Coko, I’m a little late checking in on my brother Al, but you did such an incredible job of keeping us all updated on Facebook, we knew he was in good hands. To that end, I’d just seen Al in Detroit looking great, smiling, and being his normal silly self. Can you tell us what went wrong?
Well as you know just 1 week prior he was in San Antonio, TX at my inaugural Chocolate Ball, which I’m blessed to say was a great success. So upon returning home to Florida that next Saturday night he called late complaining of a headache and tingling in his right side. I immediately thought oh my God, he might be having a heart attack, so advised him to take aspirin right away. Then probably about 30 minutes later he stated that his whole right side was completely numb and a co-worker sent a car to take him to the hospital. Early Sunday morning he was rushed into surgery saying he had (2) back to back strokes due to a blood clot in an artery and swelling on the brain. They had to remove a huge portion of his skull to compensate for the brain swelling. Upon assessment they found he had no movement on his entire left side!”
Was Al’s situation preventative at all?
No one knows for sure. Al was a smoker so that could have played a factor. But he was a very active guy and is only 46 years old.
I saw at one point you all played Steppers music for Al and he responded. Does that speak at all the power and passion of music as a healing instrument?
Yes, honey let me tell you, at one point he wasn’t real responsive at all. He is extremely Blessed to have one of the country’s top Brain Surgeons as his doctor, who has taken a special interest in him as a Veteran and a Dancer. She stated that the only reason he is still alive is because he knows you guys are here fighting for him. So keep the company/visitors coming and play the music he loves to dance to. So we did just that, played mellow Steppers music bedside, and low and behold, he opened his eyes, his hands and fingers started moving! So YES, music is definitely a healing instrument. So much that it will be used in his rehabilitation process. We’ve made sure the Therapist has plenty of the Steppin music he loves!
Wow. That’s so incredible it gives me chills. I saw that Al was moved to recovery. How is he doing now?
It’s only been day 2, he’s excited about being out of the hospital in more of a normal setting. He’s in a private room with a window to see outside. He’s Blessed to have been approved to go to one of the country’s top inpatient rehabilitation centers. We fought long and hard with the facility and insurance to allow him to go there. His Dr. the Brain Surgeon met with the facility head personally to fight for him, saying “it’s now or never for him. He’s young, a military vet, a dancer and we owe it to him to give him the best chance at recovery possible,” … maan, ain’t God good! So in this facility he’ll do at least 4 hours of intense therapy a day and it won’t be easy because he’s in pain every step. Yesterday was his first 3-hour session and praise God he made it thru!” Go check out the facility it’s phenomenal: https://youtu.be/83keW32171c
After a major stroke like the one Al suffered, what is the possibility of a full recovery?
Well they said in his case because the stroke affected the right side of his brain, his speech and cognitive abilities weren’t affected. Because his left side responds to pain and he’s young he has a great possibility of walking again. They are predicting a full recovery in about 18 months. Seems like a long time right?
Not really when you consider all that he’s been through. As for you, you have been by Al’s side the entire time. What has this experience been like for you?
I’m not gonna lie and tell you it’s been easy. Especially because of my travelling so much between home in San Antonio, work in Washington DC and Florida to see Al. I now Pray more than I ever have. I’m extremely thankful for the Steppin community who have reached out to check on my finances and well-being on a daily basis. I’m blown away by how the community has Showed up & Showed out! Contributing in all ways possible. Yes, I get tired, Yes, I’ve shed a lot of tears but one thing I know for sure is that if it were me, Big Al would move mountains to make sure I was okay. So I must do the same! We are talking about a man who is a true philanthropist, he spends his life fighting for HIV/AIDS awareness and equality. He’s the kindest, friendliest, good hearted person a lot of us know. Just as the Steppin community!
I must send a special shout out to the Florida community who have shown us unimaginable love. They have checked on Al every day, prayed with him, read to him, slept overnight with him so he wasn’t alone, picked me up from the airport numerous times, fed me and much much more! These are truly remarkable people and dancers!
What type of support can the Steppin community offer brother Al at the current time?
Just continue to be an encouragement to him, keep sending the cards, visiting, making the encouraging videos, sending love offerings, because he has a long painful road ahead and we can’t afford for him to give up. He’s one of the good guys! My main thing is that after such a tragic event, we must make sure this man has a home to come back too. That’s the most important! His employer, Empower U, Inc., the nonprofit organization he works for has been very supportive and setup a fund to help assist him with medical bills and housing support. The website is: www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_buttonid=LXXRYGEVEDJBE. All of donated funds will go directly to his care. How awesome is that!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the community before I let you go?
Yes, Al’s life work is in support of HIV/AIDS. He does his yearly Steppers event “Steppin4Life Charity Ball” November 10-13, 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL at the Mardi Gras Casino. We’ve decided not to cancel it this year and pick up where he left off, because this year “Steppin4Life” literally means just that! So a lot of cities have committed to selling out his event in show of support using the hashtag #SELLOUT4BIGAL, to show their support and God willing welcome him back on the dance floor! The great Mr. Drewry Alexander who has volunteered his time once again for this great cause will be on deck, along with Phoenix’s Angie Faine and DJ Neal aka New Wave out of Atlanta to help make this event great! For Information and Tickets please go to: www.steppin4life.info
I’d also like to say on a serious note that tomorrow is not promised. This could happen to anyone, anywhere. Be kind, help others out, be thankful for every day. The next time you’re on the dance floor be grateful and enjoy the dance because it can be taken away at any moment. Live your life to the fullest without regret because something like this can change your whole world! The Steppin community is not just about the dance, but about family and support. I couldn’t be prouder of the Steppin community right now. Thank you!”
Thank you T. Pratt for opening your heart to share this story of a fellow Stepper.