A few years later, Avi traveled to Israel for two years to initiate studies in biology. While there, he also furthered his passion in emergency medicine by becoming certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). This choice was to dramatically shape his life later.
Avi came back to the US to complete his Bachelor of Science in Biology at Towson University, in Maryland. By the time he graduated in 1998, he was well on his way to pursuing a career and a life that he loved. In the years that followed, he garnered even more credentials as an EMT.
This allowed him to work as an emergency medical technician and paramedic in many different and exciting capacities. These included that of a Critical Care Paramedic, a Certified Flight Paramedic, a Rescue Technician, and in the allied roles of firefighter, hazmat (hazardous materials) operations and weapons of mass destruction technician. Life was good.
In early June 2007, at 33 years of age, Avi was admitted to Columbia Hospital, in New York, for surgery on an mitral valve prolapse (MVP) repair that was discovered near the aortic valve in his heart. Like many people who go in the hospital for serious, but seemingly routine, surgery, Avi thought he’d be out and recovering in short order.
However, that was not to be. During the surgery, Avi experienced a stroke on the left side of his brain, leaving him with right-sided paralysis, and profound aphasia, which proceeded to wreak havoc with his life.
Avi remained in Columbia Hospital for two months and then was moved to a rehab hospital in the North Shore – Long Island Jewish Health System – for two more months of intensive in-patient rehabilitation. By early October, he was discharged, and began outpatient therapy at home (which he still receives for his arm and leg).
During his stroke rehabilitation, Avi received “traditional” physical, occupational and speech therapies, but he also utilized a rich mix of non-traditional therapies that included acupuncture, massage, tai chi, yoga, constraint therapy, water therapy, computer games and special speech software. Avi also tried using a Neuromove™ device on his right side.
Avi still has balance problems, and weakness on the right side of his body, but it’s his Expressive Aphasia that frustrates and confounds him more than any of his other post-stroke residuals. Avi can understand what people are saying to him and he can still read quite well.
However, he continues to have a lot of trouble speaking and writing, both of these being reflect problems with expressing himself. This can be devastating for any friendly and outgoing person, let alone a certified paramedic who needs to communicate accurately and effectively to do his job.
Avi refuses to let aphasia get in his way. He still works (and volunteers his time) as a paramedic and, more importantly, he’s embarked on a new mission of “aphasia advocacy,” educating others about aphasia and how it impacts a stroke survivor’s day-to-day life.
To make this new goal a reality, Avi has been involved in a lot of aphasia-related projects. Like the myriad of activities in his pre-stroke life, he’s done so many things since his stroke that it’s impossible to list them all. Still, here are some of the things that Avi considers to be his greatest achievements:
An article published about him for the Aug 13, 2010, edition of the “Jewish Standard” newspaper. The article, entitled “Got _______? Aphasia: At a Loss for Words,” was the featured cover story.
From Nov 2008 through the present he’s been an active contributor to the “Aphasia Awareness Training for Emergency Responders Project,” for the National Aphasia Association.
Assisted with outreach efforts to police, firefighters and EMTs in NY and NJ, by participating in their training sessions, and working on the creation of a curriculum, and materials, used in their training programs.
In August of 2012, played the role of “Tevye” in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” before an audience of 500 people at the Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood, NJ.
Served as an Aphasia Consultant on two plays: 1) From May through June, 2009, for the production of “Night Sky,” in New York City, and 2) In September, 2010, for the production of “Wings.”
Since 2009, has volunteered his time at the Adler Aphasia Center, where he participates in the educational training of medical residents, medical students and other health care professionals who are preparing for a career in a medical field.
Avi says that his stroke hasn’t fundamentally changed him. He’s still the same sociable, affable, and compassionate person that he was before his stroke. He is eager to help others in need and devoted to his job as a paramedic. He has even more projects in mind for the future. For one thing, he would like to expand on his aphasia awareness efforts by becoming a “motivational speaker” to hospitalized patients in the North Shore – Long Island Jewish Hospital system.
Since Avi is still able to enjoy two of his favorite sports, snowboarding and horseback riding, it’s no surprise that he would also like to start a not-for-profit organization (that he’s dubbed “NYC Outdoors Disability”). It would promote snowboarding, horseback riding, hiking, hand cycling, sailing, scuba diving and other outdoor activities for people with disabilities. Based on Avi’s “track record” so far, it’s a sure bet he’ll succeed with both goals.
Before that, I was a paramedic in North Shore – LIJ EMS and NY Presbyterian EMS in NYC. And I was going to go to medical school. As many of you know, I suffered a stroke several years ago and as a result now have aphasia.
Their website, after the New York City Outdoor Disability:
I am a 39-year-old stroke and aphasia survivor. I was a NYC paramedic and about to start medical school when I had a stroke. Prior to my stroke, I loved many different outdoor sports like horseback riding, kayaking, sailing, bicycle riding, snowboarding, etc. Now, post-stroke I have aphasia (difficulty communicating) and can’t use one arm, but I still enjoy many of the same thrilling activities. I want to help people with different disabilities (i.e. amputees, stroke survivors, people with MS and sensory impairments, etc…) in a group call NYC Outdoors Disability also experience exhilarating outdoor activities. Read more below!
NYC Outdoors Disability
We are dedicated to organizing fun trips for ourselves in the NYC area – expanding our horizons after becoming disabled. From easy nature walks to thrilling sports like rock climbing and scuba diving, these adventures include people with strokes, SCI, amputation, and sensory impairments, etc.
We partner with various organizations to bring you outdoor activities, and adaptive equipment is available when needed. The sky’s the limit, so join us for some adventure, where you’ll find confidence, encouragement, excitement, inspiration, and joy through outdoor activities and sports.
Come stretch your boundaries!