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Young lawyer hangs onto faith, hope after severe stroke

John Kindschuh chose to be positive, listen to God’s guidance in his recovery from stroke

John Kindschuh practices law and his Catholic faith.

A member of the Energy, Environmental and Infrastructure Practice Group at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, he faces adversity in a nationwide field of environmental law, including litigation, regulatory compliance and more.

He also is an advocate for people with head injuries, speaking dozens of times to groups ranging from religious organizations to medical practitioners. He’ll speak at the Catholic Bar Association conference in St. Louis Oct. 4-6.

It was another kind of adversity that led him to this topic — recovery from a severe stroke.

On Sept. 10, 2013, Kindschuh was at home on paternity leave about a month after his daughter was born. He had just returned from driving his 3-year-old son to day care when the stroke happened. He thought he was going to die at age 35. It left him without the ability to speak in sentences for a few months — what he described as similar to being buried alive. The cerebellar stroke affected his speech and balance.

He had two choices — be angry and negative or be positive, he said. “We can’t control the circumstances that happen to us, but we can control our reaction to them,” he said. “This is an example of ‘OK, God what do you want me to do?’”

Kindschuh prayed for countless hours a day, and God answered him, telling him he had unfinished business. “Of course, I had no idea what that meant. But I trusted God and I thought, ‘OK, there are obvious things like I’m a husband and a father, and I want to give those things back to Him.’”

He decided that God, who became a friend in that extended time for prayer, must have another reason for having him go through the struggles. The talks and a book he is writing are a result. “I wouldn’t have done any of this had I not chosen then to follow God,” Kindschuh said, noting that he does the speaking “to glorify God.” It’s not easy for him because of his vocal chord paralysis.

A couple years ago he told a friend that many people recommended he write a book. “And she said something that was life-changing,” Kindschuh recalled. “She said, ‘Isn’t that God talking to you? Are you not called to write a book.’”

He started writing the book the next day and finished it last month. It was therapeutic for him but is meant to build awareness and help others with resources and hope after a stroke.

Kindschuh did five years and hundreds of hours of intensive speech, physical and occupational therapies. He has his mobility, can drive and even change diapers. He and his wife, Cindy Traub, had a second daughter 19 months ago. “Hope is a powerful thing,” he said.

He usually was working 50-60 hours a week before his stroke, trying to reach partner status. His path changed, and “I had to realize that what we think we’re supposed to do may not be what God is calling us to do,” he said.

The law firm where he’d worked for nine years before his stroke supported and encouraged him during his five years of rehab and welcomed him back. He started at 10 hours a week and now he’s up to 20 hours. “It’s moving in the right direction. It’s good to think about legal things to challenge my cognitive side. It’s refreshing. I’m trained for the law and passionate about it,” he said.

He’s known at his law firm as being one of the devout Christian lawyers, he said. “People come to me all the time with faith questions. I keep a Bible in my office. I try to read it and pray when I can. I pray before meals like I would at home. If clients or other attorneys or staff want to join me they can.”

Some clients value having a Christian lawyer, he said, because “they know we’re honest and tell them straight up what is going to happen. And they can trust us to empower them with that choice.”

Kindschuh is a member of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood where he is active with marriage preparation, retreat coordination, volunteer outreach and faith formation with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. He said many people from the parish helped him and his family with tasks such as driving, cooking, folding laundry and mowing the lawn. “These people really stepped up. They’re an example of how a community really supports someone when they have medical difficulties,” he said.

Two parishioners still are folding clothes for the family. “All the time people say, ‘How can I help, I’m just one person?’” Kindschuh said. “I tell them to offer to do a specific task. It may seem mundane like wrapping presents or therapy homework like giving tips to write. I now write with my left hand because of the stroke. One lady from St. Peter’s came to help me learn to write legibly and write with more speed. It’s not glorious. But she really helped my life. All those people did help in their own special way.”

>> Red Mass

The Annual Red Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Lindell boulevard and Newstead avenue in the Central West End. The homilist will be Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

The Red Mass is celebrated annually for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors and students and government officials.

>> Catholic Bar Association

The St. Thomas More Society will welcome the Catholic Bar Association to St Louis for the association’s annual conference the weekend of Oct. 4-6. The event will be held at Clayton Plaza Hotel, 7750 Carondelet Ave. in Clayton. Two events are open to the public. One is a ticketed reception for the speaker, Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter–St. Cyprian Parish in Washington, D.C., and an author and columnist in Catholic media. Tickets are $30 (including beverages and hors d’oeuvre) for the talk from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4. For tickets/details visit www.catholicbar.org and click on events.

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