Devin Dearth — the Stark County native whose struggle to overcome the effects of a stroke was documented in an award-winning film — died Sunday.
The cause of death was related to the brain injury he suffered in 2007. Dearth, 46, died at home in Carrollton, where he lived with his mother and stepfather.
The stroke was the subject of the documentary "9000 Needles," which chronicled Dearth's treatment program in China. It was produced by his brother, Doug, who has multiple movies to his credit.
The power of the 1985 Lake High School graduate's story has no bounds, the brother said, even in death. Those inspired and touched by the film have expressed their condolences worldwide.
"Devin was always a very dedicated and courageous guy," Doug Dearth said Wednesday.
"We would always say it's not the challenge, but who shows up to the challenge."
And he kept a sense of humor. Just recently he razzed Doug about bringing the frigid weather to Ohio from California.
"He had the sense of humor that could burst a room into laughter, (and) that will really be missed," said Doug's wife, Beth Dearth.
Prior to the stroke, Devin had a wonderful life — A bodybuilding title winner in Kentucky. A good job. Three children.
Then, at age 40, he suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to walk. He also struggled to speak.
Progress he made was limited due to health insurance issues, according to the documentary. That's when Doug Dearth learned about a promising stroke rehabilitation program in China.
The 2009 film captured both the agony and triumph. A three-month treatment program integrated Western and traditional Chinese medicine. Poked with a total of 9,000 needles, including in his eyelids, Devin Dearth was able to walk out of the hospital with assistance; his verbal skills also improved.
"I think what was most inspiring about Devin's story was that he just allowed people to go through the journey and just inspired them to keep trying," Doug Dearth said.
The treatment improved his quality of life, he said. A return trip to China also helped. But it did not produce lasting results, the brother said.
"That was a devastating stroke," Dearth said of the brain stem injury. "The more I've learned about it, the more I realize he was lucky to survive at all."
A service will be at 6 p.m. Friday at the Church of Christ (Christian Disciples), 353 Moody Ave., Carrollton.
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 or on Twitter: @ebalintREP