GILBERT, AZ — On a beautiful Arizona day back in 1991, Allan Olsen of Gilbert and his family visiting from out of town were looking to take advantage of our pristine landscape.
“We had all the family and went for a reunion hike up [Piestewa Peak] because they like to hike,” said Olsen.
Twenty-Seven at the time, Olsen says he was well prepared for the laborious walk up the mountain.
“I’m just bopping along and teasing people, teasing my sister and I get three-quarters of the way up where that plateau is and I literally sat down and passed out basically,” said Olsen.
An off-duty fireman spotted Olsen and his family, immediately calling 911. Pictures from the day show Olsen hoisted off the trail by helicopter. At the hospital, he’d soon learn the cause. Doctors told his wife that he’d suffered a stroke.
“They came in bawling and crying and I asked what’s wrong, she says the doctor says you’re going to be bedridden for life and I said oh don’t believe him,” said Olsen.
Despite his hard-charging confidence, the father of five had a long road ahead of him. The stroke had impacted his speech and motor skills.
“I had a hard time walking, I had a hard time balancing, I had a hard time talking,” said Olsen, who still walks with a limp.
Years of physical therapy would follow and just this week, the hard work paid off. Olsen, now 57, took on the peak once again.
“I was like, I was hesitant, oh do I want to go, do I want to go three-quarters of the way up and stop there,” said Olsen.
Pushed by his family, reaching the top alongside his wife, Olsen finished off the hike that almost took his life three decades earlier.
“I just felt so relieved and so blessed that I went up there with my wife, and we both did it, we’ve both gone through this together, even though she didn’t have a stroke, she’s been by me a hundred and ten percent,” said Olsen.
He says he is admittedly a bit sore but says he’ll be ready to hike the trail again when the family celebrates the 40th anniversary of his stroke in ten years. Until then he wants to remind everyone, the only person who can put limits on what you can achieve is yourself, and his hike is proof.