Never late for work, his worried sister found him at home having a stroke

Stroke survivor Andy Thoman. (Photo courtesy of Andy Thoman & Sophia Shock)

In the more than 30 years he worked as a dispatcher for a relative's trucking company, Andy Thoman was never late. So when his sister, Amy Brammer, discovered he hadn't made it to his job, she knew something must be wrong.

"If he was going to be someplace, he would have let me know," she said.

Already on her way to work, Brammer instead drove to Thoman's house near Indianapolis. A cousin met her there. They found his back door open and his dog, Alex, an American Dingo, in the backyard.

Fearing the worst, they entered the house and found the bathroom door closed. When they tried to open it, they realized Thoman was slumped against the other side.

Paramedics arrived within minutes, forcing the door open and loading Thoman into the ambulance. At the hospital, doctors told Brammer her brother was having a hemorrhagic stroke; he needed brain surgery.

This was June 2020. Because of the pandemic, Brammer couldn't go to the hospital. Communication instead was done via videoconferencing.

Seeing Thoman on the screen was tough for Sophia Shock; her dad and Thoman were such close, longtime friends that she considered Thoman her uncle and he considered her a niece.

"He couldn't lift his head or track with his eyes," Shock said.

But when she asked Thoman to blink if he could understand her, he did.

"That was the first real sign of hope," she said.

The stroke's effects soon became clear. Thoman couldn't speak, write or clearly communicate, a condition called aphasia. His motor skills were also affected, and his right side was paralyzed.

Ten days later, Thoman was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. He stayed there for six weeks, engaging in intense speech, physical and occupational therapy.

It paid off. Andy soon stood by himself. Several weeks later, he walked up a flight of stairs.