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Alex Kalpaxis

Recovery After Massive Stroke

At 68 years old, Alex Kalpaxis was in better shape than most people in their prime. A power lifter for 40 years, he was built as he described, “like a brick house” and competed all over the tri-state area.

But he had an extremely stressful job in concealed weapon detection and his blood pressure was very high. It led to a catastrophic stroke, an aneurysm deep in the thalamus area, on a Saturday afternoon. He started to black out and his wife was able to slip a chair underneath him. She called an ambulance as he babbled incoherently.

“It was pretty bad – I should have died,” Alex said. “I was in la-la land and my right side was totally comprised.”

It took several weeks before Alex realized what had happened to him, but once he did, he vowed to come back from his brain injury. He had an uphill fight – the thalamus relays sensory messages as well as plays a significant role in motor activity, emotion and memory. He was compromised both physically and mentally.

Fortunately, his mental acuity and speech started to return within a couple of months so he was able to focus on his physical recovery. Being in top physical condition prior to his stroke was a huge advantage, and he quickly outpaced the markers set for him in his rehabilitation facility. Within weeks, he could walk the equivalent of a football field.

After receiving physical therapy at home, Alex knew he wanted to get back to a gym but he also wanted one that provided physical therapy. He tried HNH Fitness in Oradell, which he said has been “great” for him.

“HNH has been outstanding,” he said. “They have a regular gym with guys doing bench presses but they don’t look at me because I need help walking. The trainers are amazing and they have the newest equipment.”

Alex’s left arm is still about three times stronger than his right so he continues to work on stretching and improving the strength on his ride side. He can finally write with his right hand, though he admits it’s rather sloppy.

“Stroke recovery is different for each person – some recover quickly, some over a long period of time and unfortunately, some never do,” he said. “Me, I’m still seeing improvements.”

Indeed, nearly two years after his stroke, he continues to make progress, slow and steady. He has returned to work part-time as an electrical engineer, and makes his recovery a priority.

“I can’t see massive changes on a daily basis but every week I can do something that I wasn’t able to do before,” Alex said. “The brain is a wonderful thing and often has the ability to heal itself as long as you’re willing to try. I just keep practicing and the people at HNH Fitness help me every step of the way. I’m not sure if I’ll get back to power lifting but I’m not giving up.”