John Schaffer’s plans to celebrate his 54th birthday Wednesday at a hospital may seem strange, but to him, it’s a celebration of his life.
“For me to be able to celebrate my 54th birthday in the place where they saved my life, it’s a blessing,” he said.
The Wellington man was working as an electrician contractor on the construction of the new Cleveland Clinic Lakewood Family Health Center’s emergency department Jan. 12, Schaffer had a stroke and almost died. Now the new emergency department is opening on the same day as his birthday.
On Jan. 12, Schaffer said he just felt dizzy and took a break, then he could only see spinning lights. He waited until everyone left the break room to try and make it back to work, and he could barely navigate out of the building, something he did countless times before.
That’s when his coworker, Mark Phellps, identified that he was having a stroke. Schaffer didn’t think it could be a stroke, but Phellps insisted getting him help and put him in a wheelchair. From that point, Shaffer said things started to get worse.
“Everything after that was fuzzy, I don’t even remember moving from the wheelchair to the gurney,” he said.
When admitted into the old Lakewood emergency department, the emergency team and other medical professionals went straight to work diagnosing him. A CT scan revealed he had a hemorrhagic stroke — bleeding caused by a leaked or torn blood vessel in the brain.
Once the emergency team stabilized Schaffer, the Cleveland Clinic’s critical care transport took him to the hospital’s main campus in Cleveland. While at the main campus, Schaffer was treated by Cleveland Clinic neurosurgeons, neurologists and rehab specialists, and released five days later.
Schaffer spent two months at home in recovery, struggling just to walk up the stairs. Schaffer returned to work, thankful enough he was still alive, and with no long-lasting effects from the stroke.
As a father of five daughters, he was happy to see one of them get married, another graduate from Ohio State University in May and another from Lorain County Community College in December.
Schaffer said he owes his life to God, Phellps’s quick thinking and persistence as well as the dedicated efforts of the Cleveland Clinic staff. Without them, Schaffer couldn’t celebrate becoming another year older.