Name: Dan Raas.
Hometown: Born in Portland, Ore., Raas has lived in Bellingham since 1976.
Family: He and his wife have two children, a son and a daughter, who both live in Seattle.
Work: With his partners at Raas, Johnsen & Stuen, P.S., in Bellingham, Raas works part-time as a lawyer for Lummi Nation.
Unusual stroke: Raas used to be right handed, until a stroke in May 2000 took away most of the functioning of that hand. With no warning and with no fear of hereditary strokes, an artery in Raas' brain collapsed, cutting off blood flow to the part of the brain the artery feeds.
The stroke paralyzed his right side, from his arm and leg up to part of his mouth and tongue.
It was an unusual type of stroke, one that cannot be predicted by high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other health problems. Doctors didn't know that type of stroke existed until the invention of the MRI, Raas says, and had they not known, they could have given him medications that would have caused major side effects.
"Three cheers for medical technology," he says.
Team of therapists: Raas stayed at St. Joseph hospital for about six weeks. He worked with a physical therapist, who helped with actions from the waist down, such as walking and standing; with an occupational therapist, who helped with his arms and cognitive therapy; and a with speech therapist. His speech therapist determined him to be "100 percent intelligible" within two weeks.
Back home: Once Raas was released from the hospital he began home therapy and, later, outpatient physical and occupational therapy. Yet 12 years later he still has some limitations. His right hand remains mostly paralyzed; he can close it, but it takes focus and strength for him to release his grasp.
"The motion of opening my fingers doesn't happen very often," Raas says. "But five years ago, it didn't happen at all."
Raas returned to his law practice by the fall of 2000, and still works part-time there. He says he's not ready to retire anytime soon.
On the road: Raas now drives with a device that enables him to turn the steering wheel more easily with one hand. His car also has a left foot accelerator, because he doesn't have enough control of his right foot to accelerate and brake fast quickly.
Stays healthy: Fortunately, Raas has been free of recurrent strokes. And while the type of stroke he had wasn't caused by unhealthy eating or his lifestyle, he says he can never be too careful.
"Just because you had one kind of stroke, doesn't mean you won't have the next kind," he says.
To stay healthy, Raas takes medicine to keep his blood pressure down and lower his cholesterol. He also uses a gym connected to the hospital's outpatient facility, with special equipment and volunteers to help when necessary.
Support system: Raas says one of the keys to recovery is having a solid network of support, personally, professionally, and through therapists and doctors. He says he's had an excellent experience with staff at the hospital's south campus.
Raas says his stroke scared his wife, but says their relationship is stronger than ever.
"She is more worried about my falling than I am," he says.
New hobbies: Before his stroke, Raas played guitar and mandolin in What the Chelm, a klezmer band. He's still in the band, but now plays one-handed percussion.
Raas doesn't run, hike or play soccer anymore, but he and his wife have embraced a new love for travel. He still volunteers for the same organizations as before - Congregation Beth Israel and Whatcom County Democrats - but instead of setting up tables and tents for events, he sits on committees to use his brain, not his body.
Advice for others: Raas encourages people who are recovering from a stroke to keep working hard.
"Everybody is on a curve for recovery," he says. "That curve flattens out, but if you keep at it, you continue to gain strength and increased ability. It takes a long time and it takes a lot of sticking with it.
"You have to abandon expectations that next month I will be able to see this change," he says. "You may not. It's a matter of small gains, which add up to larger gains."
Paige Collins is a Bellingham freelance writer.