- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

BELVIDERE, Ill. (AP) - At 31 years old, Brady Johnson had everything going for him. The marathon runner was a sports agent representing NFL players and was recently engaged.

Having served in the United States Air Force and in the Illinois National Guard, Johnson was the picture of perfect health, or so he thought.

He began to suffer from a nagging headache. Johnson, who was in the midst of an out-of-state move to Illinois, was selling a house and buying a new one while planning a wedding and starting a new job, was certain those stresses were the cause.

Being new to the area, he still hadn’t found a doctor, so he continued to ignore the symptoms.

“Popping Tylenol day-after-day for three months,” he told himself, “it’s just a headache. You don’t go to the ER for a headache.”

And then the unthinkable happened. Johnson suffered a stroke that doctors said he would never recover from.

“The pain is your body crying out for help. It’s there for a reason, so you need to check that part of your body, and I didn’t,” he said.

Had Johnson gone to a doctor sooner, his story, which he now shares in his book, “A Life Of Commas: A Soldier’s Story,” and through motivational speaking engagements, would have been different, he said.

“My surgeon told me the stroke wouldn’t have happened at all. But because there was so much blood and fluid on my brain, which they don’t even know how it got there, my body automatically stroked on the table. Had I initially gone and seen a doctor, I’d be completely fine.”

Johnson was told he would never walk without an aid, speak clearly, drive or read, and then he got even more devastating news.

The doctor told him, ” ‘Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to make children either.’ which was crushing.”

But Johnson had been a soldier and he approached his recovery like basic training.

“This was training for my life,” he said. “I was going to war against my body because I felt my body attacked me, and I was attacking back.”

He pushed his wedding back a year, determined to walk with his bride down the aisle.

“I spent three months inpatient and six outpatient for rehab and therapies. My goal was to walk down the aisle without aid and say, ‘I do.’ speaking clearly, and I did both.”

It’s this perseverance that gained the attention of the American Heart Association. On April 21, Johnson received the Stroke Hero Award during the Most Powerful Voices Concert & Health Fair Expo in Chicago.

Nominated by a panel of volunteers, Johnson, now 42, was chosen for his advocacy of stroke education and using his voice to speak for others. Strokes are the leading cause of disability, and the fifth leading killer in the nation.

“Brady has been instrumental in creating awareness about stroke, particularly among young adults since he was in his early thirties when he had his stroke,” said Santrice Martin, multicultural initiatives director with the American Heart Association. “We appreciate Brady speaking up and advocating for those who aren’t able to.”

Saturday’s event also featured Grammy Award-winning artist Erica Campbell.

Although Johnson has recuperated far better than anticipated, he continues to have numbness on the right side of his body, from head-to-toe.

His greatest accomplishment, however, is his children - Brayden, 9, and Benjamin, 5 - the ones doctors told him he’d never have.

“I just watch them grow and it motivates me every day,” he said. “Sometimes I just sit and watch them playing together and I just think there was a man who told me I would never have them. … To me, there is a higher-powered doctor who won.”

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Source: Rockford Register Star, https://bit.ly/1YWNKgb

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Information from: Rockford Register Star, https://www.rrstar.com


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