As Tyler Findlater sat in the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology at Auburn University, he felt the classroom enclose him before blacking out. When he came to his senses moments later, something felt off – the left side of his body wasn’t working.
Findlater didn’t know then, but doctors told the 19-year-old hours later he had suffered a stroke.
Today, Findlater is a rising country musician from Phenix City. Never musically inclined, he discovered his calling after his stroke on Jan. 28, 2016.
Before the songwriting and guitar strumming, Findlater found himself hobbling downstairs from the Auburn classroom seeking help.
“I had a constant ringing in my ear, and it felt like I had low blood sugar from running a marathon,” Findlater said.
He also couldn’t see from his left eye, and he remained in this state for almost an hour and a half.
At the local hospital, doctors confirmed the stroke and put him on a helicopter to UAB Hospital in Birmingham.
The helicopter took off at sunset, and for the first time in his life, his entire sight was a pure, unobstructed sky, set aflame with orange and red hues.
“It was actually a really enjoyable helicopter ride for what was going on. I was snapchatting and everything,” Findlater said.
For two days, Findlater lay on his back to prevent blood clotting. After being discharged, he tried returning to class, but fluorescent lighting dizzied him, and his left side was barely functional. He took medical discharge for the semester and began rehab.
“It took me about three months to get back to normal,” Findlater said. “But afterward, I finally picked up the guitar.”
It would be neat, he thought, to spend some hours on YouTube learning chords during his recovery. In three weeks, Findlater learned his first song: “I Can’t Complain” by Todd Snider.
Friends and family heard him and loved his playing, but Findlater wasn’t so sure.
“I really didn’t believe them,” Findlater said. “It took me going to places where I didn’t know anybody to see what they thought.”
An opportunity came at an open mic. He admits he was a shy kid. Now the spotlight shined down, and he graced the stage.
To ease nerves, Findlater brought a chair from home. The crowd quieted as he adjusted himself; then, he did what he’d done since the stroke – he played his tunes.
“Luckily, it went well, I think. The crowd clapped me on – I had a good time,” Findlater said.
Soon, he started writing songs with hopes of being as good as the Texas country musicians he admires. Their storytelling, their thoughtful lyrics, it all served as his muse and has led him around the South doing shows.
His latest song is a meditation on depression. Ever since the stroke, Findlater has grappled with depression, and according to the National Stroke Association, it’s a common experience for survivors. Writing the song was his way to bring comfort to others.
“I think it’s something that would be good for people like myself,” Findlater said.
He plans to record the song soon and donate all the proceeds to the National Stroke Association. Findlater plans to graduate from Auburn with a degree in communications. Since regaining mobility, Findlater plays, writes and sings every chance he gets.
“When you hear stroke, you think of an old man or old woman, but it happens a lot with young people,” Findlater said. “I have to do my part and tell my story.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)