Mr. Thomas is “a whole new person” at CEI
“M r. John Thomas was born in 1938 in West Helena, Arkansas, but he doesn’t remember much about what it was like there. His parents moved to Oakland in 1945 to take jobs at a naval supply facility during the war. So he grew up in the projects in northwest Oakland. “I remember the Oakland Oaks minor league baseball games. The major leagues were not in California yet so minor leagues were the big thing and they played at a park in Emeryville. I was a ’cushion boy.’ The park would rent cushions for the wooden benches during the game for 25 cents and we had to pick them up after the game.”
After many years of working for Southern California Gas, United Steel, and General Electric, Mr. Thomas’ life took a turn for the worse about ten years ago on Christmas day. He had three strokes in one day, the last of which while he was on a gurney being rolled into Highland Hospital. “I was paralyzed on my left side, and I couldn’t say a word,” says Mr. Thomas. When I tried to say my name all that came out was ‘t..t...t’. I also had Parkinson’s symptoms. I couldn’t eat because my hand shook so much.”
Luckily, the discharge planner at the hospital referred him to CEI and soon a social worker was visiting him at home. He came into the center to meet with the doctor and get his medications coordinated and he was put on a regular physical, occupational, and speech therapy program. Slowly things got better. The medication helped control the shaking, the therapies helped make him stronger, and soon he
had cataract surgery on each of his eyes and got his glaucoma under control. Now he really enjoys the field trips with CEI to the zoo, movies, and museums.
Asked how his life is different since joining CEI, he laughs and says, “Oh, I don’t do all the stuff I did before I came to CEI. You see the reason I had all those strokes on Christmas day was because I was partying and off my meds the week before Christmas. Now I do my physical therapy – Kat the therapist
here keeps me going. And I see the acupuncturist, Patricia, each week. She is amazing and helps me deal with the pain in my left leg so I can move it more. I can walk from my apartment at Miley Gardens over to the center when I come in. I’m a whole new person.”
When asked what he wants to tell the community about CEI, Mr. Thomas pauses and chooses his words carefully, ”It is almost imperative seniors have a place like CEI to join. It provides all your medicinal needs – they have specialists for whatever your malady is, like my specialist for Parkinson’s. They provide transportation and you can see medical people whenever you need them, even on weekends. It makes me more comfortable with my condition if anything should happen again. And you can make long-term friends here. That’s really nice.”