Ted W. Baxter discusses his stroke, aphasia, and his new book “Relentless: How A Massive Stroke Changed My Life For the Better” (July 24, 2018 – Greenleaf Book Group Press).
Ted lives in Newport Beach, California since January 2010. He was born and grew up in New York. He attended an Executive MBA program, 2 years, at Wharton to get his MBA concentrating on finance and strategy. After spending 22 years in the financial industry, he is retired as a global CFO with a large hedge investment firm based in Chicago. Prior to that, Ted was a managing director for a global investment bank and he was a Price Waterhouse partner and a consultant concentrated on banks and securities, risk management, financial products, and strategic planning. Internationally, he spent 8 years working and living in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Ted now volunteers at 2 hospitals in Orange County, leading groups in a stroke-related communication recovery program, and is a member of the Board of Directors at the American Heart and Stroke Association.
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for
joining us once again. I’m going to have a brief conversation today with Mr. Ted Baxter. He’s joining us on the program to talk about his massive stroke, surviving that stroke and to talk about his new book ‘Relentless: How a Massive Stroke changed my Life for the Better.’ Welcome to the program Ted.
Ted Baxter: Thank you very much for having me on your show.
Neal: Well as I said, you suffered a massive stroke and it’s not like you’re an old guy and have any reason to have such a thing. Talk a little bit about your background and tell us how the stroke happened.
Ted: Yes. Well I was a global managing director at a premier hedge fund and investment Institution, the institution is called Citadel Investment Group based in Chicago. I had such a huge job, busy to the max every day, traveling the world for my job and it was a lot of but it was a lot of pressure and all the stress with it and that was the beginning of the end. You know what I mean?
Neal: But basically you’re living a good successful life, just like you say traveling internationally for a great job and you’re only 41 years of age at the time you had this stroke? What were you doing when it happened?
Ted: It was surreal. It was on a Thursday night on April 21st 2005 when I came home from the airport I was wondering whether whether the firm which I worked was profitable that day and what I was going to tell my boss and CEO and then in the next minute I was fighting for my life to see whether I’ll be alive the next morning or not so it was really a shocking tragedy. That particular day, it was a typical workday and busy. I worked out at a hotel gym in London at 6:00 a.m. and I went to work and finished my day in London by 2:00 p.m. in time to catch a flight back to O’Hare in Chicago. It was just after 8 p.m. Central time watching TV and a commercial was on the TV, my wife asked me a question, I couldn’t answer and she repeatedly asked the question like five or six times she asked the same question, I couldn’t respond. And she suddenly became concerned so at that moment, unaware by all within this incident I lost control of language, I lost of power of speech and I lost the power of comprehending. If you have seen my expression of my space, it signifies a panic and then this was me as I was saying about this and nobody else would know because they couldn’t. It was pretty bad.
Neal: In looking back, there were absolutely no warning signs, no symptoms, it just hit you just like that?
Ted: No. This is the thing, the travelling was the big thing that I got used to when I took a lot of plane flights due to my job. You’re supposed to wear compression socks on the plane which I always wore them. My health was great, I exercised almost everyday, low cholesterol, didn’t smoke, I only drank modestly. My stroke situation was due to things like stress and pressure that were related to my job.
Neal: In your book Relentless: How Massive Stroke Changed my Life for the Better, on page 44 you talk about a condition called aphasia. What is that condition and why in the book do you describe how surprised you are that not a lot of people know what it is?
Ted: This is the thing, I have aphasia which which usually comes with having a stroke or a head injury. It’s an impediment of language so sometimes I need a little more time to process sentences and/or finding the right words but when I had the stroke, I had full-on aphasia or global aphasia which is what the pathologists use as a proper term. Since then, this was thirteen years ago I worked my tail off to improve myself. I’m still practicing on this and this is all about language, how you get better to communicate with people whether it’s speaking or writing, I couldn’t the first time you know, you just lost that. So that’s what aphasia is.
Neal: Now you mentioned that not only could you not answer your wife, the loss of the power of speech but you were having difficulty comprehending what people are saying or your physical environment. And now that you’re much better, which came back first the comprehension or the speech? How did it begin to get better for you?
