Just days after suffering a stroke, 61 year old Fred Jalass was changing routes and coordinating the 2011 Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) from his hospital bed at CHI Health Immanuel Rehabilitation Center. As co-chairman of the annual bike ride, Jalass (Easy Rider) could not let a stroke stop the work that must be done to accommodate the hundreds of riders planning their trek across the great plains of Nebraska. It was this determination and optimism that carried him through this trying time in his life.
Needing to relearn simple things such as taking a shower and going up and down a flight of steps can be very humbling. It’s an experience that, “takes your breath away,” Jalass remembers when his physical therapist, Erin McMullen, took him up and down a flight of steps for the first time after his stroke. “As I went up I remember thinking to myself, ‘one step at a time.’ And when I reached the top that was such a tremendous accomplishment for me. “
An avid bicycler, Jalass’ wife, Eunice, will never forget the expression on her husband’s face when his beloved bicycle was brought into the Rehab Center as part of his recovery and therapy process. It was at this moment that Easy Rider became optimistic about the future and realized, “things might be different, but they will be alright.”
An immigrant from East Germany at age 9, Jalass learned the value of hard work. He recalls working many evenings for his father who was the manager of the Omaha Club in the 1960’s and 1970’s. “It was a very popular place and I would make over $100 a night taking hats and coats or parking cars.” Hard work played a major part in his recovery from his stroke. “I would concentrate on what the therapist told me. If they told me to do 20, I did 25.”
Jalass appreciated the small things about his experience at Immanuel. The physical therapist that pushed him beyond what he thought possible. The occupational therapist who was very calming and reassuring to him and his family. The nurse who took the time to explain and re-explain his medication.
Jalass’s recovery would not have been possible without his support system. During the interview, he got teary-eyed as he explained how much he valued the constant support of his wife, daily visits from friends and co-workers, and all the cards and flowers he received. He also gained support from other persons in the hospital recovering from an injury or disability. Dan, his roommate was there for a joke, good laugh, and support. Jalass befriended and encouraged a young mother, who also had suffered a stroke, to not become depressed. Another patient who, despite her amputation, always had a positive attitude was an inspiration to Fred.
Jalass’s advice for others going through stroke rehabilitation; “Forget about yesterday, think about today and don’t think too much about tomorrow.”