• Last modified 3634 days ago (May 13, 2009)


Road to recovery: Businesswoman is taking it one day at a time

Managing editor

Determination and grit.

That’s what it takes sometimes for us to accomplish feats or recover from adversity.

Those words also could be used to describe the latest journey for Laura Yates, a 56-year-old Marion hairdresser, who is recovering from a stroke.

It all began March 30 when the petite businesswoman had a restless night. When her restlessness caused her to roll out of bed, Yates got up, and went to her kitchen for a bowl of cereal. When her husband, David, walked in and saw her, he commented that she did not look well.

“At this point, I discovered I couldn’t walk,” Laura Yates said, and it was obvious she was in need of medical care.

“There was no warning, nothing hurt,” she said.

Her husband drove her to St. Luke Hospital. A CAT scan was administered which revealed she had a clot in her brain, and indeed, she had a stroke.

Yates then was transported by ambulance to Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, where she spent five days in the intensive care unit.

“I’m not sure why I was in ICU but I guess they wanted me there in case I had another stroke,” Yates said. Basically, they monitored her and made sure she did not get out of bed.

There are medications that can be administered after a stroke but medical personnel wanted to know exactly when Yates had her stroke and she did not know.

During her stay in ICU, numerous tests were administered. It was determined Yates’ carotid artery, located in her neck, was 70 percent blocked. She will have surgery in a couple of weeks to clean out the buildup and a stint will be implanted.

“My Dad had a stroke when I was a child,” Yates said, but it was a mild one. He was back milking cows in a couple of days. Eventually her father died of heart problems.

“I chalked it up to Dad being a farmer and Mom being a good farmer’s wife, feeding him well,” Yates said with a smile.

During the past several weeks, Yates said she has learned a lot about strokes and the correlation of strokes and heart attacks.

After her stay in ICU, she was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for three and one-half weeks of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

The stroke affected the left side of her body. In the beginning, she could not lift her left hand off the bed and her speech was slurred. She has done remarkably well in rehab. So much so, speech therapy no longer is needed and she is able to walk and lift her left arm.

Yates is thankful her stroke was no worse than it was. While in rehab, she saw all kinds of stroke patients.

“Some had minor problems and others were much worse,” she said. “Some people had lost their mental capacity; others their sight. It could have been a lot worse for me. Thank goodness it wasn’t.”

While Yates was recuperating, David was left minding their stores. The couple owns Pit Stop 56 convenience store, Superior Liquor, and The Hair Company in Marion Business Park. David also works for Auto House Towing and Recovery of Marion, driving a tow truck as needed.

The Yates typically spend 12-15 hours per day, seven days a week at their businesses.

When word spread of Laura’s illness, people showed their concern.

“The community really came through,” Laura Yates said. “People were so wonderful in bringing us food.”

These days, Yates is watching her diet. The petite woman said smoking and not eating very well, added with stress, probably caused her problems.

These days she is trying to eat more fruits and vegetables and goes to physical therapy at St. Luke Hospital on a regular basis.

The seemingly healthy woman said she never had much problem with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. However, when her blood sugar was checked in the hospital, it was high but since has become normal.

Even though Yates is right-handed and the stroke affected her left hand, she still has challenges ahead.

“I hold hair with my left hand,” Yates explained, referring to her profession as a hairdresser and holding a client’s hair with her left hand as she applies color or curls with her right.

Yates is optimistic and she has every right to be. She was told by a physical therapist that she should make a 100 percent recovery. In the meantime, another hairdresser, Mary Duckworth, has graciously stepped in to take care of Yates’ clients.

Stop smoking, slow down

Ironically, Yates was in the process of ending her smoking habit. A week before her stroke, she began taking a drug to help her stop smoking. The day of her stroke was to be her first day without cigarettes. When she entered the hospital that day, she quit.

Yates said she had smoked for 30 years, beginning when other hairdressers around her smoked. After inhaling second-hand smoke, she decided she wanted to smoke her own. She does believe smoking contributed to her stroke.

What bothers Yates about cigarettes is when the tobacco industry was allowed to put more than just tar and nicotine in its product.

“I noticed a different flavor,” Yates said. Much research on her part revealed her cigarettes had stimulants to make her more addicted.

“It’s not fair,” she said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”

Yates has always been known for her energy. Like two balls of fire, she and David are busy people, operating numerous businesses, working long hours, and not having much time off.

“I don’t think working hard is going to make you have a stroke, but pushing yourself certainly contributes to it,” she said.

Her advice to other people is simple: “If you smoke, quit. If you’re working too hard, slow down. Take a day off now and then.”

Gratitude and goals

Yates is most appreciative to her husband, David.

“I appreciate how wonderfully my husband has helped me,” she said.

She and David also appreciate the numerous cards, flowers, and food — some from people they didn’t even know.

Yates’ goals are simple. She wants to start an exercise program that includes water aerobics and wants to return to her beauty shop by September. She has been helping in the retail businesses since she returned home; taking breaks as needed as she rebuilds her body and health.

With Yates’ optimism and determination, she will be

Last modified May 13, 2009