Life After Stroke Awakens a Man’s New Passion

Centre Region resident Marvin Kohler creates unique art from rebar, or reinforcing bar, using only one hand.  His passion for this new skill came as a surprise to his family and friends, after recovering from a stroke.  The Kohler’s sell his pieces for others to enjoy, and to create funds for the materials Marvin needs to keep creating.  Pictured at the Kohler’s home is Marvin with some of his artwork, and Barb Angelo, LPN, COTA, rehabilitation liaison, HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. (Provided photo)

Centre Region resident Marvin Kohler creates unique art from rebar, or reinforcing bar, using only one hand. His passion for this new skill came as a surprise to his family and friends, after recovering from a stroke. The Kohler’s sell his pieces for others to enjoy, and to create funds for the materials Marvin needs to keep creating. Pictured at the Kohler’s home is Marvin with some of his artwork, and Barb Angelo, LPN, COTA, rehabilitation liaison, HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. (Provided photo)

PLEASANT GAP – Marvin Kohler, 54, can’t speak; he uses an electronic communication device to type words, or his wife Crystine speaks for him.  He also has no use of his right arm.

However, despite difficult physical limitations due to a stroke, Marvin is an artist.  His medium is rebar (short for reinforcing bar), a steel bar commonly used as a tension device in reinforced concrete and masonry structures.

“Before the stroke, if Marvin had a creative side, nobody knew it,” says Crystine, his wife of 25 years.

Crystine recounts the moments leading up to Marvin’s stroke, four years ago:  “Marvin drove a truck for a living. The Friday night before his stroke, he had gotten home late and was tired.

“Saturday morning, I took a group of 23 family members to Dutch Wonderland. Marvin opted to stay home.  That afternoon, one of Marvin’s friends called me and said, ‘I was just talking to Marvin on the phone and I think that he had a stroke; you had better come home.’”

Marvin’s friend had recognized Marvin’s slurred speech as a sign of stroke.  Later, Crystine found out that somehow after talking to his friend, Marvin had managed to call an emergency number and an ambulance arrived at his house.  He was flown to Geisinger in Danville.

“After the stroke, Marvin could not walk, he could not use his right arm, and he could not swallow,” says Crystine.

When he was discharged from Geisinger, he went to HealthSouth Nittany Valley for rehabilitation, where he had three hours of therapy (physical, occupational and speech) a day.

After four weeks, he left HealthSouth with a wheelchair and a cane, and continued outpatient therapy at HealthSouth’s Lewistown Clinic.  “Now, he doesn’t even use his cane,” Crystine adds.  “We have a lot of gratitude for HealthSouth and the dedicated staff who helped Marvin with his rehabilitation.”

But life after a stroke was not easy for Marvin.  “For the first four years, he sat in a chair and did nothing.  I even got him a dog, which I had hoped would help with his depression.”

Then something changed.  One day this past July, Crystine came home to find a plant hanger in the yard; she didn’t know how it got there.  “The next day, another one showed up,” says Crystine.

“I asked Marvin if he made it, and nodded that he did.”  Marvin had used the rebar material that was in his garage to make the plant hanger.

Since then, Marvin creates practically all day, every day, according to Crystine. “He draws it and then he makes it.  And he creates it all with one hand.”

“Recently, one of our grandsons told him, ‘I want a choo-choo’ and two days later it was done,” she adds.  Marvin also made an angel in honor of a son who passed 23 years ago, and at grandson who died at birth.

“Thanks to his art, Martin has a passion for living again,” says his wife.  “I could not ask for anything better.”

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