Lots of people in Berkshire County know Al Gelinas. For more than twenty years, he's been selling real estate, the last ten as owner and operator of Re/Max Integrity Realtors in Pittsfield. But fewer folks know that on January 8, 2006 he had a stroke.
That Sunday afternoon he was watching an NFL playoff game. "It was Pittsburgh and somebody," he remembers. He felt a strange clunk on his right thigh. "I looked down and realized it was my left arm. Almost simultaneously my wife appeared and saw the left side of my face was drooping. She called the ambulance."
He had known something was up because the previous Thursday he had felt a tingling sensation in his arm. On Cape Cod at the time for a real estate conference, he had gone to the emergency room at the local hospital. There, after a CT scan identified no clots or bleeding, the doctor told him he probably had had a TIA or transient ischemic attack. "A warning sign," the ER doctor told him. "You should make an appointment with your doc back home." Gelinas did so for the following week - but the stroke happened first.
Today, the fifty-four year old Gelinas tells the story in the same energetic and gregarious manner for which he has long been known. "At BMC, they found I had a one-hundred percent occlusion of my right carotid artery." A clot-buster drug called t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) was administered. He spent three days in the ICU and several more in the stroke unit.
"By the following Monday I was in rehab. First day they took me in a wheelchair to the gym. They helped me up to the walker. It looked like paraphernalia for an 80 year old. My first determination was, ‘I'm not leaving this hospital with a walker.' Within eight days I was walking with a cane."
"The physical, occupational, and speech therapists were great. I'm still recovering now, and I have pain in my leg and shoulder where I had the stroke. But if it wasn't for that, I'd consider myself all the way back. My experience at BMC from the time the ambulance took me there was great. They were very compassionate with my wife, too. Those folks were fabulous - they helped me walk again. They're heroes."
Pittsfield born and bred, Gelinas and his wife have seven children, including two married daughters and three grandchildren.