time, to call 911

“He came to us using a wheelchair. I don’t even think he was walking yet,” said Christina Skalecki, Aurora BayCare Medical Center occupational therapitst.

Skalecki is one of several therapists who worked with Holl on his long road to recovery.

“Function is the gold star of recovery,” Skalecki said.

Helping Holl get back to doing the most basic tasks many of us take for granted.

“Occupational therapy refers to everything we do on a day-to-day basis,” Skalecki explained. “Whether it’s bathing, dressing, cooking, running down the street, playing with your kids or going back to work.  That story looks different for every single patient we see.”

If you think those things sound easy, Holl would be the first to correct you.

“It’s hard work. You’re gonna have to put effort in and work every day to get better,” he said.  “You’ve got to fight and you’ve got to fight hard.”

But he would also be first in line to tell you the fight pays off.

“It’s worth it because your family needs you,” Holl said. “Your family wants to spend time with you.  Your grandchildren want to spend time with you.”

Skalecki says Holl’s motivation to fight for his own recovery is key to the remarkable progress he’s made.

“He quickly progressed because he was very motivated and very willing to work as hard as he possibly can and he’ll give it all he’s got every single time,” she said.

Even Holl, who still prefers doing things his own way, has come to realize that sometimes, it’s okay to be pushed.

“They’re doing their job,” Holl said. “They’re pushing you so that you get better, They really truly care about their people over there.”

That’s not the only thing Holl has learned.

“I made the mistake,” he admitted. “If I can get somebody to listen and learn from my mistakes, it’s worth it.”

If you or someone you know has suffered a stroke Aurora BayCare is sponsoring an upcoming event that helps connect survivors and caregivers with others going through the same thing.

The Community Stroke Day is September 17th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton. If you’d like to go, please call Karen Floriano-Heimerl at (920) 288-5541 to RSVP by Friday, August 19th.

If you’d like to do a quick check up on your own risk for stroke or a variety of other health issues, Aurora BayCare offers 4-minute health quizzes online at: aurorabaycare.com/assessments