‘Do not quit’
A stroke in August of 2014, left Todd Russell unable to speak. Now, just three years later, Russell and his wife, Kathy, were guest speakers for the 16th Annual Timber Creek Charities Golf Tournament, dinner and auction fundraiser.
“There’s a lot of angels in my life, and there’s a lot of angels in this room,” Russell said, looking around the room at the Lake Panorama National Conference Center in Panora on Saturday evening.
The Russells, who reside in Anita, had been visiting a friend’s son at a hospital in Grand Island, Nebraska when the stroke occurred. After making a trip to the grocery store, Kathy Russell returned to the hotel to find her husband on the floor, unable to speak or move.
“As I was coming back from Hy-Vee, I stopped at the stoplight, and I could either make a right and go to the hospital, or I could make a left and go back to the hotel,” she explained. “For some reason, an angel or God or somebody said to me, ‘go back to the hotel.’ ”
Kathy said if they hadn’t been visiting their friend’s son in the hospital, her husband, who is a farmer, probably would have had the stroke in a field or a pasture. If this had been the case, she would not have found him for several hours, and he most likely would have been unrecoverable.
Because the Russells were only five blocks from a hospital, Todd Russell was able to receive a TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator) injection within two hours of his stroke.
Once her husband was released from the hospital, fear set in for Kathy Russell. She was unsure of what to do with her husband, where to take him for therapy and how to protect him. A friend who had been temporarily living with the Russells recommended them to Cindy McCarty at Timber Creek.
“The first time we got there, I knew it was the spot for Todd,” said Kathy Russell. “He hates cities. He could go to therapy in his farm clothes, and Cindy focused on words that actually meant something to him.”
“My first appointment was almost three weeks after the stroke,” Todd Russell said. “I didn’t know my name. This (was) the feeling of (hopelessness). I (didn’t) even know my own name.”
For several weeks, Russell carried around a white board to communicate by drawing pictures and trying to spell words.
“I (was) 43 years old, and I couldn’t say the alphabet,” Russell said.
For the first six months of therapy, concentrating made Russell extremely tired, but he kept pushing through.
One day, he received a call from Deb Brown asking him to help her coach high school girls track and field at CAM Anita. At first, he declined, but Brown persisted. After much convincing from his wife, Russell agreed. Now, Russell coaches high school boys track and field in the spring.
“Every day is speech therapy for me,” he said. “The kids help me a lot every day. They have a lot of patience.”
After watching one of his kids quit a race before the finish line, Russell realized how important it is to keep trying. He said often, the difference between sixth and seventh place is only a fraction of a second. He realized that this small of a number can often be the difference between giving up and pushing forward.
“Do not quit in your life,” he said.
Todd Russell is just one of the many patients who has benefited from Timber Creek Charities and Therapies.
In 2015, Timber Creek Charities was able to provide services to an additional 110 individuals who did not have the resources to cover therapy expenses on their own. The funds from this year’s golf tournament will help Timber Creek achieve similar goals in 2017.
The annual golf tournament is the single largest fundraiser for Timber Creek. The event includes an 18-hole golf tournament, a dinner, a silent auction and a live auction. Each year, the live auction alone raises approximately $20,000. High bidding items this year included two jars of Cindy McCarty’s salsa, which sold for $1,000 each, and two dinners for 10 people cooked by McCarty, which raised $1,600 and $1,500 respectively. All items for the auction are donated by community members.
In recent years, the golf tournament, dinner and auction have raised approximately $50,000 a year. Other funding for Timber Creek comes from foundation donations and grants, individual donations, corporate donations and memorial gifts.
“My heart is full of gratitude for each and every one of you,” McCarty said. “You have given so beautifully of yourselves to help those who need a helping hand. Bless you all.”