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Family relieved Gordie Howe isn't in pain

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Gordie Howe, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, welcomed his son, Mark, during his enshrinement weekend, 39 years later. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – A month after suffering a major stroke, hockey legend Gordie Howe is resting comfortably while communicating with caregivers mainly through hand signals.

“He's very much aware of what's going on and it's nice when you're there with

him because you can still interact with him and all. He has his personality,” his son, Mark Howe said Sunday. “Every day we're feeding him chocolate milkshakes and chocolate chip cookies, and being the person that he is, they offer it to him and he offers to give it back first for the women. Then they make sure he eats it. I'm just thankful that he's not in pain.”

Since late August, Gordie Howe has been living with his daughter in Lubbock, Texas.

Since Oct. 26, when he had a major stroke that left him unable to walk and has limited his speech, the Red Wings’ great has had a series of small strokes, including Saturday.

“He’s not walking at all. His speech is very common,” Mark said. “After his first stroke, within a week he was up and walking probably 40 or 50 feet. It took him quite a while. And the use of both arms was coming back pretty well. But then after the second stroke, I know they did his first physical therapy about a week ago after his epidural. I was there and he tried standing twice over the course of about 20 minutes and it took every ounce of energy he had. It totally drained him.

“Right now we’re concentrating on re-establishing the connection between the muscles and the brain and hopefully they can get that connection and maybe have a chance.”

Mark Howe said he and his siblings – Marty, Murray and Cathy – have come to grips with medical condition of their famous father. They’re just glad that he’s not in any pain.

Mr. Hockey had out-patient back surgery in August for spinal stenosis. But after the stroke in October he has been bed-ridden for most of his days, and the lower-back pain returned.

“Thank God we had somebody who was willing to do an epidural on him and it helped him quite a bit,” Mark said. “Before that, he had been pretty well in bed for about eight days and unable to move. Now since that time, it's nice, we can get him out of bed, on a nice, warm day my sister and the caregivers get him out, get him for a walk in a wheelchair.”

Howe’s family takes turns spending time in Texas with their father. Mark Howe said he plans to return to Texas in mid-December.

“For us it’s been that way since my mom passed,” Mark said. “We moved him out of the home 3-4 months after mom passed. We knew dad couldn’t live along. Actually I don’t think he would have lived a year longer had we not done that. So it’s been about 5½ years he’s been living with all his kids and we’ve been trying to take advantage of the quality time. Now it’s just an extension of what’s been going on for 5½ years. We work in 3-4 fishing trips over the course of the year down on the Jersey shore, clamming and fishing as much as we could. That part has disappeared. You take what’s available to you and just to have him there. … When you’re around him it’s good to see that again. It makes it all worthwhile.”

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