Help Defray Captain Kirk's Stroke Recovery

For: Captain Kirk
Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Organizer: Heidi & Kirk Hackler
$6,570
of $12,000 goal.
Raised by 66 donors
54% Complete
Donate Now

The Story

As you may know, we left Seattle 18-months ago on our world-sailing adventures and recently stopped in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for Captain Kirk Hackler to have minor hernia repair. Then just as Kirk was recovering nicely from that surgery and we were making plans to sail south, he suffered a totally unrelated stroke on Valentines Day eve.

Happy Valentines Day... He spent Valentines Day in the ER and ICU getting CT Scans, MRIs, and being hooked up to a Holter (heart) monitor to determine the cause and severity of his stroke. Appropriate for Valentines Day, it turns out his stroke was caused by an underlying, undiagnosed heart condition! THANKFULLY Captain Kirk is going to make a full recovery with few if any lasting effects. (You can read more about his particular type of stroke and prognosis below.)

How You can HELP... We are reaching out to our friends and family who have SO generously offered your love and support throughout this whole ordeal. Many of you have asked what you can do to help, and how you can make a donation to help with Kirk's recovery. Since Mexican hospitals and doctors don't bill US insurance directly, we've had to pay over $12,000 in medical bills and housing (that would allow our cats.) It's important to keep our family together as Kirk recovers. His biggest post-stroke issues have been coordination in his right arm, and dizziness and vertigo which all need to be resolved before we can move back onboard our sailboat. Though the medical costs here are far less than in the US, we've had to pay everything out-of-pocket, which is tough for these cruisers-on-a-budget. And while we hope to be reimbursed by his US insurance for some of it, we know of one woman still waiting on reimbursement a year later...

So we've set up this page for those of you who would like to make a contribution. Any money we receive beyond Kirk's immediate medical expenses will be donated to the National Stroke Association for stroke research. We GREATLY APPRECIATE any amount you can donate, big or small. And anyone who donates $50 or more will receive a hand written thank you note from the Captain himself, wobbly as it might be. :-)

Giving THANKS! Thankfully Puerto Vallarta has excellent medical facilities with many bilingual doctors and staff, which helped supplement our mediocre Spanish. It's very daunting to have a major medical issue in a foreign country where you're not fluent in the language, and don't fully understand what's going on. But we were confident we were getting very good care. We especially appreciate the counsel of our sailing friend Jill, an ER Stroke nurse in Seattle who had so much info to share, our friends Pat & Karyn (who sailed with us to Hawaii 20 years ago!), who are doctors in the cardio thoracic field and were readily available by phone to help us understand Kirk's heart condition and make some major, time sensitive decisions, and another sailing friend Suzie, a long-time pacemaker wearer herself, for lots of info on what to expect post-pacemaker. Happily we've heard from family and friends with pacemakers that having one has changed everyone's lives for the better. We can't say enough good things about the cruising/sailing community in Banderas Bay who rallied around, helping to take care of our boat, our cats, make us food and provide rides while everything was so topsy-turvy that first week. We're grateful for the synchronicity through friends-of-friends that enabled us to find the perfect living space near doctors and hospital. And we extend a BIG THANKS for all the love and healing energy so many of you have been sending our way, it's truly helping! The Captain is recovering more and more each day thanks to each and every one of you! And many THANKS to our family members coming to visit and help out.

More about Kirk's Rare Stroke... If you know Captain Kirk, you know he's one-in-a-million! (The photo above is Kirk being wheeled into surgery for his pacemaker, even post-stroke/pre-surgery he's shining his LIGHT on everyone!) So it's only natural that his particular type of stroke is very rare too, occurring in only 2-3% of all stroke patients. A Cerebellar Infarction Stroke (a blood clot in the cerebellum area at the back of the head near the brain stem) also has totally different warning signs and symptoms than most people are familiar with as a stroke, so unfortunately we didn't recognize it was a stroke until almost 7 hours after, too late to receive the TPA drug.

