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Friday, August 1st, 2008

Small steps lead to recovery for Bremen woman

26-year-old who had massive stroke pledges to walk down the aisle for her wedding

By Margie Wuebker

Christan Garman, right, exercises her right arm in the swimming pool at the Augl. . .

NEW BREMEN - Music plays in the background as Christan Garman logs another mile on the treadmill at the Auglaize-Mercer South Family YMCA before heading to the swimming pool for more therapy.
At 26, the substitute teacher for schools throughout Auglaize and Mercer counties is learning an important lesson in her battle to overcome the effects of a massive stroke - small steps that pave the way for larger accomplishments. And soon those steps will lead to the altar.
"I don't like this cane," she says wrinkling her nose in obvious disdain. "It's going out in the garage with the wheelchair real soon."
Christan, the daughter of Tim and Lori Garman, awakened the morning of April 7 and called her sister to chat. She remembers thinking the words sounded funny and her normally chatty sister Robyn seemed in a big hurry to get off the phone.
She then called her father at the Village of New Bremen Public Works Department while Robyn alerted Mom. The worried parents arrived at Christin's apartment in short order and took her to the hospital.
Tests, ranging from blood work to a CAT Scan, yielded no definitive results. At one point Christin turned to the left to talk to her dad and the slurred speech magically cleared. Doctors and family suspected the mysterious symptoms might be related to previous sinus problems. She left with orders for aspirin, decongestants and rest.
Christan ran up the 17 steps to her apartment intending to take a shower and pack a few things for an overnight stay at her parents' home.
"The television remote kept slipping out of my right hand," she says. "That's all I remember."
Tim plucked Christan from the floor and carried her to the car. Lori, who has emergency medical training, perched on the backseat keeping track of vital signs. The trip back to St. Marys was a hurried one, but everything fell into place like clockwork.
An ambulance crew arrived with another patient about the time it was decided to transfer her to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, eliminating the 20-minute wait for a CareFlight helicopter.
The neurologist in Dayton determined the massive stroke was related to a clot in the carotid artery. He indicated such a trauma-based injury is usually caused by a blow to the head or a traffic accident. Nothing in Christan's history suggested anything like that; she had just returned home from visiting her fiancée, U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Kristopher Hyde, in California.
The ambitious young woman, who balanced nearly full-time substitute teaching with a regular job at the local Pak-a-Sak, remained in a coma hovering between life and death. Relatives kept vigil beside her intensive care unit bed talking in hopes their words would penetrate the fog. Hyde called regularly from Iraq; even his voice failed to stir a response.
A gradual return to consciousness eventually provided the first ray of hope.
Christan moved to Miami Valley's rehabilitation unit a week later unable to speak, swallow or walk. She says her paralyzed right side felt as though it belonged to someone else.
"It just sucked," she says of the rehabilitation experience. "The other stroke patients were old enough to be my grandparents...maybe even older."
Her mother recalls how therapists tried to offer activities a young person in her condition might enjoy. Such activities initially led to frustration, anger and then excuses for skipping therapy.
"Christan would sooner dance on the bar than plant flowers but that was not one of the recommended activities," Lori says. "She's accustomed to flying by the seat of her pants and achieving everything she wants."
The young woman, who excelled as a pianist, a dancer and a cheerleader, simply could not understand why something as simple as moving had turned into something so incredibly difficult.
The Garmans looked into various therapy programs as release from the hospital loomed. They finally settled on a satellite program sponsored by Lima St. Rita's Medical Center at the Auglaize County YMCA in Wapakoneta.
Lori has become a drill sergeant of sorts pushing her daughter to do a little more at each session whether it involves time in the gym or laps in the pool.
"Yes, I am a task master and I don't cut her any slack," she says as Christan nods in over-exaggerated fashion. "We have a two-year window. What we achieve during this time is all we're going to get."
Doctors are amazed at the progress thus far, pointing out her age and physical condition made all the difference. Had she been older, the prognosis would have been a vegetative state at best.
Christan, a 2000 graduate of New Bremen High School and a 2006 graduate of the Wright State University-Lake Campus, longs to return to the classroom. However, she grudgingly admits her job for the next two years involves therapy and then brightens perceptively adding a 30-pound weight loss is an unexpected bonus.
She walked down the aisle on July 19 as her sister's maid of honor. The cane remained in the back of church and silver tennis shoes replaced her customary high heels. Her calendar includes another long walk Nov. 29 - this time as the radiant bride.
Additional online story on this date
The Mercer County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate a bizarre accident in which an SUV was found demolished after plowing through a field and into a hog barn. [More]
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