How Two Strokes Helped Me Become a Better Man
Sudden illness spurred him to embrace faith and philanthropy
Change is always painful, especially if we are not seeking it. I certainly was not looking to change anything when illness suddenly turned my world upside down and inside out. My life was great. I was blessed with a wonderful loving family, good friends, a flourishing business and good health.
On one beautiful Saturday in May that started like many others, I coached a practice game for my son's baseball team. During the game I became dizzy and lost feeling in my legs. Over the next 48 hours I endured two strokes. I was saved from certain death by an emergency craniectomy, during which a quarter-sized piece of my skull was removed from the back of my head, to stop the pressure building up as blood filled the cavity around my brain.
After the surgery, I spent six weeks in the hospital, much of the time in a medically-induced coma. My hospital stay was followed by two months of intense physical, occupational and speech therapy as I attempted to recover the many skills I had lost.
What changed as a result of those strokes? Everything!
My Personal Relationship to God
My religious beliefs and spiritual practice had always been routine. I attended church on Sundays. The truth, however, was that while I gave Sundays to God, I believed that there was pretty much nothing else I needed from him or that He wanted from me. My attitude was, “God's in charge on Sundays, but I'm in charge the rest of the week.”
That belief changed after the strokes turned me into a helpless, frightened invalid lying in a hospital bed, attached to numerous tubes and medical monitors, unable to move. At that point I realized that Mark Moore was in charge of nothing at all in his life. God was in charge 24/7. It was reinforced when I eventually was able to rise from my bed and found that I couldn’t walk without aid, complete a sentence, remember anything told to me for more than a minute, or even tie my shoes.
Motivation to Heal and Move Forward
I was initially helpless, distraught and depressed over my condition. I didn’t think there was any point in trying to recover. I thought all was lost. Only after I realized that there had to be a reason for me to survive did I resolve to fight back against the disabilities caused by the stroke, to work hard at my rehabilitation and to try to achieve some level of normalcy. Things would never be the same, but neither would I.
Now I could focus on the people and causes I had little time for while I was building a career. Always on the go, I realized how lucky I was to be alive, and I became softer and more patient. Before the strokes, I had to be in control in many ways. For example, when my wife Brenda and I went somewhere together, I always drove our car. After the strokes, I couldn't drive for a long time. Now Brenda was always behind the wheel, and I was just happy to be sitting next to her.
The Meaning of Work in My Life
I am a businessman and a very good one. I’ve run numerous companies, raised millions of dollars for my businesses and enjoyed nothing but success throughout my career. I knew my strengths, worked to the fullest extent of my capabilities and always gave more than was asked of me.
At the time of my strokes, I was working in the telecommunications industry. My business partner and I had built an extremely successful company that sold excellent products and services, provided good jobs to many people and made us all a good deal of money.
I was proud of my achievements, proud of what we created. In the aftermath of my strokes, that attitude did not change. What the strokes changed in a very significant way, however, were my feelings about what to do next, what my future should be.
I had been granted 30 years of wonderful achievement in my working life, and I began to see that it was time for me to help others who had been stricken with illness or had begun life with the deck stacked against them or who needed spiritual guidance.
Of course, I can never know for sure if this is really what God intended, but my belief was strong enough that I decided to act as though it were: My partner and I sold our business, and I created a foundation — the Mark and Brenda Moore Family Foundation.
Through the foundation, we provide significant financial help plus our time and our energy to medical, educational, social, cultural and religious organizations. Today my work is helping to make a difference in the lives of the ill and providing a helping hand to those who begin life with great disadvantages, which fulfills me in ways I never thought possible.
One organization I am very happy to support is Posse Foundation. I came from a rough neighborhood and was the first in my family to go to college. Posse awards full scholarships to universities to young men and women who have great potential, but few resources.
On top of that, these scholars are sent in a group, their own posse, to school together, which is wonderful. The members of each posse rely on each other throughout their four years of study and the Posse Foundation itself provides programs, academic mentors and counselors that help each participant complete his or her education.
My Attitudes Towards Healthy Living
I have always been a healthy and athletic person. My favorite sport was basketball and for years, in fact, right up until the day before my strokes, I participated in a vigorous, two-hour full-court game every week.
My eating habits were very good, but I did have my indulgences: I ate my share of chocolate and drank my share of soda — and I loved my steaks. However, I was so active with basketball, racket sports, softball and my coaching activities, that I never had to worry about my weight and never suspected I was ill.
In my post-stroke life, I am much more careful about what I eat. Because of my craniectomy and the loss of some peripheral vision from the strokes, I’ve had to give up my competitive sports and I have taken up jogging instead.
I love running, and it helps keep me in shape, but the truth is that I am getting a lot less exercise than in the past and burning far fewer calories. Plus, I’ve learned a lot about nutrition during the rehab phase of my recovery. Now I avoid sugary foods, have cut down on meat consumption and eat a lot more fruits, whole grains and green vegetables. And, dare I say it, I feel great. I want to stay healthy because I still have a lot of good work to do and Brenda and I recently experienced the joy of welcoming our first grandchild into the world.
Feel the Winds of Change
My experiences during my illness and recover have convinced me that God is always here, always present with us, if only we are willing to remain aware of Him. Before my strokes, I only dimly noted His presence. But now I try to be completely open to Him. I try to pay attention to what He may be telling me. I’ve learned that sometimes He whispers to get our attention and sometimes He yells and sends storms.
My strokes were a storm, and I like to think that the winds that carried that storm to me represented the winds of change — the opportunity to change the direction of my life and to dedicate my time and energy to a higher purpose than I’d ever aimed for before. What I once thought was the worst day of my life has turned out to be one of the best.