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Stroke survivor and his partner share story to spread hope, awareness

By |2018-01-16T09:26:27-05:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – There’s a twinkle in Tim Lucas’ eye when he recalls meeting his partner Tom Paschke 11 years ago.
“My friend said, ‘Let’s go someplace we’ve never been, let’s go to the Hayloft.'”
Lucas balked at the suggestion, but the adventurous trip turned out to be well worth his while. Not only did Paschke catch his eye, he quickly caught his heart, too.
“He had it together,” said Lucas. “I knew right away. He had a lot of potential.”
In a few months time, the two were living together. Early on they bought a small home together but the couple worked hard and reaped the rewards. Lucas, a flight attendant, and Paschke, a business analyst, played as hard as they worked. They took trips to Santo Domingo and Rome, bought a Jaguar and three years ago had a custom penthouse built in a refurbished downtown high-rise.
“It was a fairy tale life,” said Paschke. “All I can say is we were very blessed. We had a full life of travel, nice things, nice cars. We couldn’t ask for any better.”
Then one morning, in November 2003, Lucas woke up and found that the fairy tale had turned into a nightmare. He couldn’t get out of bed. Barely able to talk, he finally managed to reach the phone. He called Paschke.
“I called him at work and said, ‘I think I’ve had a stroke. Come home.'”
Today Lucas, 40, still has trouble talking. It takes great effort to produce the words, which are at times unintelligible when he gets excited and forgets to go slow. When he takes it at the right pace though, his story is remarkable. And he and his partner are sharing it with readers of Between The Lines both to bring hope and as a cautionary tale on many counts.
Following Lucas’ call, Paschke rushed home and sped his partner to the hospital. There, a CAT scan was performed and it was determined that Lucas had a blood clot in his brain. A procedure that dissolved the clot was initially successful, but overnight it re-clotted, reducing Lucas to what the doctor described as “in a vegetable state.” The options were limited. The procedure could be performed a second time, but Lucas’ chances were only 50-50.
“I said, ‘You redo it, but when you come out of that room you either tell me it worked or he’s dead, because vegetable’s not an answer,” Paschke, also 40, recalled.
Luckily for Paschke, the couple had durable powers of attorney drawn up when they reached the three-year mark in their relationship. As a result, Paschke was the decision maker and everyone, including Lucas’ mother, had to defer to his wishes.
“That’s something I really stress to people, gay couples,” said Paschke. “It’s like yeah, the marriage thing is fine but have your stuff in order because, if not, you’re nobody. I would have been no one.”
But even if he was the one calling the shots, the responsibility at times was almost too much for Paschke to shoulder. Following the second procedure, Lucas’ recovery was painfully slow. He still couldn’t talk. He was able to communicate with his partner at first only by blinking, once for yes, twice for no.
“I wanted to talk so bad,” said Lucas. “People were saying all the time, ‘He’s gonna die. He’s gonna die.’ I was so scared. I said to myself, ‘I’ll show you. I’ll show you.'”
If friends and family thought Lucas was going to die, Paschke never did.
“Something I’ve learned in life is don’t listen,” said Paschke. “I believed what was in my heart. That’s what got me through. That’s what got him through. I didn’t listen to: he’d never come home. He’d never get off the ventilator. I said he would come home.”
Finally, after four weeks in the intensive care unit and an additional two months in two other hospitals, Paschke decided it was the right time.
“Even at that time they wanted him to go to a nursing home and I said no, it’s time to come home,” Paschke said.
Once there though, the reality of the situation became immediately evident.
“I had a feeding tube,” said Lucas. “He had to feed me like five times a day. It was horrible.”
Paschke had managed to hold onto his job while Lucas was in the hospital, but at home his partner needed round-the-clock care. Lucas was attached to a catheter and had to use diapers. He couldn’t be left in the home alone. In the end, Paschke decided the only option was to quit his job. Lucas, meanwhile, was fired from his, thanks to an airline policy that allowed for employees to be dismissed if their recovery was anticipated to take more than three years.
It was a crushing blow for Lucas.
“All I wanted to do was go back to work,” he said.
Today, some 15 months after his stroke, Lucas has new goals. They keep him focused and fuel his determination.
“I’m hoping to be self-sufficient, to be able to get in and out of bed, to be able to walk with a cane, to go back to school and write my book and tell people the things they need to know,” he said.
For now, he uses a wheelchair and goes for weekly physical therapy. Both Lucas and Paschke attend monthly support groups. They say the initial support they felt from family and friends has dissipated. At this stage in his recovery, Lucas says people are uncomfortable around him.
“People are all scared of me,” he said. “They don’t know what to think. Some of them cry. They avoid me. They step over me. It’s terrible.”
Paschke is now looking for work. The fabulous penthouse – no longer practical for Lucas – is on the market and the couple say they see Florida on their horizon.
“Life doesn’t stop for anyone,” said Paschke, who speaks with a quiet confidence that matches his partner’s determination. “I think I’m at the point where I accept that. I always tell Tim in the end we’re going to be that happy story.”
On his bad days, Lucas doesn’t always believe it. He feels he’s a burden to his partner and the guilt overwhelms him. But even on those bad days when Paschke’s patience has been tested and the burdens threaten to weigh him down, his love for Lucas is never called into question.
“He makes me laugh all the time,” said Lucas. “He makes me forget.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.