Margaret Keele, PT, (center) directs Jim Cogdill through a series of exercises at Parkwest Therapy Center, with support from Lori Boudreaux.

It was the first day of September and Jim Cogdill was on his way to work at his car dealership on Kingston Pike. He had decided to stop for breakfast when suddenly, double vision hit. Then his arm and leg went numb.     

In truth, Jim Cogdill isn’t the typical 71-year-old man. He is especially driven, exceptionally energetic, and unapologetically speaks his mind. He tells his story while seated comfortably in an office at Parkwest Therapy Center, where he regained independence after the devastating effects of a stroke.   On the morning he explained his symptoms over the phone, Boudreaux quickly realized the situation was no laughing matter. She met Cogdill at his doctor’s office, where the physician instructed her to take Cogdill directly to the emergency room at Parkwest Medical Center. Cogdill didn’t need any persuasion, because in that short period of time his legs had given way. He had walked into the doctor’s office, but he left in a wheelchair.

A Surprise Journey 

A recent physical had resulted in a clean bill of health, and Cogdill was physically active, playing tennis with friends two or three times a week. He’d had some dizziness on the courts, but it had been diagnosed as vertigo.  His job was stressful and he had been treated for high blood pressure, but Cogdill had always been able to handle the ups and downs of business. He thought if he could survive news of Chrysler’s bankruptcy in 2009, then surely he could survive anything.      “I guess when you get a little older, you have to start slowing down some,” Cogdill says with a grin. “When I was 70, I was living like I was still 20.”

The Stroke Challenger     

After he was discharged from Parkwest Medical Center, Cogdill went to Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, which provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services as part of Covenant Health’s stroke hospital network. The first day Boudreaux pushed Cogdill’s wheelchair into the center, he was suffering from multiple effects of the stroke. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t swallow, I had a feeding tube, and my balance was off,” he recalls.      He could choose to accept his condition, or he could choose to accept the challenge of recovery. For Jim Cogdill there was no choice. He would do whatever it took to return to his active lifestyle.          

Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center provided intensive therapy during one-on-one treatment sessions with extensively trained staff, state-of-the-art equipment, and a holistic team approach that includes the patient and family members. After three weeks of physical, occupational, recreation, and speech therapies, Cogdill was still in a wheelchair, but able to function at home.     That might have been good enough for some men. It was not good enough for Jim Cogdill.

An Unwavering Charger     

He charged forward with outpatient therapy at Parkwest Therapy Center, making it clear that he would do whatever it took to improve.   Cogdill was paired with Margaret Keele, PT, DP, CSRS, who is certified as a stroke rehabilitation specialist through the National Stroke Association. The first time he got on his feet to walk during a therapy session there, he required a lot of assistance.

“The first time I got him up and walked with him, he required about 50 percent assistance from me,” says Keele.
“Balance was a huge issue, and he had a lot of coordination deficits.”

Keele worked with him on the simple act of walking with balance and coordination. Eventually he was able to move well with a walker; then he switched from the walker to a cane.

Another element of therapy was preparing Cogdill to return to the tennis courts. “He brings his tennis racket, and they go out in the hallway and hit tennis balls,” Boudreaux says.

It all adds up to greater independence and a better quality of life for a stroke patient like Cogdill.

“My therapy here has been fantastic,” he says. “Think about it. When I came in here I was in a wheelchair, and now I can walk.”

Boudreaux says Keele matches Cogdill’s level of determination, giving him the encouragement he needs to get better. “She’s always pushing him to the next level and challenging him,” Boudreaux says. “That’s what he wants.”

Today he only needs a little help from a cane as he sits down to drink a cup of coffee and swap jokes with Boudreaux. Since his stroke, the two have become more mindful of what they eat, and even how much rest they get at night. Boudreaux’s son Brandon has even changed his college major to physical therapy after seeing how it transformed Cogdill’s life.

“I don’t look at it as a bad dream, but I look at it as just a big physical challenge,” Cogdill says. The businessman who is driven to succeed says, “It gets you to where you have to realize what’s important. Now I’m driven to keep my health.”