Surviving Stroke and Embracing Life: Otto Feil's Journey of Resilience and Recovery
When Atlanta attorney Otto Feil experienced a stroke in 2018, he underwent a high-risk neurological intervention to ensure survival. Now, Otto has a new lease on life.
Otto Feil was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. After he graduated from Yale College in 1973, he returned to his Georgia roots, attending the University of Georgia Law School, where he became editor-in-chief of Volume 10 of the Georgia Law Review. Otto practiced law until 2018, when his life took an unexpected turn.
On the morning of Monday, April 16, 2018, Otto had a violent coughing fit due to undiagnosed pneumonia and began to experience stroke symptoms. His wife, Clyde, rushed him to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Doctors sent him by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital, where a neurologist examined him.
“I had suffered a massive left-brain stroke,” Otto says. “The doctor gave my wife two options. One was to leave me alone with a major brain injury, which I would probably not survive. Or two, undergo a neurological intervention to restore circulation to my brain, but because of the blood thinners I was treated with, this procedure carried a high risk of causing me to bleed out and die.”
Faced with what seemed like an impossible decision, Clyde chose to give Otto the best chance at survival: surgery. When Otto returned from surgery, his condition seemed bleak. So, his children flew to Atlanta, and a priest joined the family to give Otto his Last Rites.
Fortunately, Otto survived the procedure. As he began to improve, the family started looking into rehabilitation hospitals with a clear choice in mind.
“Shepherd Center was my first choice,” Otto says. “After 10 days in Grady’s Stroke Center, I transferred to Shepherd Center.”
With his sense of humor and optimism intact and Clyde by his side, Otto began his recovery process, spending just over two months in Shepherd Center’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program.
“I went through physical, occupational, and speech therapy every day,” Otto says. “My progress was impeded by severe nerve pain resulting from the stroke. I didn’t know strokes came with nerve pain, but boy howdy, they can!” Otto’s pain finally resolved seven months after his stroke.
Otto graduated from inpatient rehabilitation and progressed to Shepherd Pathways, Shepherd Center’s comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation program for people recovering from brain injury. He also began participating in Georgia State's Aphasia Choir, where he connected with other stroke survivors.
From near death and complete dependence, Otto has made remarkable progress. Today, five years after his stroke, he can walk with a cane, perform daily tasks independently, and he continues to work on his speech. Although he is doing well, Otto participates in therapy programs to improve as much as possible.
“My progress has been the result of skilled help and prayers,” Otto explains. “I can honestly say the past five years have been the best years of my life. I got to quit practicing law, and my faith in God has deepened. Also, my wife never asks me to do the dishes.”
Written by Lindsey Rieben
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Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.