By Dominic Garcia

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– When Donald Hayes suffered a stroke, to say it was life changing might be an understatement. In fact, when he finally regained consciousness he figured he had only been in the hospital a few days.

“My doctor’s jaw just hit the ground and he said ‘You’ve been here for a month and a half,’” he told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia.

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Donald Hayes (credit: CBS)

For the past year Donald has been attending the Easterseals stroke rehabilitation program. Several days a week he works on the basics: walking, balance, and getting his eye sight back.

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(credit: CBS)

“We’re all like a little family here, we joke around, we have fun, and we’re not embarrassed to talk about anything. It’s good, it makes everything feel comfortable,” said Hayes.

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Jessica Richardson is a certified occupational therapy assistant who has been working with Donald. She says regular rehab during the recovery process is critical.

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(credit: CBS)

“So they can regain all those lost skills and be more independent in their living,” said Richardson.

Right now, the Easterseals stroke rehabilitation program is operating in close quarters, using space at the Atonement Lutheran Church in Lakewood. That’s because work is currently underway at the old Easterseal headquarters on Alameda, converting it into a new stroke rehab facility.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s a huge operation, it will triple our space. So we’re going to be able to serve more people,” said Richardson.

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(credit: CBS)

Thanks to grants and donations, there will be new equipment to not only help heal, but get people back to work. The program also specializes in teaching people computer and interviewing skills, and offers help with resumes.

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(credit: CBS)

At Easterseals you’ll notice they don’t call people stroke victims, instead they call them stroke victors. For proof, look no further than Hayes.

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CBS4’s Dominc Garcia interviews Donald Hayes (credit: CBS)

“No matter how the stroke affects you, you actually come out of it stronger, with a new outlook on life.”

Dominic Garcia anchors CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and reports for CBS4 News at 10 p.m. Connect with the Denver native on Twitter @cbs4dom & on Facebook.

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