Friend offers Matt Broughton a challenge after stroke

Numerous family members and friends have helped triathlete Matt Broughton since a stroke in September took away feeling and most movement on his left side. They’ve mowed his lawn, driven him to therapy and run countless errands.

But one buddy also issued him an incentive to wellness.

On a recent visit to Broughton’s home in the Northview Harbour community on Lake Norman, fellow Canadian Dan Hurrell urged him to walk to and from his newspaper box each day for five weeks and time himself. The reward will be five cases of Broughton’s favorite beer, Bud Light Lime.

Hurrell and Randy Cullen drove from Toronto to visit their friend and thought he’d be up for the challenge.

It’s an uphill and then downhill trek on Broughton’s driveway that totals 360 feet to and from the wood NHL- and Molson Canadian-themed chair outside the family’s front door.

Broughton, 47, has walked to retrieve his daily Charlotte Observer for nearly two weeks now, mostly in the afternoon after therapy, sometimes as late as midnight. Then he plops hard into the chair to celebrate with a bottle of his favorite brew.

Before then, Broughton quipped, he’d only done some laps around the kitchen with his cane.

“I had no idea he could do it until he did it,” his wife, Joelle Broughton, said. “But I should have known better.”

Matt Broughton, after all, is an athletic go-getter. He’s completed three Boston Marathons, one New York City Marathon and numerous triathlons.

He was scheduled to run the New York City Marathon again last November to raise money for Samaritan’s Feet. Neighbor Tonya Sullivan ran in his place with a pair of his running shoes tied around her neck. Sullivan’s husband, Tim, is an emergency room doctor for Novant HealthPresbyterian Medical Center who tended to Broughton at home the night he suffered the stroke in his right temporal lobe.

Broughton founded Mooresville-based Medallion Athletic Products in 1996. His wife works for the company in marketing but has taken a leave to care for her husband.

He suffered the stroke nine days after completing the Half-Ironman Las Vegas event.

No one knows what caused the stroke. He had none of the risk factors. He doesn’t smoke, and his heart is perfectly healthy, he said. One theory is that it stemmed from dehydration from the Las Vegas competition, but no one knows for sure, he said.

All he and his family and friends know is that he has the will to recover, and that a community is willing him on.

As Matt Broughton walks to the paper box each day, Joelle reads him the latest posts of encouragement on a Facebook page friends created. He’s also posted his best round-trip time on the page: about 26 minutes and 34 seconds.

“Matt has really taken to this wager and is determined to complete it while improving his times,” Hurrell said in an email. “Not sure with strokes to what level any individual can get back to, but I do think that it not only takes the support of a few friends and family but rather a community.”

Broughton even received a letter in the mail from Anheuser Busch headquarters in St. Louis encouraging him.

Daughter Jessie, a freshman at N.C. State, said her dad has improved greatly from therapy, so much that it’s inspired her to switch to East Carolina University next year to pursue an occupational therapy degree.

“It’s amazing how much of a difference therapy can make,” Jessie said of the sessions he undergoes at both Lake Norman Rehabilitation and Race to Walk in Mooresville. “It’s working your life around your disability.”

The Broughtons’ other children are daughters Lindsay, a junior at UNC Greensboro, and Cami, a Davidson Day School eighth-grader.

Joining him on his walk Thursday morning were his wife, Jessie and Cami and dog, Louie. It took him nearly 27 minutes and 28 seconds to complete the walk.

Joelle held tight to his arm on the part of the walk where he was most likely to stumble and fall – the curb at the paper box. Matt Broughton retrieved the paper with his right hand and tucked it into his right back pocket. He loves to keep up with the Panthers, he said.

“For him being an athlete and having that goal and accountability and routine, this is super-motivating for him,” Joelle Broughton said of the daily walk.

“Not too exciting, is it?” Matt Broughton said during the walk. “It’s patience. Slowly but surely, up until I’ve made a full recovery, and I’m planning to make full recovery.”