MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you hear the name Joe Senser, much comes to mind. Football player, businessman and husband to Amy through her hit-and-run trial.
But Monday night, in the first of a two-part series only on WCCO, you will see a different side of both Joe and Amy. That’s because on July 3, their lives changed again in a very difficult way.
WCCO’s Mike Max has the story.
He came here just trying to make the Vikings team.
“I remember the big bushy-haired, curly-haired afro that came in from Westchester State years ago down in Mankato trying to make the team. I was holding a dummy for practice and he comes off and full speed and I said, ‘Man, you hit me like that again and we’re going to have to tango,'” Vikings radio analyst Greg Coleman said. “He said, ‘Man I’m just trying to make the team.'”
He blossomed before a knee injury ended his career prematurely.
“His second year playing he’s picked for the Pro Bowl,” Bob Stein said.
He stayed in town and became known for his restaurants. Then came July 3 this past summer.
“He was kind of half in and half out of the bathroom. It’s hard to go back,” Amy Senser said.
Joe Senser had fallen in the bathroom. The prognosis was not good: Two blood clots, a massive stroke.
“The report was… might not make it,” friend Brad Anderson said. “I know he was put under so that his body could recover.”
“They said, ‘He has had a significant stroke, a massive stroke, and you should call the family,'” Amy Senser said.
He survived when they took the risk of surgery, but his life had changed forever.
“He couldn’t really recognize us, but he could, and he couldn’t really respond to me. He was in a tough way,” Amy Senser said.
Rocking the world of his wife and four daughters.
“What has he meant to you,” Mike Max asked daughter Hannah Senser.
“Everything,” Hannah said, fighting tears.
After three months of intense therapy in hospitals, he is home again. But it is a different Joe Senser.
“He’s had a massive stroke that right now he can’t talk and he’s teaching himself to walk again,” Stein said. “So no one knows really how bad the damage is, if it will recur, if he could ever work.”
This is his home away from home: St Therese’s in New Hope, learning to talk again.
The eyes tell the story of an NFL player determined to master what was once simple.
“I had a stroke,” Joe Senser said.
Nothing easy, for anyone.
“Even through everything life just keeps moving on so it’s just one day at a time,” Hannah Senser said.
He’s learning to walk, one step at a time. He’s carrying an attitude he hopes will overcome.
“We’re really encouraged and grateful, and he just keeps on,” Amy Senser said.
“That’s the athlete in him and that’s the only thing that he knows how to do is to continue to fight. And we’re going to fight with him,” Coleman said.
It is those friendships that are helping carry Joe Senser now, spending time with him at his home and understanding the situation.
“This is difficult to watch. Here’s this big, strong man who for us, in my life has been such a leader for me,” Anderson said.
And so they go forward in a new normal, one filled with uncertainty. Jump-started by small progress, and buoyed by faith and attitude. It’s about looking forward, and never asking why.
“You can’t ask why. How do we know? We don’t know, we don’t get to be revealed things that are beyond… I mean we could ask why about everything,” Amy Senser said. “That’s not the question, it’s how? How do we deal with, how do we rise above what’s been given us?”
You can follow Senser’s recovery, and share words of encouragement, on his CaringBridge site.
The last time many of us saw Amy Senser, she was leaving a courtroom. She served two years for a killing a Twin Cities chef in a hit-and-run.
Tuesday night on WCCO 4 News at 10: Amy Senser explains how she’s dealt with the two major trials in her life and getting through some of the worst of times. It’s a candid interview with Amy Senser speaking for the first time, only on WCCO.