Steve Stephens spent the evening of November 18, 2012, relaxing at the movies with his wife Patricia and some friends. It was the latest James Bond installment, “Skyfall,” and he wanted to sit down front to enjoy the full force of the visuals and volume on the IMAX screen. The group enjoyed the movie and the Stephenses went home and went to bed.
That was to be Stephens’ last “normal” night for quite a while.
As president and CEO of Stage Front Presentation Systems, Stephens is the behind-the-scenes (and behind-the-sounds) guy for much of what entertains and informs Savannah. But a stroke – something Stephens had no known risk factors for – threatened to bring the curtain down prematurely on the 59-year-old entrepreneur’s career. Stephens, however, has made a remarkable recovery, which has left him lauding The Rehabilitation Institute at Memorial University Medical Center and sounding the alarm for stroke awareness in the community.
The night of his stroke, Stephens was awakened by a migraine. Things went downhill rapidly from there, and he began having difficulty speaking. He suffered a seizure at home and again in the ambulance on the way to Memorial University Medical Center. Once at the hospital, he was diagnosed with an ischemic stroke – one caused by a blood clot or by the gradual buildup of plaque and other fatty deposits.
Three days of hospitalization followed, then a week as an inpatient at The Rehabilitation Institute. From there, it was on to outpatient rehabilitation.
Stephens’ stroke demonstrates the range of damage a stroke can do. He never experienced any problem moving – in fact, he walked from his home to the ambulance. Nor did his speech ever get slurred. His ability to play the guitar was unaffected. It was the words themselves that were gone. Over the weeks of intensive rehabilitation, Stephens had to relearn the words for even familiar objects, as well as the names of people he recognized but could not name.
Six months out from the stroke, odds are good a stranger wouldn’t be able to tell Stephens had had a brush with death or disability. But he still carries a notepad, where he writes down any word that confuses him, which has proven to be the key to understanding for him. He feels he’s regaining lost communication skills day by day. He’s back at work. Perhaps the best demonstration of his recovery, though, comes when he picks up his guitar. Once again, he has words to go with his music.