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A Stroke of Luck

How a neighborhood came together, and friendships bloomed.

Event details:

Maxine:  Our neighbor Dennis is quite a guy – successful entrepreneur, an accomplished horseman, and a terrific gardener. He and Linda were the ninth buyers at Haverford Reserve. Bob and I were the eighth. We met soon after, and have been dear friends since.

One day, Linda called to say that Dennis had passed out at the gym, and was suffering from headaches. Bob, a physician, went right over. Dennis was throwing up and falling down. At Bryn Mawr hospital, they discovered a broken artery in his brain, and sent him to Jeff for surgery. When we visited Dennis at the hospital, he was barely functioning. 

Dennis:   I basically spent two months in a crib, stuffed with needles and tubes, staring at the ceiling. My beautiful wife would come in every day and lie next to me. She was so wonderful. I wasn’t always as kind to her as I wish I had been. But she shook it off and forgave me.

Linda:      After two brain surgeries and three months in the hospital, Dennis had lost 80 pounds. He had always been a serious athlete. Now his legs were so spindly, he could hardly stand. 

Maxine:   Word spread quickly throughout Haverford Reserve that Dennis was recovering from a stroke, I can’t even name all of the neighbors who came by to support him. But he wasn’t ready. Dennis has little recollection of those days, thank God, because he was so ill. 

Dennis:   I was so weak when I got home. Having our first-floor master suite was a godsend. Had we been in our previous home with those long stairways and hallways, I can’t even imagine. 

Linda:      Neighbors would drop by the house every day and ask “Does Dennis want to go for a walk?” And I'd say, “No thank you, not today.” They kept coming back and offering help until he was strong enough to begin his recovery.

Maxine:   The neighbors took Dennis for walks...brought him food...sat and talked with him. 

Dennis:   Bruce would drive me to the Rec Center and we'd walk the track together. 

Maxine:   Some of us were always there. It felt like one big family.

Dennis:   I remember waking up on several occasions, and there were 4 doctors around my bed discussing my case. They were all my neighbors! I felt so fortunate to have such incredible friends. Bruce even sat down with my checkbook and paid my bills for me. 

Linda:    After a few months, Dennis was able to start building himself up. Luckily, he found a great trainer. 

Dennis:  Yeah, Chris Fiddler. Picture a man recovering from a stroke being helped by a trainer recovering from cancer. 

Linda:    I think you helped each other.

Dennis:  Today I’m back to 215 pounds – a powerful 69 year old with a 33 inch waist who can bench press 225. 

Maxine:  But wait... I haven’t told you the best part. One afternoon, I came home and said to Bob, “Did you see all those flowers on our lawn? I don’t think we had those flowers in our yard. I never planted them.” 

Bob says, “You must have. You just forgot.” 

“I know what I planted," I said, "and I didn’t plant that huge row of flowers around my flowerbed.” 

“Maybe the Reserve’s landscapers did it,” he replied. But that didn’t sound right; they would have told me.

About a month later, completely by chance, we discovered that Dennis – without a word to anyone – had planted row after row of perennials at the homes of the people who helped him.

Dennis: I wanted tothank everyone who'd been so kind to me. Flowers seemed like a way to give back to the entire community. I chose black eyed susans, the flower they use at the Kentucky Derby. I started with one yard, then 3 yards, then 6 yards –

Maxine:  And he never told a soul. 

Dennis:  It wasn’t exactly secret. Some people saw me planting flowers in their gardens. A couple of them were like “What are you doing?!!” Then, as other neighbors heard about it, they felt left out. So I had to plant more. (He laughs.)

Maxine:  So, how did I find out? One day Dennis and I were chatting and I asked, “Did you guys get flowers too?” When he said “No," I started wondering out loud why only certain people got them. Seeing my consternation, he finally confessed. What a guy. And now, he's teaching handicapped kids to ride horses.

Dennis:  I rode with Radnor Hunt for 30 years. I loved riding though the woods. Maybe that’s one reason we live in a nature reserve. Now I volunteer at an Equestrian Center. When you see kids who spend their days in wheelchairs sitting seven feet tall and controlling a large animal, and you see the look on their faces, you just know that giving back is the most important thing.

Linda:    I’m grateful to live in such a good-hearted community. I couldn't ask for more wonderful neighbors. And since we’re all relatively new, it’s easy to make friends. 

Dennis:  When I walk through the neighborhood now, I see even more black-eyed susans. They keep growing…like our friendships.

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