Disclaimer!!!!!- This is a guest post by Jeff Chetlin. Although his friends are kind of shy about the flatttering comments that Jeff has made here, he asked that he could write this as a testament to his amazing comeback from a stroke. He has a lot of friends and he has very complimentary things to say about us. But the real story is his comeback. So………here is Jeff’s guest post.
I spent a week in Central Oregon with my good friend Pat and his wife Janet. It was a week that was very eye opening, and made me want to write a little story that I have been wanting to tell to a lot of people. Most of you may already know this, but for those of you who don’t, I have been a very active person throughout my 30s , 40s, and 50s. I was a swimmer and a baseball player in high school and in college played many years of golf. I got into mountain biking prior to suspension and clipless pedals in the early 90s and was instantly hooked. That led me to learn how to ride a dirt bike and I have spent many years loving that as well. I also want to tell you that skiing has been in my blood since I have been a child, and I love it still to this day.
Where the story gets interesting is in June, 2021, I experienced a stroke in my cerebellum and after many months in the hospital and in rehab, I was released to my house. There my wife took care of me 24/7. During that time, I went from a weight of 185 pounds down to 130 pounds and for six months I was basically on the couch or in my bed and unable to eat. As you can imagine, this changed my life considerably. But not as much as what happened in March of 2022.
My dear friend, Pat McCloskey, came to my house every Friday around noon whether I wanted him or not. He would bring these giant sandwiches, chips and drinks, and sit with me at my kitchen table. In the beginning, I could not even eat them, but he still came. As the weeks and months passed, one day he said that he and Pete Hilton and Mark “the Shark” Sauers were coming to my house and were going to take me on a bike ride. I was very unsure of that but they showed up at my house on a cold March day. Pat put my mountain bike in the back of his Jeep and drove it down to a flat grassy area in Frick Park. He and Pete and Shark ran beside me as I attempted to pedal my bike even though I was riding in circles. It was truly the beginning of my recovery and I think we all had tears in our eyes.
They were the first angels that came to my side and propelled me towards healing. The next person I want to mention is Dr. Syed Hyder. I was at his medical office in Mars, Pa and after a check up he walked out to the car with me and said,” you are good and must start moving yourself into uncomfortable situations.”
After I began to improve by riding my mountain bike, my good friend Jesse Seager would come to my house every day not knowing what I could or could not do. He didn’t care. We would ride our mountain bikes around the cemetery because there were no cars and he would tell me many funny stories along the way and the healing continued.
The next people that I want to mention are Tim Girone and his lovely wife Barb. I spent most of the winter out in Bend, Oregon. On the second day I arrived there, he and some other couples were taking a snowmobile ride up to a high mountain hut with food and drinks to watch the sunset. Tim thought that we should attend. My awesome wife Julie said we are in. But I was not sure I could do that because I was still dizzy and did not see too well. But I continued to push through and be persistent, and face my fears. Not five minutes into the ride, Julie and I crashed and I reinjured my broken shoulder. The accident did more than hurt me physically it hurt me mentally because I knew that Pat and Janet were coming out to ski with me in March. I was confined to walking and laying around for six to eight weeks while my shoulder healed. Tim, Barb, and my wife Julie belong to an amazing gym in Bend called Embark. The owner of the gym is Dorian Adam. In undying friendship, Tim kept telling Dorian that Jeff needs to move again. I had been laying around very sedentary. In a subtle way, he orchestrated getting me back to the gym where Dorian would work with me twice a week for a half hour. It was very difficult mentally. I had some stomach issues but Tim said that would eventually go away and it did.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my amazing wife Julie. She is a pusher. And I mean that in an amazing, positive way. She said,” you are going to the gym.” “I don’t care how much it costs.” One day she woke up and said,” I warmed up your ski boots and we are going skiing today.” I was very afraid and could not sleep the night before. She said,” Pat and Janet are coming and they expect you to be able to ski with them.” So we went up a few beginner runs, and on the second run she skied right up to me with giant tears in her eyes and was crying how happy she was to see me doing this. The next day we went back again with Barb Girone. I skied four blue square runs and had stomach issues again. But that was the last time it happened and I kept pursuing it. Then Pat and Janet showed up for a week and on their last ski day we were celebrating Tim’s birthday. We all skied together and had a party in the parking lot. On the fourth run of the day, the clouds came in and you could not see a thing. Pat, who used to teach blind skiers, said,” I got this, I am going to lead you down the mountain like the blind skiers.” We all had a good laugh at that. Tim eventually got me back to the car after a couple of visually challenged runs.
What happened next will remain in my memory for a long time. About 15-20 people showed up at Tim’s van. Tim had a fire and we all laughed and sat in the freezing cold. It was snowing and windy. I kept thinking that there is no way I can sit out like this but it was so much fun with everybody laughing, and shaking and freezing. At one point I looked over at Pat’s wife Janet who was freezing. I kept thinking that Janet would want to leave soon and that I would leave with her. But she never did leave and was one of the last ones to go.
I have been back in Pittsburgh for about a week now and every day my coach Jesse picks me up on our bikes and we head to Frick Park. He is upping my game every day and tells me we will begin doing some single track. He has become an amazing recovery tool and I realize that in some ways, I am helpful to him.
The reason I wanted to write this is there are lessons to be learned here. As in most of Pat’s Chronicles, there seems to be always an underlying lesson. And here it is…..from Pat, to Shark, Jesse, Syed, Barb and Tim, and mostly to my wonderful wife Julie, they have all taught me what life is really about. It is connections. It is people, it is movement, it is laughter. It doesn’t have to be skiing or riding a mountain bike. It could be just sitting around in the freezing cold parking lot after skiing or sitting on the edge of an Oregon beach laughing and enjoying the beauty. If you know me well enough, you know I enjoy my friends. They have been invaluable in my recovery which will go on for years to come. So what I have to say to all of you is in order to have good friends, you have to be a good friend. My lesson to all of you is without my friends, I would not be here at all. Friendship is a gift.