It seemed like just another evening. Christine prepared the food outside in the cool weather as her husband John kept up a light conversation. Everything was normal – pleasant and calm. It would be only moments later on that day, Dec. 4, 2012, that their lives would take a sudden abrupt turn – not for better, but for worse.

“I was just out cooking and barbequing steaks – I remember that,” said Christine. “Then he (John) said ‘Oh I don’t know what’s on…what’s wrong with me?’ I went inside and saw him fall on the couch.”

Christine wasted no time in running to the phone and dialing 911. Her initial thought was that her 56-year-old husband was having a heart attack, but that diagnosis soon changed once she saw the left side of John’s face droop.

“I’ve been an RN for 23 years,” said Christine. “When I saw his face droop I knew that he was having a stroke and told the dispatcher.”

Christine was right. John had just experienced an ischemic stroke, where a blood clot formed and caused little oxygen to get to the brain.

The stroke occurred on the right side of John’s brain where doctors later examined and found a malformed vertebral artery that they think he may have had since birth. Due to that malformed artery, doctors were not able to fix it and told John he should not be surprised if he had another stroke.

“The artery is enlarged so the blood moves slower through and has a higher chance of clotting up,” said John. “It’s the worse place to have one because it could affect so many other things. It’s a terrible thing.”

John stayed in the hospital for a short period of time after his stroke until going through therapy. Each day required an additional amount of effort and determination to build the muscles that had been affected by the stroke. It paid off. Three weeks later John was off of his walker and independently walking.

With a successful recovery, John made his way back into the work force.

He had previously worked as a semi-truck driver and although he was safe to be on the road again, he didn’t want to go back to driving full-time. Instead, John landed an unexpected job at Marco’s Pizza, under the management of Jack Ziegler.

John went to have a meal at Marco’s Pizza, and had hopes of possibly getting a job while there.

Ziegler gave him the job on the spot.

“After the stroke, it limited me to what I could do,” John said. “There was another pizza place that I could have gone to but I’d have to do everything like spinning the dough and making the pizza, which I couldn’t do. Here, I could just deliver the pizza.”

John soon realized how fortunate he would be to have his job at Marco’s Pizza. On Sept. 1, John had his second stroke. It was in the same place, but it happened while he was alone at home.

“This time I knew what was going on,” said John. “I was sleeping this time and I remember I woke up and the ceiling fan was on the floor spinning around - it was very disorienting.”

Miraculously, John was able to get out of bed and call for help. Christine was in Wisconsin, where they had previously lived, and took an emergency flight home.

John looks back on this time and is thankful he took the job at Marco’s Pizza, and was thankful he had Jack as a manager.

“He drove to the airport and picked her up,” said John about Jack. “He’s just always been there to help and has been very nice to us. He’s been very patient and he still told my wife that I’d have a job once I recover.”

Christine echoes her husband’s appreciation and thankfulness for Jack’s help.

“He has become a friend to both of us. He helped with the roof too and changed the shower head.”

For Jack, helping others was instilled in him at a young age and something he doesn’t think needs to be praised for.

“Helping him – it’s just not a big deal,” Jack said. “I grew up with a dad that had polio so he was in his wheelchair all the time and so I helped him. He (John) is a nice guy and everything. When he’s fully recovered and comes back he has a job here.”

Having a job when he recovers motivates John each day he goes to therapy. He is hoping that he will soon be back at Marco’s Pizza making his daily routes of delivery.

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