After 48hours of monitoring in ICU, we were told that Kirk has several previously undiagnosed heart conditions: atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, and too low heart rate at night, dropping as low as 25bpm. The A-fib likely caused the initial clot to form in the heart which then traveled to his brain. He was extremely lucky. Because the symptoms of this type of stroke mimic the flu: dizziness, vertigo, vomiting, and lack of coordination, it's often miss-diagnosed and has a higher mortality rate than other types of strokes. To resolve the heart issues he had to have a pacemaker installed to keep his heart rate from dropping too low, and then take medication prevent the A-fib and flutter. This has been a pretty trying experience for someone like Kirk who's always been very healthy and active, vegetarian, practicer of yoga & meditation, and alternative medicine...to suddenly have another surgery, and now take daily medication (actually 4x a day!) But Kirk has embraced it as something that just has to be done in order to recover fully, and he's well on the mend.

Luckily the stroke did NOT effect his speech, memory, or facial characteristics, nor cause any paralysis. It did effect muscle coordination in his right side, large motor movements like walking and using his right arm, as well as balance, dizziness, and vertigo. With daily PT exercises, he's now walking well and practicing writing again. He needs to build up strength in the right side of his body, and we're still working on resolving his dizziness and vertigo which we're hopeful will diminish very soon.

Know the Signs of this rare form of Stroke... As we mentioned, a Cerebellar Infarction Stroke does NOT have the classic stroke symptoms going around on email and Facebook these days, therefore we missed that it was actually a stroke for almost 7 hours. Though this rare stroke only affects 2-3% of all stroke patients, if it happens to you or a loved one you'll want to know these symptoms.

We actually thought he had a stomach virus that was going around the marina. His symptoms were sudden dizziness/vertigo, extreme vomiting, and uncoordinated wobbly-legs (that part seemed more stroke-like to me, but he had no other "stroke-like symptoms.") Even a few hours into it when I thought it might be a stroke, I asked him if he could raise his arms above his head, smile, and answer questions, and he did everything just fine with no slurred speech...so we weren't really sure. It wasn't until he tried to take a drink of water and smashed the glass into his face instead of finding his mouth that we really knew something wasn't right.

Because we'd been having happy hour cocktails with friends in our cockpit at the time the stroke occurred, sadly I actually asked him if he were drunk when he stumbled down the stairs and threw up! I didn't really think he had had too much to drink, but his actions were exactly like a drunken sailor. So if you're ever with someone who suddenly exhibits signs of being a drunken sailor when you're pretty sure they are NOT, get them to the ER right away. It may be a Cerebellar Infarction Stroke.

Thanks in advance for any donation you care to make. We truly appreciate all the love and support.

~ Captain Kirk & Heidi Hackler

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on May 27, 2017

Posted on May 27, 2017

It's been three months since Kirk's stroke, and his recovery is going very well. He's now practicing yoga 3-4 times a week. Some days he still gets light-headed and has to take it easy. He's still taking 2-hr. naps every afternoon which help with the light-headedness. And he's still diligently doing his Physical Therapy weight lifting, balancing, stretching, abs, and walking about 4-6 miles a day! Heidi is SO impressed. Overall he is doing great, but still has some weakness and numbness in his right arm and right pinky and ring finger, and random lightheadedness. It's all part of the evolution to re-program the brain, and thankfully he's better and better each week. But he's been able to work on the boat again with the help of friends, so that feels GREAT!

Posted on April 7, 2017

Posted on April 7, 2017

Captain Kirk is making great improvements post-stroke, and has started Tai Chi classes to help regain his balance. Check out our new blog post for more info on his recovery. And MANY MANY thanks to all of you who've contributed to his medical funds. We're 1/2-way there! 

Posted on March 20, 2017

Posted on March 20, 2017

Latest Update on Captain America, a.k.a. Captain Kirk! ~ March 19... Kirk continues to improve each day, and the LOVE, well wishes and support from all of you is helping him so much, along with lots of visits from family, and the Mexican Sunshine! Many thanks again for the generous donations to Kirk's medical expenses. Thanks to you we are 1/3 of the way towards our goal!

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