WAHIAWA, Hawaii - Doctors say strokes are one of the biggest causes of death and disability for seniors. The recovery varies, depending on how severe the stroke is. 

56-year-old Taumaoe Kapesi works hard to reclaim his life. He remembers little about the day his life changed: driving home with a friend, blacking out, and waking up in the ER. "My friend and me going home," he recalls. "All of a sudden I was gone so he took me to the ambulance." Kapesi had a stroke- that's when blood stops going to the brain, killing brain cells after a few minutes. 

Wahiawa General Hospital Outpatient Rehab manager Linda Kurihara, DPT, OCS, CSCS, says, "When we think of stroke we think of one sided weakness. But it's not the one side that got hurt, it's the brain."

Kurihara says time is critical for making a full recovery. "To maximize your potential it has to be within the first year. Imagine, the first six months is even more crucial."

Therapists try to restore the brain-body connection with exercises during stroke rehabilitation classes. "Rehab is all about giving you tasks, exercises, and advice on how to get that back as soon as possible," she adds.

Exercises can include "grabbing, feeding, dressing. Basic activities of daily living. Walking training. Upper and lower body weights. Resistant bands," she lists.

And it may be harder, but use the weak side! "If you don't use it, you lose it. So the biggest thing we tell caregivers is, Don't baby that side," she warns.

A quick diagnosis, immediate rehabilitation, and a persistent attitude- all key factors in recovering from stroke.