Joe Paulsen graduates into a new home, life after stroke

Local News

JOHNSTON — Earlier this summer, Local 5 introduced you to the Paulsen family: Joe, Nicole, and their son, Nate.

Last year, Joe had a bad stroke, and doctors had to remove a golf ball-sized tumor from his brain. For the last eight months, he’s been powering through physical therapy, making slow but steady progress.

His daily battles to regain a more normal life continue to drive the whole Paulsen family as they find strength together.

There’s still a long road ahead of him. However, this week he is celebrating a major milestone, a graduation of sorts, and a move into a new home.

Joe’s occupational therapist Samantha Williams said that he’s come so far from where he used to be.

“It’s crazy. I don’t even know. He’s come so far.”

The little things in life matter now more than ever to Joe.

“It’s been a really emotional road and I’m just grateful for everyone who has donated their time,” Nicole told Local 5.

Joe just finished his eight months of therapy at On With Life.

“It’s kind of overwhelming to think of how far Joe has come since he first got here, and even his journey before he came to On With Life,” Williams said.

Before he gets to enjoy this moment with his family and friends, he has to power through one more speech session.

Since his collapse in November of 2018, these sessions have taught him and his wife how to patient and persevere.

“It was difficult at first, just because we didn’t know why this was happening, why it happened to him and what was going to happen, if we was going survive—and initially, they thought he wouldn’t—to what’s it going to look like in the future.”

On Tuesday, Joe moved into his new apartment. It’s handicap-accessible, which gives him freedom to move around.

There are consistent reminders for Joe: to slow down despite his impulses to do otherwise. When he gets to play video games, or sees his son Nate, it provides that glimmer of hope for their future.

“Although he’s never going to be his old self, but he’ll be more appreciative of how far he’s come and how much he’s improved in the recovery process,” said Nicole.

Nicole knows their journey isn’t one they’ll be able to take alone.

But through the generosity of friends, and even strangers, they’ve gotten things like this new power chair to help him get around better.

“The worries and the doubts still come out but the positivity and the hope outshines that,” said Nicole.

Joe now moves on to his outpatient therapy. The family is still working to raise money to help pay for all of Joe’s medical expenses.

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