Valley man who survived stroke shifts career to help those fighting same battle

One local man is taking action to help patients after finding himself in the same situation.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke, and how one reacts to it can make all the difference for recovery.

One local man is taking action to help patients after finding himself in the same situation.

"What I've been through this past year, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," said Patrick Thomas.

On June 30, 2020, 49-year-old Patrick Thomas had the biggest scare of his life, waking up in the middle of the night with symptoms of a stroke.

"Within 10 minutes, I was totally paralyzed in my right side."

He woke up his wife to call 911 and, thanks to his Certified Nursing Assistant background, stayed calm while paramedics arrived.

He was at Kaiser Hospital for about three days. He later transferred to the San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital, where he spent one month with a strong mindset and willpower to recover.

"The staff here made me feel right at home. I never felt like a patient here. I felt like one of them, and that is the way they treated me. It's unbelievable how the mind can adjust with that kind of pleasant atmosphere." Thomas said.

His physical therapist, Jennifer Hata, said from day one, he was a fighter.

"We are half of the story as far as a therapist. The patients have to put in the other half. I tell them that all the time, their recovery is their journey, and so they have to put in the effort, and that is just what he did," said Hata.

Thomas met his goal of walking out of rehab and even shifted his career path to return and join the team.

His first day was Monday, and he said he feels excited to use his experience to motivate others going through the same battle.

"Being here in a different capacity, it's amazing because I get to see some of those patients, and they see me," he said.

Thomas' biggest piece of advice for everyone is to know your family history, learn the symptoms of a stroke, stay calm and never give up.

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