September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Thankful for every day

Woodard keeps farming after suffering stroke nearly one year ago
Jim Woodard stands in the freestall barn on his 90-cow dairy near Winona, Minn. Nearly one year ago Woodard suffered a stroke, which kept him out of the barn for four months. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
Jim Woodard stands in the freestall barn on his 90-cow dairy near Winona, Minn. Nearly one year ago Woodard suffered a stroke, which kept him out of the barn for four months. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA

By By Krista Kuzma- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

WINONA, Minn. - Although Jim Woodard will be happy to spend time with family on Thanksgiving, he is going to live it like he has every day since nearly one year ago.
"Every day I've been more thankful, not just on Thanksgiving," he said.
Woodard has been living the motto, "nobody is promised tomorrow" since he suffered a stroke Dec. 5, 2012. He and his family - wife, Michelle, and their children, Jessica, Jamie and Jordan - milk 90 cows near Winona, Minn.
The morning of Dec. 5 started out as any other with Woodard doing chores. Michelle was off to her full-time job off the farm while the kids were at their jobs or at school. But while going about his usual routine, Woodard kept feeling pain in his ear and jaw, and his hand felt numb.
Woodard decided to head to the house to rest for a while before continuing with afternoon chores. As the day went on, things got worse. His vision became impaired, he had no feeling in his left hand and his left leg was numb. By the time he was milking cows with Michelle that evening, he couldn't do the job right.
"I couldn't feel the teats on the cows and I had slammed my hand in a door, but never felt it," Woodard said.
After fumbling through milking a few cows, Michelle told him to go inside after he refused to see a doctor.
"My stubbornness was kicking in. I thought I had pinched a nerve," Woodard said. "I don't like going to the doctor."
After his dad convinced him to go to the emergency room, Woodard let Michelle take him in.
"By that time it felt like I had knives in my head. It was getting worse," he said.
After many checks and tests throughout the night, a specialist found a break in an artery to the brain. Three layers of the artery had shredded, called carotid dissection.
"Somewhere along my 42 years of my life - either a big sneeze or hitting my head on something or anything, really - lead to this," Woodard said.
For the next four months after the incident, Woodard could not do any physical labor. Family, neighbors and friends came whenever there was something to be done.
"I'm very thankful for them," Woodard said. "You hope you never need the help, but it feels good when all the people show up."
Jamie, who was attending the University of Wisconsin Farm and Industry Short Course, stayed home for one month. When he went back to college, he came home every weekend and many times brought home buddies or area friends to get the farm work done.
"There were kids here we didn't personally know, but were here because they wanted to help," Woodard said.
Woodard is also especially thankful for Michelle.
"She was there all the time," Woodard said about his wife.
In addition to her full-time job off the farm, she milked cows in the morning and evening during the time Woodard couldn't do chores.
"I think she was pretty thrilled when Jamie's friends walked into the parlor," he said.
Woodard is also thankful for his 15-year-old son, Jordan, who juggled school, work and other activities while still mixing feed and hauling manure among other chores before and after school each day.
Fortunately for Woodard, his stroke only left him with small side effects with numbness in his left hand and leg every once in awhile.
"And if I don't stay hydrated I can feel it," he said.
Other than taking a daily aspirin, the doctors told him to live his life.
"If I hadn't gone into the doctor, there would have been more permanent damage," Woodard said. "I'm fully functioning, but I might not have been if I had waited longer."
Knowing that the effects could be worse if this happens in the future, Woodard admits that he's more cautious about life than he was before.
"I think I got older faster than I was suppose to," he said.
Now he uses more common sense, listening to his body aches and taking breaks when he needs them.
However, at the age of 43, Woodard isn't ready to stop living. He has things he wants to accomplish.
"I've got to try to teach the next generation things I hadn't before," Woodard said. "And I need to let my kids do their thing and create memories."
Jamie works on the farm along with working part-time on another area farm. It's possible he may join the farm in the future, but at this time is still unsure of his definite plans. Woodard is glad he's able to think ahead to the future and continue to do what he loves - farm.
"Some people are numb for the rest of their life. That would have been hard to deal with," Woodard said. "I'm thankful my situation wasn't worse."
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