By Chelsea Karnash
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For Josh Crompton, it all could have ended with “Tiny Dancer.”
That’s the song that was playing when the Iraq vet and CBS 3 nightside assignment manager suffered a massive stroke in the shower this past April. He was only 31.
“I felt what I can only imagine a gunshot feels like,” Crompton says, pointing to the back of his head. He says he tried to step out of the shower but collapsed, before getting up only to collapse again.
Josh remembers his face hitting the floor, breaking his fall. He says couldn’t move his arms. Immediately, he knew it was a stroke.
Luckily, Josh’s iPhone was nearby, and he managed to get to it. Though the phone was passcode locked, he used the emergency feature to call 9-1-1.
“I just kept repeating my address over and over again, because I was scared I was going to lose consciousness…” he says. “Without my iPhone, I’d be dead.”
The last thing Josh remembers is the arrival of the paramedics (“I am buck naked, soaking wet and Elton John is still playing,” he says) and being put on the gurney in the ambulance.
And then…nothing. “The last two weeks of April don’t exist for me.”
When Josh came out from under the prescription drug haze about two weeks later, he was in excruciating pain, suffering from double vision and completely paralyzed on the right side of his body. Doctors at Magee Rehabilitation Center in Center City told him he had indeed suffered a stroke – more specifically, an AVM, or Arteriovenous Malformation, which happens when a tangle of blood vessels in the brain or on its surface bypasses normal brain tissue and directly diverts blood from the arteries to the veins. AVMs occur in less than 1% of the population, and according to the American Stroke Association, they are usually congenital.
With the help of therapists and a hardcore rehab regimen – as well as positivity and determination – Josh was able to regain many of the motor skills he’d lost within months. And on a sunny day in June, he completed the quintessential Philadelphia milestone: climbing the Art Museum’s famous Rocky Stairs.
“I didn’t plan to do it. I started, did a few stairs and thought, ‘Okay, this is pretty easy.’ And in my head, I just decided I was going to go to the top.”
Slowly but surely, he climbed the 72 stairs. Again, Crompton had his iPhone on him, and one of his therapists caught the moment on video. Later, Josh set the footage to – of course – the Rocky theme song, before posting it on YouTube.
“My only regret is that I didn’t raise my arms [like Rocky] at the end,” Crompton laments.
Still, Josh’s life could have ended that day back in April, buck naked on the floor, with “Tiny Dancer” playing in the background. Instead, he was able to celebrate a major step in his post-stroke recovery set to “Rocky,” and in triumph.
“I got back to the hospital later that night and watched the video, and I cried like a baby,” he admits.
In August, Josh returned to work. Though he walks with a cane and is a little bit slower getting from place to place (“You see me limping around here,” he laughs), he says he feels better, mentally, than ever.
And he plans to share his story and use it to inspire other stroke victims. While his YouTube video is one way of doing that, Josh is taking it a step further at next month’s Stars of Stroke Gala to benefit the Delaware Valley Stroke Association, where he’ll being speaking about his experience in front of a captive audience.
And as for the future? Josh hopes to continue to raise stroke awareness, particularly about AVMs, which tend to strike younger people.
“This is not just an old man’s illness, it’s not your grandpa’s illness,” he says. “It could happen to anyone.”
For more on the Stars of Stroke Gala on November 17th, visit: www.phillystroke.org/content/Get_Involved/stars_for_stroke_gala.asp
To read Josh’s story at Stroke.org, visit: www.stroke.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=15563&news_iv_ctrl=4621
You can follow Josh on Twitter @PhillyNewsGuy.