COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Nearly 10 months ago, our friend and coworker Mike Jackson had a massive stroke. Many of our viewers have been asking for an update on how he is doing.
Colleen Marshall recently visited Mike and talked to him about his recovery.
Nine months after his stroke, Mike Jackson still fights to regain use of his left side.
“It’s a challenge, but one day after my stroke, the neurologist said your recovery is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” said Mike.
He is in the toughest race of his life. Every laborious step is an uphill grind. He is learning to move and live in a new way.
“Does it feel different? Are you feeling things gradually coming back?” asked Colleen Marshall.
“Slowly, yeah. And it’s a simple thing, like walking, that we all take for granted. There is a sequence to walking that I never realized before,” responded Mike. “Retraining my brain to do things at certain times. We take all this for granted. The brain is the main computer of the body. And it’s not just the physical rehabilitation, but also the neuro, try to get it all reconnected again.”
He is trying to reconnect those parts of his brain that make him the anchor, father, grandfather, husband, friend and born storyteller we all know so well.
In the hours after the stroke, he woke up to a body he could not control, in a room he did not recognize, with medications he never needed before. He says he felt sorry for himself, but only for one day.
“The first thing I did was, I think most people do this, you go through, you feel sorry for yourself. And I stopped after the first day when I could see someone who had it worse, like one was paralyzed from the neck down. And although I am having trouble with my vocal cords, some people lose the ability to speak with my type of stroke. I never lost that. And people lose their sense of humor. I haven’t lost that,” said Mike.
He definitely has not lost that, even teasing Colleen about her ‘never-gray- hair.
Mike: Hair color will be the same thing too.
Colleen: Yeah, it’s never going to have any gray.
Mike: As long as you have a purse and a checkbook, right?
Colleen: (laughs) You know me so well.
A legacy of helping people
Mike has always seemed to know how to help those who are in trouble. It’s what made him a popular anchor and an award-winning consumer reporter.
“Well, I am sitting in a wheelchair right now, and there was a gentleman in Coshocton who had a wheelchair, a motorized wheelchair, and it didn’t fit him. It didn’t fit his needs, physically or being able to move around the house,” said Mike.
When that man’s malfunctioning wheelchair damaged his wife’s oven door, they called Jackson.
“The company, not only did they move the chair, but we talked about the range and the company saw their name on TV and they thought, ‘We can do something about that.’ And they replaced that,” said Mike.
He loves the stories that change lives and neighborhoods.
When neighbors couldn’t get anything done about a home overrun with rodents and criminal activity, they called Jackson.
“It takes a lot to get a house town down in Columbus. It took us one year, but we finally got that house torn down. And they were so thankful and appreciative,” recalled Mike.
Mike says that what he misses most is the storytelling, especially the consumer stories.
“We’ve all had problems with different products from time to time, or it’s a safety concern or a service issue. We’ve all experienced that. So, I think that’s what resonates with me the most,” said Mike.
An outpouring of support
Throughout these difficult months, Mike has heard from many in the community, people he helped and people who feel connected to a man called Jackson.
“When I was in the hospital, people delivered a bunch of cards and I was looking at them and I told the nurse, ‘Isn’t this amazing?’ I don’t even know these people, and they continue to send me cards. And she said, ‘Mike, you have to realize, these people are inviting you into their homes a couple times a day–they feel like they know you.'”
Mike will continue his unflinching fight. He is strong-willed and mindful of his blessings. He is also grateful for everyone who has sent him cards, letters and messages.
“The cards and letters have been so heartfelt. They really just touch me so deeply. And prayer works. I’ve learned that too,” said Mike. “When I go out in public, people speak to me all the time. They wish me well, and that makes me feel good.
Mike is a people person. As he fights to re-learn the basics, he is also learning new ways to connect with people.
“I have more empathy toward people who suddenly lose the use of a limb, or someone who loses their memory or something else,” Mike explained.
Looking to the future
Mike does not shy away from hard work, even when it means spending hours and hours trying to regain his mobility.
His therapy teams keeps him working, viewers keep him in their prayers, his family at home and at NBC4 keep him in our hearts. And Mike? He keeps working.
“Consistency plus hard work equals success, and that’s been my motto for the last couple of months,” said Mike.