Stroke Life Society

"United In Pursuit Of Living And Helping Others"

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Dennis Foley's Story

(Stroke Survivor)

 

 

Stroke Life survivor Dennis Foley, “Uncle Dennis”, has a multitude of Irish American nephews and nieces. He was born and bred in Hicksville, the youngest child of four. “I had great parents, great siblings, grandparents and other relatives including an Irish step-grandmother who was my mother’s best friend.” Dennis emerged from this secure cocoon but still occupies his childhood home; nevertheless he has travelled. As a descendant of the Ó Foghladha (Foley) family of pirates and marauders from the Waterford area of Munster, Dennis can boast of kissing the Blarney stone during a 1990’s visit to the Emerald Isle with brother Kevin and aunt Kathleen. His one regret was the inability to sample “Liffey Water” (Guinness) in the course of his tour – alcohol and phenobarbital just don’t mix!

 

Dennis was diagnosed with an operable brain tumor thirty years’ ago, at the age of only twenty-two (hence the phenobarbital). Surgery was undertaken on his birthday, 9th February, to remove most of the tumor; subsequent radiation therapy did a tidy job of continuing his headaches, removing most of his hair and affecting his hearing. Dennis says the neuropathy from radiation had significant adverse effects.

 

The tumor was on the left side meaning his memory is less than perfect (welcome to the club, ed.) but in spite of this “Uncle Dennis” resumed his career in credit collections, a career which deserted him with the fall of Wamu (Washington Mutual) in 2007. What then ensued – all too briefly – was the happiest 4 years of Dennis’ working life. Being a person who so much enjoys helping and talking to people, having his own life insurance business was made-to-measure for our gregarious Uncle.

 

Dennis has a wonderful philosophy. In spite of every curved ball life has to throw at him, he doesn’t want to stop; he’s constantly motivated to keep going. Now just half way through his life (he is determined to reach the age of 102) this motivation became embedded when he vowed to survive brain surgery to see his nephew Danny born. It also helped him to survive a stroke in 2011, again in the eventful month of February, which curtailed his career.

 

In the course of a business meeting in Melville, Dennis felt a certain numbness to his left arm and leg. He constantly found himself walking into walls, and his speech was affected. A colleague called his sister Maureen (she is a nurse) to advise her that something was wrong with her brother. By good fortune Dennis drove home safely and was met upon his arrival by Maureen and nephew Danny. He was taken to Plainview hospital under protest and passed the night in the ER undergoing the ritual of scans and other tests. An ischemic stroke was diagnosed, possibly as a consequence of radiation therapy, he was told, but our patient was too late for tpa.  The following day left-sided weakness had progressed to immobility and he constantly sought assurance that he was speaking clearly, which he was not. A couple of days later, Maureen arranged for her brother to be transferred to Mercy hospital for 2-3 weeks rehab. Still unable to walk unaided, Dennis received nursing care upon arrival at home and succeeded in ‘losing’ his walker during 4 weeks’ physical therapy. He now uses a cane as a little bit of ‘life insurance’!

 

“Uncle Dennis’s” self-motivation ethic switched itself into gear at this time. Somehow he knew he’d be able to compensate for the effects of the stroke because of his experience with the brain tumor. Asking his battery of medical and neurology attendings what he had to do to get better, he became motivated to follow instructions. Lapses are quite simply not on the agenda, for if he slips-up, there is a strict Irish nurse (sister Maureen) to knock him into shape!

 

In the main Dennis looks after himself: cooking, house and yard work are in his line of expertise, all under the supervision of Maureen whose culinary offerings are frequently savored by her brother. “Uncle Dennis” greatly appreciates the support of his extended family and enjoys their gatherings immensely. This support has helped to change Dennis’ life; seeing his post-stroke brother was becoming a little too inactive, brother Brian discovered Stroke Life Society on the internet. Attending his first meeting at St Frances de Chantal, Wantagh shortly after the completion of formal rehab, Dennis had the good fortune to be welcomed by Sandy Gerber and Lou Macolino. This jovial duo subsequently became his golfing buddies at Bethpage.

 

Dennis is now a major supporter of Stroke Life and attends almost all the meetings. He is so happy that Brian prompted him to check it out as it is now such an important part of his life. Firstly he feels that he has much to offer recent stroke survivors both on outreach and within the support groups. Secondly as an avid golfer he is participating in the Stroke Life Golf Challenge. Another aspect of his golfing interest has served Dennis for over 20 years: when he remembers how to do it, he assembles golf clubs in his basement workshop. As with the support groups, this activity is also highly therapeutic.

 

Finally, “Uncle Dennis” shares his home with two adorable sisters – his Bengal lookalike cats. Appropriately for a golf fanatic one of them, ‘Daisy’, has the very definite appearance of a ‘Tiger’!  

 

To contact Dennis:

Send email to survivor@strokelife.org and be sure to put 'Dennis Foley' in subject text.

 

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