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Kingman lawmaker at work, battling back after suffering stroke

Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, is recovering from a stroke she suffered in September but is back at the Legislature as she continues therapy. Photo by Harmony Huskinson
PHOENIX - Recovering from a stroke that limits mobility on her left side, Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, has had a lot to face.

But one thing she hasn't faced is defeat.

"My world just turned completely around. I'd never even thought about a stroke. I have low blood pressure," Goodale said.

A month after colleagues welcomed her with a standing ovation at the first day of legislative session, she sat in her office after a long day of physical therapy, drafting bills and heading the House Education Committee.

The days have been long since she suffered a stroke on Sep. 29.

Three days a week, Goodale wakes at 6 a.m. for physical or occupational therapy, followed by a day of legislative work. She's not a morning person but is determined to progress in her treatment, though she wishes it would progress more quickly.

"It just goes so painfully slow. I'm a person who really wants to just get back to where I was, but I'm working hard to get my health restored," Goodale said.

While out to lunch with her sister at a Kingman restaurant, she suddenly felt dizzy, lost consciousness and woke up several hours later at Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas. For now, she uses a wheelchair to get around the Capitol.

As soon as she got clearance from her doctor, Goodale said she was determined to recover as quickly as possible and return to her job at the Legislature.

"I said, ‘Well, I was elected so I'm going back to work,' because I love being a representative," she said.

Her administrative assistant, Jana Babel, said the doctors are impressed with Goodale's recovery.

"She's determined to get well, she's determined to continue her life and to do what she loves to do," Babel said. "And not a lot of people would have done that. A lot of people would have stopped."

Even before the stroke, Goodale dealt with loss and struggle.

"I was dealing with a lot of things last year. You don't leave your personal life at home just because you're here," she said.

In May 2012, her 27-year-old son and 31-year-old daughter were arrested for possessing and trafficking heroin. Released from prison in November last year, Stephanie Goodale now helps with her mother's recovery, while Michael Goodale remains behind bars.

Several months after the arrests, Goodale's husband, Bill, passed away from a stroke.

These personal tragedies stacked on top of a tense legislative session in 2013, Goodale said. She was one of few Republicans who sided with Gov. Jan Brewer and voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"Last year was very stressful down here. I was battling the academic standards and the health care bill. I didn't realize I was so stressed," she said.

Though Goodale uses a wheelchair to get around the Capitol, she can walk with the help of a walker and hopes to be dancing in time for Kingman's Andy Devine Days rodeo dance in September.

Before she returned to Phoenix for the legislative session, her family had been taking care of her in Kingman. She credits her assistant Babel for keeping her life together at the Capitol.

"Jana of course does the lion's share. She moves me about in my chair, my wheelchair," she said. "She's my angel, actually, because she drives me to and from work."

Babel said she and Goodale have become friends since she started working for her four years ago.

"I would do anything for her and so would most of the people down here," Babel said.

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, has a desk next to Goodale on the House floor and sometimes helps her stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Carter said she respects Goodale's attention to detail, informed perspective on education and commitment to getting the job done.

"That's what's really cool about Doris. She has this passion and energy about her that allows her to be sympathetic and kind and warm," Carter said. "Yet she also has the moral fortitude to stand up for the things that she believes in."

Goodale said she will focus this session on an education bill that would expand dual credit courses in trade skills like welding and a health bill that would require an addiction assessment for heavy-duty pain prescriptions.

The prescription drug bill affects Goodale personally, she said, because her daughter took pain pills for kidney problems. When the prescription ended, addiction remained and pushed her daughter into heroin, Goodale said.

Today, Stephanie Goodale is off the narcotic drugs and taking addiction classes in Kingman, her mother said.

"She did wrong, and I'm proud of her for taking her medicine and serving her time and doing what she needed to do," Goodale said. "But I missed her so dreadfully because she is my daughter. But she did come home and she did take care of me."

Goodale said that while doctors are pleased and others are thrilled by her recovery, she wants more.

"I don't think I'm progressing as quickly as I want," she said. "But I can still get around, and I feel great."

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