‘Active goal’: Love of hunting motivates stroke patient’s rehab

Kent County

ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The goal was always clear for Jim Holzgen.

He knew getting back to life as it once was meant getting back to what he loves.

“I just love duck hunting. I just love being with the dog; having the dog just brings a whole other element that makes it more special,” Holzgen said.

Holzgen had just returned from a hunting trip with his buddies last fall when he and his partner Shelli were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“She was more sick than I was. I went and got tested and I did test positive for COVID. I didn’t have any symptoms,” Holzgen said.

Still, COVID-19 didn’t deal him an easy hand. Soon after his quarantine ended, disaster struck as he was driving home from work one day.

“I got tired towards the end of the day and was driving home and ended up having a stroke and having a car accident. The stroke, they felt, the doctor told me was COVID-related,” Holzgen said.

That’s when Holzgen’s battle back began.

“Every once in a while, you get a patient that has a very active goal,” said Aubrie Allen, a recreation therapist for Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital who is part of the team getting Holzgen back out on the hunt.

“As a rec therapist, we see, ‘Oh, I like swimming, I like biking, I like crafting.’ And then you get ‘I’m a duck hunter and I train my dog,’ and it’s like whoa, OK, here we go,” Allen continued.

Allen enlisted the help of a Mary Free Bed colleague who is a hunter himself. The recreation therapist is able to help Holzgen hold the gun up as he aims and pulls the trigger.

“Due to his stroke, his left side was most affected. For shooting and for signaling Nelli, his dog, his biggest deficient was going to be that left arm,” Allen said.

It took months of work and rehab for Holzgen to get back on the shooting range.

“Just to pull a trigger and feel like, hey, this is something I might be able to do in the future,” Holzgen said.

He hopes to make it out into a duck hunting blind with some friends soon.

“This is our endgame and he did it,” Allen said.

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