Derek Nunamaker Stroke Recovery Tour
"There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this, and after this."
On the night of Thursday, December 16, 2021, Derek and Ame went to bed with their normal bedtime routine. Derek woke Ame up at around midnight, confused and disoriented. She immediately knew something was wrong and called 911. Her quick actions would prove to save his life, but it would be a life-changing moment. The moment that would divide their life into before the stroke and after the stroke.
Little did Ame know as she dialed 911 that within 12 hours, Derek would be life-flighted from OSF St. Francis Emergency Room in Peoria to OSF St. Joseph's Hospital in Bloomington for not one but two emergency brain surgeries.
The first would be to place a stent in the tear of the carotid artery. Eventually, the stent and the artery collapsed after the surgeon had removed one of two blood clots and was in the process of opening up the blood vessels in Derek's brain. Now his entire brain is being supplied with blood by just one carotid artery.
A few hours later, the second surgery would remove the left half of his skull, allowing the brain to swell outward to prevent any further damage. The earliest he will return to their home is one month from now after extensive in-patient physical therapy.
At just 42 years old, Derek suffered a stroke and will be faced with relearning everything he once took for granted...speech, movement, basic day-to-day living skills.
Derek is familiar with the challenges ahead. He decided, after 11 years at State Farm in Bloomington, to go back to school to become a physical therapist. This would be the second degree he would earn. At 35 years old, being one of the oldest students (the "old man") in his class, he was accepted into Bradley University's highly competitive doctoral physical therapy program. He graduated in 2018 with the rest of his classmates, one of whom said, "when Derek speaks, people listen."
Truer words have never been spoken (though his wife may disagree). For the past several years, including through the COVID pandemic, he has worked as a physical therapist at OSF Orthopedic Outpatient. Helping his patients regain mobility and independence. Derek will now be looking to physical therapy services in hopes of regaining independence for himself after suffering a massive stroke.
Right now, he is surprising his surgeons with the amount of progress he makes daily. Especially considering they didn't know if he would survive any of the possible post-surgical complications. He's able to answer yes/no questions, say a few words and phrases, use his left side (he was right-side dominant), and do basic counting. He requires assistance with most things but is adamant about trying to do as much as he can by himself. He has a very long road ahead of him.
Ame hasn't left his side, Sleeping in a recliner in his hospital room every night. Answering any questions the doctors and nurses may ask, helping him with most tasks, and being his biggest cheerleader.
Derek and Ame met through Match.com. They found out that they were both Trekkies (Star Trek fans) on their first date. Derek tested Ame by asking her how the character, Tasha Yar, died. Ame replied, "by the tar monster, duh!"
Still on their first date, Derek hadn't told Ame that he was allergic to cats. When he told her, while he was holding one of her cats and loving on him, she emphatically told him that if he died because of the cats, it wasn't her fault. The fact that he was willing to cuddle the allergy-inducing furball. And being fellow Trekkies (though Ame still questions his true "Trekkiness" since he's never seen any of the original Star Trek episodes or movies), they knew their love was meant to be.
Derek loved to sing silly, made-up songs to Ame, tell puns, play with their dogs and cats, and do woodworking and other creative projects. Ame teases him that most people usually have one main characteristic. They're either super smart or creative or athletic or geeky or a fixer (home repairs, cars, yard, most things), etc. But Derek is all of them, and it's not fair.
Derek and Ame, a floral designer at Becks Florist, have worked hard to provide for themselves and their four rescue pets: Bruce Lee, an 11-year-old cat that wandered into their life as a stray; Boba, a 4-year-old dog adopted from TAPS; Niko, a 3-year-old cat adopted from Foster Pet Outreach, and Henry, a 2-year-old dog adopted from Peoria County Animal Control.
Now, with loss of income, escalating medical bills, and extensive physical therapy, they need our help. This is all unexpected, and savings dwindle fast. We hope you'll join us in raising funds so Derek and Ame can focus on Derek's recovery rather than trying to figure out how to provide for their basic needs.
If you know Derek and Ame in any way, or if you are a kind and compassionate individual that wants to help a stranger in need, we hope you'll consider giving. Any amount helps.
During this journey, we're hoping to raise $75,000 to help cover basic expenses. Derek and Ame live in East Peoria, and Derek is currently hospitalized in Bloomington. Their dogs and cats need food, and the cats need litter. While neighbors and friends have been great about taking care of the dogs and cats, it's not a long-term solution. So the need to board them for at least the immediate future is becoming a reality. Ame still has daily living expenses like food, car, house payments, utilities, and more until long-term solutions are figured out. Right now, Derek can't speak, and her efforts should be focused on figuring out his best recovery plan.
Please consider a donation of any amount as they work to figure out how to figure out the best recovery plan for Derek.
Please share and help us spread the message that Derek and Ame need our help. #DereksRecoveryTour#TeamNunamaker
#strokesurvivor #strokefundraiser #youngstrokesurvivor #strokesurvivorsdontquit #rebuildinglives