Man Returns to a Life Full of Outdoor Activities After Stroke
Stroke rehabilitation and family training help Mark Dixon and his fiancee return to active life.
If you ever find yourself in “Lower” Alabama trying to track down Mark Dixon, 71, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. He and his fiancée Charlotte are as likely to be across the Chattahoochee River tending to Charlotte’s horses, baling hay or harvesting pecans. Or they could be out planting new rows of Brussels sprouts, onions or broccoli in their garden. Or Mark might be on one of his mile-and-a-half walks, or chopping through his daily karate routine.
If you do track him down, look twice to make sure you’ve got the right guy. Mark’s passion is colonial-era and Native American history, and you’ll often find him taking part in historical reenactments. Ask for Mark at one of those events and someone might point you to a colonial townsperson shearing sheep or to a Muscogee Creek elder throwing a spear.
It’s a full life that didn’t seem likely in the weeks after his stroke in 2008, when doctors worked to save his life at Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville, Georgia. But his family held to the biblical promise that, “with God, all things are possible.”
Eventually, Mark improved enough to enter Shepherd Center’s Stroke Rehabilitation Program. While he worked on his long-term physical and mental rehabilitation, Charlotte regularly attended caregiver meetings at Shepherd Center.
“She’d come back from those with so many ideas,” Mark says. “And she made sure I took them all back home – how to keep exercising, eating well, keeping my mind sharp.”
Today, Mark stimulates his brain by trying his hand at writing short stories and historical fiction. One of his first works was an essay about how he and Charlotte met at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture – where he was the assistant curator when she first visited.
A year after their initial meeting, Mark writes: “We were working the Folklife Festival [at the Museum]. I was shearing sheep, and she was dying wool. At lunch, we had a meal cooked over a wood stove…. I had finally found my pioneer woman.”
“I love the story, but I don’t know about that title,” Charlotte says teasingly. “I think he’s just saying I walk around with stringy hair and dirt on my face!”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.