JOHNSTON —It’s been a tough nine months for Joe Paulsen and his family. But after defying all the odds, Joe is getting better every day.
In late 2018, Joe suffered a severe stroke that left him in a coma. Doctors thought he would never come out of it. Nine months later, he continues to work to make things as normal as they can be.
“Within the last nine months, there’s just been a lot of great things happening and we’re just excited for the next year,” said Nicole Paulsen, Joe’s wife.
Since the fall, Joe’s family has caught in a constant whirlwind.
“It’s a full-time job and the reward in the end is what really, really matters,” said Nicole.
In late 2018, Joe had a stroke and ended up in a coma. Doctors thought he was never going to come out of it.
“I came to the hospital and we all just cried,” said Justin Paulsen, Joe’s younger brother. “It was a terrible moment.”
“I was kind of just floating through life in the ICU, and trying to get through each day,” said Kari Paulsen, Joe’s mother.
“He was not supposed to be here,” said Phyllis Allen-Morris, Joe’s mother-in-law. “He’s a miracle as far as I’m concerned.”
Joe’s been strengthening his body and rebuilding his bond with his son Nate.
“Joe is still Joe and the best medicine for him is just to treat him like we would before,” said Nicole.
Since we saw him earlier this summer, Joe’s become a bit more independent for things that were too tough to do, like feeding himself.
“We still have to supervise, but i’m hoping that as long as he continues his speech and strengthens his soft palette, that will improve,” said Nicole.
But when they think of what nearly happened, it helps recenter them on the task ahead.
“It was kind of like why us, but I believe that God has a plan and we’re going to find that plan out eventually,” said Kari Paulsen. “Joe’s been such an inspiration with all the progress he’s made. We call him our miracle man, because of all he’s been able to do.”
As they’re getting ready to watch the Hawkeyes as a family, you can see Joe’s confidence growing, especially when he’s with Nate.
“I’m just elated to see them reconnect, and they’re playing together and having a lot of fun.”
But through every day, and every progression, there is a simple reminder of what could have happened.
“I truly, I lost my brother and now he’s here,” said Justin Paulsen.
And there’s that glimmer of hope that Joe as they knew him is closer than they imagine.
“I know how to say, I know I can do it,” said Joe.
Joe still has a couple of benign brain tumors that he will have to get rid of, but doctors are looking to remove those after he finishes another six months of therapy.