Exercise of love
Community volunteers help teach woman to walk again
A year and a half ago, Rosemary Gergick, 38, could barely walk from her bedroom to the kitchen.
A month ago, she walked all the way around the junior high school track.
"It took me an hour and I used my cane and someone walked with me, but I did it," she said triumphantly.
Until March 24, 1997, Gergick was as active as most middle-aged women. She worked full time as a veterinary assistant and took her nieces and nephews for out-of-town trips to "absorb culture," as she says, as frequently as she could. She had traveled to Yugoslavia and Ireland and planned to take more trips abroad.
And then she met the day that changed her life.
"I had just come back to the office after lunch," Gergick said. "I had brought back a drink and I started to take a sip. But I couldn't feel the straw with my mouth. I knew something was going on."
She called 911.
"By the time I had them on the phone, my speech was starting to slur and my left hand wouldn't hold on to the phone," Gergick said.
To the orderly who wheeled her into Providence Medical Center, she asked if she was having a stroke.
"'Probably,' he said," Gergick remembered.
An aneurysm that burst had blocked off the right parietal lobe of her brain, causing a stroke. She does not recall the days that surrounded the surgery to remove the clot from her brain, nor does she recall anything until April 16, when she woke up at the Mid-America Rehabilitation Hospital in Overland Park.
Two months later, Gergick was discharged from the hospital and went to live in Piper with her sister, Cathy Moreland, so that she could be close enough to go the rehab hospital for therapy sessions. In late November, she finally moved back to Tonganoxie, to the home she shares with her parents, Bernice and Clarence Gergick.
Her therapy continued throughout the winter.
"Then, in the spring, my therapists couldn't document that I was still making progress," Gergick said. Her therapy was to be canceled.
That's when Gergick said the miracle started.
"My friend Gail Schaplowsky decided we could get volunteers to help me at home," Gergick said.
Schaplowsky went to work, organizing six teams of five volunteers each. Gergick's therapist, Susan Adkins, from the Mid-America Rehabilitation Hospital, attended a group meeting at Gergick's home, giving a demonstration on how to provide therapy. This was videotaped to show later to volunteers unable to attend.
"I was slightly skeptical until we did the training session," Adkins said. "But everyone was very willing to work and receptive to the training."
That was March 1998. Since then, volunteers have provided six therapy sessions to Gergick each week.
Adkins said she's glad that the volunteers are still working with Gergick. "I think that says a lot for them, but it says a lot for the kind of person Rosemary is, too," Adkins said.
Marilyn Daniels, one of the volunteers, recently walked with Gergick at the VFW Park.
"I'm used to holding on to her," Daniels said, "But tonight she's doing so well that she hardly needs any help."
"This isn't a story about me," Gergick said. "It's about the wonderful people who have been helping me through this."
Gergick talks about her volunteers, one of whom is local driver education instructor Phil Jeannin, who taught her how to drive again.
Gergick chuckled and explained, "He was with me when I got stopped by the cops the first time."
Thanks to the training, she is now able to drive into Tonganoxie where she now works part time at the veterinary office of Kyle LaRosh.
She also finds time to work and volunteer at the Mid-America Rehabilitation Hospital. Even though her activity is restricted because of her disability, Gergick says her life is richer than it has ever been before.
The therapy she needed has been a gift in disguise, she said.
"Parts of this I would not have missed for anything," Gergick said. "I honestly think if God came tomorrow and said we'll turn back time and you can skip having the stroke but you'll never meet these people you've met during the past two years I think I'd take the stroke."