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Harry Jordan was born with a time bomb in his brain.

Harry Jordan

Harry Jordan wants to change the face of stroke recovery one rep at a time. "Every time I walk into the gym is a victory for people with stroke," he says.


FACED WITH THE PROSPECT OF NEVER WALKING AGAIN HARRY HIT THE GYM. 

For some people, stroke is about endings. For me, my stroke was just the beginning. In 2008, I suffered a seizure and was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation (AVM)-an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in my brain that I was born with. Before my diagnosis, I was a healthy 33-year-old-married, three great kids, an obsession with basketball and a normal life-except for a lot of headaches, which I ignored.

After my diagnosis at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, I underwent 16 brain surgeries in the course of a year-that's more than one surgery a month! The evening after my final surgery, I woke up and found myself 90 percent paralyzed on my left side. Stroke. The prognosis was not good-doctors thought I would never walk again. Fast-forward four years. I'm in the best shape of my life. Not only can I walk, but I also work out five days a week. I can leg press over 2,000 pounds. Muscle & Fitness magazine even interviewed me for their September 2013 issue.

Before my stroke, all I thought about was myself. Now I live to help others. I started a bi-monthly support group at UI Hospital called "Life After Stroke." I'm preparing to be a personal trainer for people with and without handicaps. I'm writing a book about my experience, and I plan to become a motivational speaker. My disability gives me credibility: I can be the voice of those who have gone through stroke and overcome it.

I owe my new life to two groups of people. One is my family: my wife, Erika, and my kids Damian, 18, Jazzmin, 13, and Vanessa, 10. They have supported me every step of the way. And it was Jazzmin who, home alone with her dad that scary day in 2008, found me having my seizure and dialed 9-1-1.

The other is UI Hospital.

Without Dr. Charbel and the neurosurgery team, I might not be here today. And my rehab team, Mary and Eileen, never gave up on me, even on my down days-wallpapering my hospital room with inspirational basketball quotes to spur me on. From the medical staff to the front desk to the maintenance folks, the food guys and the transport people-everyone recognizes me and asks how I'm doing. They've made the entire journey so much easier. Each time I'm there, I'm home.