'I changed, and I owe it all to Bert Nash'

Danny Henderson is grateful for a second chance. "It's a beautiful life," he said. "I'm improving every day."

Danny Henderson is grateful for a second chance. "It's a beautiful life," he said. "I'm improving every day." by Jeff Burkhead

Note: Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center will observe Mental Health Awareness Month in May with stories of hope and recovery.

Eleven years ago, Danny Henderson was home alone when he suffered a debilitating stroke. He was 36. Three days later, a friend came to the house and found him. Doctors told him later he was hours away from dying.

Today, Henderson still feels lingering effects of the stroke, and he had knee replacement last October, but he’s feeling better all the time. And, he’s never been happier.

“It’s a beautiful life,” Henderson said. “I’m improving every day.”

Life wasn’t always beautiful for Henderson. He’s been a patient at Osawatomie State Hospital more than a dozen times. He’s suffered loss — his parents and his sister all died within six months of each other. He spent two months in jail over a housing dispute. There was the stroke, which left him feeling “scrambled.” And there were times he didn’t know whether life was worth living.

When Henderson first came to Bert Nash in 2007, he had just been released from Osawatomie State Hospital. He had nowhere to go.

“The first person I saw was Mathew Faulk (homeless outreach specialist),” Henderson said. “He asked me what I was here for. I said I have no place to turn. He said I’m going to take care of you.”

Henderson will tell you there have been “quite a few trials and tribulations along the way.” He would use drugs to forget about the pain. But with the help of case managers at Bert Nash and the individual and group therapy he received, he stopped using drugs and learned skills to help deal with the pain in his life.

“He’s been sober for two years,” said Kathy Hunt, a Bert Nash psychosocial worker who works closely with Henderson.

“I choose not to do any drugs now,” Henderson said. “The people at Bert Nash stuck by my side through the drug abuse and everything. I got sober and I know I will be drug-free for the rest of my life. It’s a bad cliché, but I get high off life now.”

Because of his stroke, Hunt said Henderson’s “filter is broken.” So, she works with him on basic things such as manners. She also reads printed materials for him; Henderson hasn’t been able to read since the stroke. He also has limited use of his right hand, so he has learned to sign documents using his left hand.

“If he says something he shouldn’t, I tell him about it,” said Hunt, who also managed his use of pain meds following his knee replacement. “We worked together so he wouldn’t get addicted to his pain meds. I’m the pill Nazi.”

Henderson is grateful for the help. He will tell anyone who will listen about how Bert Nash has helped him.

“He’s not ashamed that he goes to Bert Nash,” Hunt said. “So he tells everybody. We’re just glad to be there for him. He’s a changed man.”

“I changed, and I owe it all to Bert Nash,” Henderson said. “I want to say thanks to all of the people at Bert Nash. It takes a village, and I couldn’t do it without them.”

With the help of case managers at Bert Nash, and the individual and group therapy he received, Henderson learned skills to help deal with the pain in his life.

With the help of case managers at Bert Nash, and the individual and group therapy he received, Henderson learned skills to help deal with the pain in his life. by Jeff Burkhead

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