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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/Former Trail Blazers standout survives, thrives following brain hemorrhage

TRIBUNE PHOTO: KERRY EGGERS - Cliff Robinson, longtime Trail Blazers star forward, talks about his recent health challenge.Uncle Cliffy is on the mend.

And he wants all the friends and fans who have reached out to him to know that they have been part of the recuperative process.

"The outpouring of love and encouragement from so many people has helped me stay positive," says Cliff Robinson, six weeks after a brain hemorrhage that left him paralyzed across the left side of his body. "I see how people can get down on the process. To go from walking and talking and doing what you want to, in the blink of an eye, not being able to do that is so upsetting. I can see how people can get discouraged.

"The support I've received from everyone has helped me be able to deal with this a whole lot better."

Robinson, 50, scored nearly 20,000 points in an 18-year career that began with the Trail Blazers in 1989. Only 45 players in NBA history have scored more points than the 6-10 Robinson. He ranks just behind John Stockton and Bernard King, and just ahead of Walter Davis and Terry Cummings on the prestigious list.

The former Connecticut standout was the versatile sixth man on the Portland team that reached the NBA Finals in 1990 and '92, the player who came off the bench to replace Kevin Duckworth, Jerome Kersey or Buck Williams on the team's powerful front line. Robinson spent eight seasons with the Blazers and still ranks among the top 10 in most career statistical categories. He is fourth on the franchise career scoring list with 10,405 points, behind only Clyde Drexler, LaMarcus Aldridge and Terry Porter.

Since his retirement as a player in 2007, Robinson has made the Portland area his home much of the time. He currently rents a home in the West Hills.

When news came out on March 8 that Robinson had been hospitalized with an undisclosed ailment, I was concerned. When I learned the severity of his condition, I was shocked.

My first year covering the Blazers for The Oregonian was 1989-90, Robinson's rookie season. He was a bit brash and free-spirited, but fun to deal with and always respectful. We have held a good professional relationship through all these years.

We met for coffee this week, and I watched as he walked slowly into the shop, limping a bit as he entered, but with that familiar smile on his face.

"I'm feeling good," he said after we shook hands and he sat down, a bit gingerly. "I thought it would be a slower process for me to get to this point, but I've been able to bounce back and get back on my feet and return to doing my daily routine."

It happened on the morning of March 8.

"I'd gotten up a couple times in the night to go to the bathroom, and everything was fine," Robinson said. "Once I got up to start the day, I went to step out of bed and I fell. I tried to get back up. I couldn't move the left side of my body."

Robinson called his housemate, LeVaun Scott, for help.

"He was able to help me get back to my feet, and I thought I'd be OK, but I had no movement on my left side," Robinson said.

He never lost consciousness, and he had all of his mental faculties, but he couldn't walk.

"It was such a scary moment," Robinson said.

The initial plan was for Scott to drive him to the hospital.

"I was dead weight," Robinson said. "We couldn't even get me to the car."

An ambulance transported him to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. Tests showed he had suffered a brain hemorrhage. Doctors believe the cause was high blood pressure, a problem Robinson had endured for years but had not had treated.

"I knew I needed to keep an eye on it," he said, "but I ignored it. I took for granted I'd be OK."

The right side of Robinson's body was normal, but he had suffered paralysis all across the left side. He had some function in his left hand, but that was it.

Robinson considers himself lucky.

"My symptoms were on the mild side," he said. "It could have been much worse. I could have had total paralysis. I could have been permanently paralyzed. I could have lost my life."

Robinson was in the hospital for a little more than a month. Gradually, he showed progress.

"The first thing to come back was (movement in the left) arm," he said. "It's been a slow process down to the leg."

He wears a brace on his left leg for support.

"I still can't lift my toes up to keep them from dragging on the ground," Robinson said. "I have about 60 percent back in my arm. I still have to get the strength back. I pretty much have the mobility back now. I'm still working on things like coordination with the hand."

Robinson is on medication. He is doing rehabilitation work twice a week, and soon will begin work with a personal trainer.

"I'm really trying to get my fluidity back," he said. "My left arm is pretty much back to normal. Now I'm working to get my strength back and to regain full use of my left leg.

"I'm going to make some changes in my diet and toward leading a more healthy lifestyle. I'm going to try to look more toward the future, and not just tomorrow."

Three of Robinson's six children — sons Jaylin and Isaiah and daughter Jessica — live in Portland. Daughter Savannah is in Bend. His twins, Lyle and Clifford III, live in Arizona.

Jessica has a 6-year-old son, Jayce, who is close to his grandfather.

"He's a ball of energy," Robinson said. "I want to be around to enjoy being his grandpa."

Robinson's plans to begin an "Uncle Spliffy" marijuana operation in Portland have taken a turn. He is now partnered with Pistil Point Cannabis, helping with licensing and marketing the product. "I'm excited to get back to work, as we work on some long-term goals we set for the company," he said.

Robinson is beginning to get back out and about. He attended Game 3 of the Blazers-Golden State playoff series at Moda Center. He has enjoyed the reaction he has gotten from well-wishers along the way.

"The fans on social media have been tremendously supportive," Robinson said. "From the people I've worked with in the hospital and rehab, to people I've come across in grocery stores or on the street — everybody has been so nice and helpful in getting me through this."

Doctors have given Robinson a realistic picture in terms of recovery.

"They're encouraging, but they also say it's possible I won't get 100 percent of my movement back," he said. "But after playing 18 years in the NBA, I know what my body is capable of doing. I know the healing it is capable of.

"It's a matter of my staying encouraged and going through the process. Odds are in my favor. I'm optimistic. I'm anxious to get back to bowling. I still have a lot of golf to play. I still have a lot of life to live."

Robinson hopes he can be an example for people who have neglected to get their blood pressure checked, or haven't done anything after learning their blood pressure is high.

"Get checked," he said. "Take care of things. You can't take that stuff for granted, especially when you're getting up in age. There's a thing called quality of life. We all have to keep an eye on that."

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@kerryeggers

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