Former stroke patient gives back to rehab unit

  • April 17, 2015

While recovering from a severe stroke, Steve Null decided to give back to the hospital and volunteer on the Acute Rehab Unit at Natividad Medical Center. Now, he serves on its Volunteer Auxillary Board.

By Teresa Douglass, The Salinas Californian

SALINAS, CA – April 17, 2015 – Steve Null loves to visit new stroke patients at the Sam Karas Acute Rehabilitation Center at Natividad Medical Center because a few years ago, he was just like them.

He suffered a severe stroke on May 30, 2009 when he was 51 years old.

He was initially treated at Natividad Medical Center where he now volunteers in the gift shop, at the information desk and on the Acute Rehab Unit where he was an outpatient for a year.

To save his life back then, medical professionals administered tissue plasma accelerator (TPA).

"It turns your blood to water," he said.

He was rushed by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Gatos which he said was the closest stroke center at the time. He was there for almost three months including stays in its ICU, the hospital and its acute rehab center.


When he was learning how to walk again, one of his therapists at Good Samaritan took him outside to try walking on a new surface. First, he walked on a concrete sidewalk, then across the street on asphalt and onto a gravel walkway which led to a grassy area.

After walking two steps on the grass, he stopped.

"My eyes got real big and I had a big smile on my face," he said. "It’s amazing I forgot what it’s like to walk on grass."

He wanted to walk barefoot but his therapist wouldn’t let him take off his shoes.

"Even to this day, a lot of things are being experienced for the very first time," he said.

A new beginning

After he was released from Good Samaritan, a social worker at Natividad Medical Center had just started a support group for stroke patients which he attended. He asked the group leader, Tammy Stickler, if he could volunteer with her.

"I was starting to walk and talk after a year of therapy but I was not very good at either one," he said.

She asked him to help set up for the once-a-month meetings by assembling new patient folders and insurance packets for her.

"These were menial tasks," he said. "But it gave me something to do."

Before his stroke, Null had worked all his life as a chef in one of his family’s restaurants, which at one time, numbered as many as eight establishments.