• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

After a serious stroke, Toastmaster has comeback

AL EDINGTON, right, who suffered a severe stroke in December of 2014, shook hands with Midway Toastmaster Dr. Mark Roozen after his comeback speech Monday night. Edington told fellow members that when you get knocked down, you can't stay down. (Photo by John McGary)

Nearly 20 months after a stroke nearly killed him but instead robbed him of his ability to move the right side of his body and speak clearly, Al Edington made his comeback Monday night. The Midway native walked slowly but surely into a classroom at Midway University's Anne Hart Raymond Center to deliver his first post-stroke speech, slowly but clearly, to the Midway Toastmasters. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide to help members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Edington was a long-time member of the Lexington branch, and joined the Midway Toastmasters as what he calls an "associate member" after he became unable to travel to Lexington. He spoke with The Sun a few days before his Midway speech. "I've always been a storyteller, and because of my stroke, my voice has not been strong enough to tell stories, and now I get a chance to do that again, and that's something I love," said Edington, 57. "This is a really big moment for me." Edington first spoke with The Sun last September, describing his stroke and the months of grueling rehabilitation at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center. After he was released, he continued outpatient therapy there, taking exercises home with him. Last week, he said he'd made a lot of progress since then. "I'm walking better. Obviously, I'm talking better, but it's a continual process. You can't just get somewhere and stop. You've got to keep going," he said. Edington's topic Monday was something he'd studied at length - sometimes, painfully so - since his stroke. "I'm going to talk, first, about my love of storytelling and making presentations. Then I'll build into the stroke and the ramifications of that, and what I hope to learn from that, to be able to take and go help other people," Edington said. "I'm gonna talk about how when you get knocked down, you can't stay down." He delivered the speech, without a microphone, to about a dozen people, with the advice of his twin 10-year-old daughters in mind: "Just make it a good story and have a good time," Edington said. Shortly after his stroke, he'd struggled to tell them what had happened, and what would become of him. "At first they were very concerned. 'Are you going to be okay? Are you going to recover? You're not going to die, are you?'" Edington said. "After awhile, I explained to them that a stroke is like a storm in the mind - a big, severe storm. And after they figured out I was going to be okay, they're okay with it now." He hopes his story offers inspiration to others who've suffered brain trauma and his fellow Toastmasters, for whom his final words Monday night were: "I have a story to tell, and it simply must be told. And, no, no, no! This story's not over with yet." "As a long time Toastmaster, Al Edington has mentored many people, but today he became an inspiration," said Midway Toastmaster Sheri Wood. "As he first began to speak he seemed a little nervous, but the longer he spoke the more comfortable he became. The passion he's always had for helping others was clearly still very much a part of his delivery." "I would like to say that just because you've had a life-changing event, does not have to mean that you've got to change everything about your life. Pick yourself up, work hard and you can return to a relatively normal life," Edington said. Edington recently moved from his father's home in Midway to Margaret Hall Manor in Versailles, and said he hopes to work again soon. Before his stroke, he'd been a manager of a Lexington transportation company. Last September, he described himself as "a speaker who couldn't speak," and while he's still not able to do everything he'd like to, Edington quotes a Beatles song to describe his life these days: "I get by with a little help from my friends."

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