Michael “Spike” Roberts has been playing the piano for 43 years, and not even a paralyzing stroke can keep him away from the ivory keys.
On a typical, September morning last year, Roberts woke up and went to make the morning coffee in his Yoder, Colo., home, one hour east of Colorado Springs. He suddenly collapsed, completely paralyzed on his left side. “I was on the kitchen floor, on my back, I didn’t know what was going on, I couldn’t even quite tell I was paralyzed,” he said. Thankfully, his girlfriend came into the kitchen just minutes later and called 9-1-1. “If she hadn’t been there, that’s probably where I would’ve died.”
Paramedics arrived quickly and ushered 60-year-old Roberts to Penrose Hospital, where the stroke team immediately went to work. Penrose-St. Francis Health Services provides 24/7 advanced stroke treatment and was named a certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. Penrose-St. Francis is part of Centura Health, the region’s leading healthcare network.
Due to the severity of his stroke, Roberts did not respond to a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) IV and was given the option of undergoing an experimental procedure to remove the blood clot in his brain. “When you’re lying there paralyzed, you’ll try anything,” he said. “But they were fantastic, whatever they’re doing at Penrose, it’s working.”
Scott Shay, MD and director of interventional neuroradiology at Penrose-St. Francis, ran a catheter up Roberts’ groin, through his chest cavity and into his brain where it grabbed the blood clot and pulled it free. “From the minute the clot was out, they said my fingers and toes started moving again,” Roberts said. “I went in on a Friday and walked out Sunday morning.”
Roberts went through physical therapy to regain use of his left side and said he feels about 90 percent this spring. Most importantly, he’s back at the piano, though he hasn’t started playing solo again. “I’ve got certain rhythmic issues, my left and right hands tend to want to play together now instead of separate rhythms,” he said. “But two weeks after my stroke, I couldn’t play a single note, so I feel pretty great.”
Roberts has released 11 albums featuring his jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll styles and performed in venues of all sizes, from dive bars to the World Arena and the Telluride Jazz Fest. He plays with a band at 8 p.m. every Thursday at Benny’s Restaurant & Lounge, 517 W. Colorado Avenue. “I’m still writing music, too,” he said. “I’ve come a long way.”