By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE — Jim Brannon says the joke is that, for the first time, he's leaning to the left.
The Kootenai County clerk, a staunch Republican, returned to his office Wednesday morning after suffering a stroke while at work on Feb. 25.
"(Occupational therapists) would set me up in bed and I'd fall over — to the left, mind you," said Brannon, referring to the effects of the stroke.
Brannon has been monitoring emails and corresponding with his staff remotely about the budget and other work matters for about a month.
His wife, Christine, wheeled him Wednesday into a meeting with other county elected officials, drawing well-wishes from co-workers.
"This meeting was a good chance to see all the fellow elected officials, so I don't have to make a trip to everybody's office," he said. "I'm not excited to be in a wheelchair — it makes things difficult — but I'm expected to make a full recovery. It's just going to take some time."
Brannon said he'll be at his office three days a week to start as he continues to recover and receive occupational and physical therapy.
Brannon said he's thankful that 911 was called immediately in February after he'd met with Jennifer Locke, his chief deputy clerk; Steve Matheson, the treasurer; and county assistance staff. He said he started slurring words and his face began to droop.
"This could have easily been a lot worse," Brannon said. "It could have had a major effect on my brain if they hadn't acted so quickly."
The experience has prompted Brannon to have a desire to make stroke awareness presentations to political groups and civic clubs.
Brannon said his score with occupational therapy, on a scale of 0 to 99, was 5 when he started out and now it's in the 70s.
"The therapists say that he's way ahead of schedule and, with his work ethic, he'll be there in no time," Christine said. "He's a hard-headed Irishman. I just thank the good Lord that it didn't affect his mind."
Brannon joked that the first time that he's ever had to be asked to speak louder is when his speech therapist requested it as part of his recovery.
He said the care he received at Kootenai Health and Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest in Post Falls was "amazing." He returned home Monday.
Brannon said it's the second time he's undergone speech therapy. He said he suffered a brain injury during a head-on collision when he was 17.
"I'm generally not known for my patience, but I'll get through this," Brannon said with a smile. "It's an adventure to say the least. Today I'm starting another chapter."