Behind heart disease and cancer, stroke is third leading cause of death in the United States. For those that survive their world is never the same, but even after tragedy life can still be beautiful.
For Dave Johnson there's nothing better than sitting in his studio with a brush in his hand and paint on the canvas.
"It's just fun to be creative in so many ways." Said Johnson.
Dave's artistic hideaway very possibly could have become just another attic collecting dust after his world was changed forever.
"I had my stroke December 1 in 2010." Said Johnson.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked, causing that part of the brain to shut down and die. In Dave's case, it was the entire right side of his brain. Meaning his arms and legs on his left side no longer function like they used to. This damage threatened to take away a critical piece of Dave's soul.
"The right side of your brain is the part that we rely on for artistic ability for visual perceptual things, putting things into context and being able to draw pictures and that, so that was probably a big blow to him." Said Dr. Jonathan Stone with Avera Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Being left handed, Dave very easily could have called it quits. Instead he used his passion for art as motivation to once again pick up the brush.
"I gave them this (a picture of his paintings) and said this is my goal. I would've probably given them a picture of my family or something but then everyone would just said oh that's cute and set it down but this was something that they could relate to this as something that I really wanted to do." Said Johnson.
No two strokes are the same and the impact can effect each person differently. The sooner you can recognize your symptoms and get to the hospital the better, however most of the damage is irreversible. The best way to limit your chance of having a stroke is to stay away from smoking and make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What once was second nature Dave has had to relearn. Even things as simple as holding a paint brush.
"He was fortunate in that he's had fairly good return but he will be the first tell you that it's not normal." Said Dr. Stone.
"There's a lot of other things that I can't do, I just really focus on the things that I can do and try to enhance them and make them better." Said Johnson.
Every action of every day is therapy for Dave. Whether it's the walk up the stairs to his workshop or just free hand sketching, he's working to reclaim what was lost.
"Right now this one I'm working on is post stroke and that's actually blade grass." Said Johnson.
Even with his devastating injury Dave still has a gift for finding and creating beauty.
"I'll probably create more of a depth on the side before I varnish the whole thing." Said Johnson.
Dave says his recovery has been a journey, one full of ups and downs, but says there's no way he'd be doing what he loves without the hard work of his doctors and therapists at Avera.
"You guys saved my life and not just my physical life but so much emotional life and creative life." Said Johnson.
The proof is in the paint. For Dave, the only strokes that matter now, are the ones that bring his artwork to life.
For more information about strokes just call 877-AT AVERA.