Ted: Yeah, the first thing that came back was comprehension. So I could see if somebody is saying the word of like a shocking tragedy. I know the guy so I could express that but I couldn’t say those words so what the first that came back was comprehension. Second was my speaking with the same time with my writing. So my writing got better, it could be the month one, and month two they’ve switched so month two my speaking got better and my writing just hangs out. It was like they were always in concert with each other.
Neal: As you were traveling around and living your life, the little everyday activities not to mention speech and comprehension being huge huge and the ability to write – what about some of the other little tasks that we all take for granted? How were those affected?
Ted: Yes. Like the things like going into Starbucks and order a latte, that took me like two years to practice that. I can only go into Starbucks and get a latte. I couldn’t get like a nonfat, a mocha latte, I couldn’t do that. So now I can do it but at that point, that was the worst. And then the other thing that really bothers me, I couldn’t walk my dog without avoiding talking with people. When you just had a stroke or just have aphasia, you’re trying to get yourself better. So to have that dog, you walk him down the street, you don’t want to talk to more people because then it’s going to a big big problem for you. Those are two things that just sticks in my head.
Neal: So Starbucks was a problem before you got better, walking the dog and trying to avoid discussions and encounters with people just walking your dog. What about with close friends and family, how were they affected and how did they give you support?
Ted: Well the fact that I have a wife and that she was with me when this journey started and right now and she of course she’s not my wife now but whatever at that point, it was a special bond that we created and this is not like I’m talking about it, it was like a magical relationship that we have. And she was the one person that truly gets me, supported me and she stayed by my side until I could understand 75% of a conversation, I can talk so that was fantastic for me. I’ve have different flavors of my family because they didn’t live with us. At that point I lived in Chicago and they lived in New York so some of them, yeah, they get it and they knew that they were going to see me and they wouldn’t know what happened to me. They knew it was a stroke but they didn’t know that the word the term of aphasia so they had to do some of that research before they approached me so that was a problem. But my friends, my true true friends were there. I mean they knew in a minute that whether aphasia was a big problem for me or not, it doesn’t matter. They knew they had to be there just to support me.
Neal: Now in your book Relentless: How a Massive Stroke Changed my Life for the Better just released July the 24th of this year Greenleaf Book Group Press, you have little paragraph, little sections with some of these people’s names when they talk about how they were interacting with you during this time. What did the doctors tell you after your stroke, what kind of prognosis did they give you?
Ted: Well now this moment I wasn’t comprehending any information at all because I was out of it, right. But second my now ex-wife told me what some of the doctors told her so it’s something like the situation was gray that if I lived thru that night, the first night, I would probably need a caregiver and a full-time nurse to support me with my physical and other disabilities. Next regarding my speech, the doctors said that I would have probably a two-year window to try to gain my speech back using therapist, trainings blah blah blah, but after that I will have plateaued. That’s all the words I needed, right? You’re talking about getting a guy, to live my life to the goal…
Neal: Julia Fox Garrison, she’s a speaker and an author of another book, she says that your book is a heartfelt lesson in perseverance, triumph and transformation. Let’s talk about this transformation and how you are helping other people through this book and maybe some other means to deal with something similar to your experience.
Ted: What I’m doing nowadays, I go to hospitals and I go to the health institutions here and I’m living here in Newport Beach, California so what I do is I volunteer myself to talk to hospitals and they formed a stroke survivor group called the Communication Recovery Group. They usually get together once every week and I act as a therapist to give the stroke survivors some therapy. I give them some some tips and techniques and then I teach them pretty much like an undergrad or master’s students some tips and techniques of how to approach the session with a stroke survivor because they don’t have a clue to use that but I bring a totally different perspective for their education and also I get the gratitude from giving it back to the survivors of aphasia.
Neal: And that greatly helps the healing process I’m sure as your healing process continues.
Neal: Well where can our listeners get a copy of your book and possibly go online and learn more about you?
Ted: I think what you could do is reading my memoir, you can use your own life experiences to
teach an important lesson but you can go towards my website which is www.tedwbaxter.com or if you want if you want to go towards Ted W Baxter at facebook.com and nowadays if you get an Instagram account so I also have that which is called Teddy Baxter Author.
Neal: Well it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today Ted and I wish you even more success than you’re already receiving. Thank you so much for joining us on the program today.
Ted: Okay, thank you very much Neal.
Neal: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of the show are available at hpr.fm and at healthprofessionalradio.com.au You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud and be sure and visit our Affiliate Page at hpr.fm