Mark Stewart, 37, and Megan Stewart, 30, stand outside their new home on their property on Curtis Road near Cheney on Oct. 22. The house is being built using donations, including labor, after Mark had a stroke in December.  (Dan Pelle)
Mark Stewart, 37, and Megan Stewart, 30, stand outside their new home on their property on Curtis Road near Cheney on Oct. 22. The house is being built using donations, including labor, after Mark had a stroke in December. (Dan Pelle)

Community rallies to build home for family

36-year-old who had stroke working on rehabilitation

For the first couple of days of 2010, all Megan Stewart could do was sit at her husband’s hospital bed and repeat a simple prayer: please breathe, please breathe.

From the hospital windows she could see the towers of her church – First Presbyterian downtown – and she often wondered what God’s plan for her could possibly be. Her husband, Mark Stewart, a strong and healthy 36-year-old, had a stroke on Dec. 30 and was lying motionless in bed. A prognosis was sketchy.

“You just think, ‘God, why?’ Those first days we pleaded with God because we just wanted Mark to live,” said Megan Stewart, with tears running down her face. “They said maybe he’d be in a wheelchair, with a feeding tube. They said maybe he would never be able to walk and talk or do anything.”

But on a recent morning Mark Stewart was standing next to his wife at the site where a new home is being built for their family – funded largely by donations and gifts and coming together by mostly volunteer labor.

“It’s just amazing how people show up and give,” said Bruce Burda, Megan’s dad. “Initially there was a lot of support in terms of meals and practical day-to-day help, people were wonderful.”

This was the year the Stewarts dream of building a new home was finally to come true. They had planned to build on the 11 acres they own and live on southwest of Spokane. Mark Stewart was just starting an apprenticeship, and Megan Stewart works at First Presbyterian, where she coordinates the preteen program for fourth- through sixth-graders.

“It’s just so overwhelming when stuff like this happens,” Megan Stewart said. “Strokes happen to thousands of people, and I really don’t mean to complain, but it was devastating.”

Stewart’s stroke was caused by a blood clot that was released after he had surgery on his right knee and left wrist. He has a seizure disorder and the stroke caused him to have a seizure. Initially, Megan Stewart thought he was just slow waking up after the seizure, but she quickly realized something was very wrong.

At the hospital tests determined that Stewart had had a stroke.

And so a slow recovery began when he was admitted to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute on Jan. 5.

“When we got him home, it was just so very difficult,” said Megan Stewart. “He’d walk down the hallway, and he’d run into things – it is like he doesn’t know his right side is there. And we couldn’t get him in and out of the bathtub.”

The Stewarts and their two children moved in with Megan Stewart’s parents, Bruce and Trudy Burda.

It was family friend Linda Jones who got the idea to build a home for the Stewarts, and she has spearheaded the construction project.

“I feel like God woke me up in the middle of the night and said to build a house for Mark and Meg, so he should get the credit,” Jones said. “They had this dilapidated trailer they were living in, and I saw that Mark probably wouldn’t work any more. And I figured we would have to do something.”

And so the Stewart Resurrection House was born, and by 10 a.m. that first morning, Jones said, she had the first donation of $100.

“It’s been like that throughout this project: people have shown up to help before we even had the time to pray about whatever we were missing,” said Jones. “We have several people at church that have construction experience. Then someone handed me a business card for HiLine Homes and they have been incredible.”

HiLine Homes of Spokane is just one partner in the project; many other companies have given their labor and services for free.

“The excavator just called one day and said, ‘Hey, I’ll come out and do that, and I’ll do it for free,’ ” said Trudy Burda. “We had a work party, and we were asking for 18 people, because we figured we could handle that. Well, 38 people showed up.”

The planned fundraiser on Nov. 13 will hopefully push the family the rest of the way toward their goal of raising $80,000 for the home.

“We have learned to trust in God,” said Megan Stewart. “I really doubted that it was possible to still build the home. But here we are. This is just a group of people who said, ‘God is bigger than this, it’s going to happen.’ ” The house may be ready by Christmas.

And Mark Stewart is doing better, though he still has a long rehabilitation ahead of him. He’s lost memory and he has a hard time speaking, but he looks at his wife with the devotion of a newlywed while he struggles to remember and then say how old he is.

“It’s OK,” she says, smiling at him, “it’s OK, it’s all going to work out.”

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