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I Had A Stoke; The Stroke Doesn't Have Me

The title of this piece is drawn from a commercial I saw featuring Patti Labelle. I appreciate the sentiment and attempt to remember it every day. It is important to me that my medical setbacks do not define me; they are simply another challenge along the way. The stroke left me with a number of physical infirmities not the least of which is the speech impairment I struggle with each day.

The stroke (you’ll notice I am careful not to refer to the condition as “my stroke” as that seems to infer ownership, which I am loathe to claim) occurred nearly two years ago. At that time, the doctors told me the aftereffects would eventually decrease but it has been well over the one-year mark whereupon I expected diminishment of my weaknesses. As more time passes, I must reconcile myself to the fact that, unfortunately, some of this will be permanent.

At the time of the episode, I was at work and began experiencing symptoms such as slurred speech as well as left side weakness. I went home and went to bed (my first mistake). I awoke in the middle of the night with the strange sensation that I had awakened to die. Later on the next morning, I went out to run some errands (my second mistake as by this time I should have been on my way to the hospital). I knew I was in trouble when I began bumping into people and they pushed me away as if I was inebriated or on drugs.

Later on, I learned that all the delays I made in getting me hospitalized were instrumental in increasing the severity of the cerebral-vascular episode that I suffered. To some extent, I blame myself for my current circumstance. I know that the stroke had several contributing factors, including: a long undiagnosed case of hypertension, as well as type-2 diabetes so there is no need for me to beat up on myself for my delay in seeking medical care.

I guess it fits my deep-seated Catholic inculcation, a need for assigning self-blame as well as an equally deep-seated guilt I have long associated with my religious childhood. Religion aside, I must realize that these setbacks are not my fault; I simply took “a bullet to the brain” as my speech therapist was fond of saying. I must somehow find the strength of mind as well as body to overcome.

Immediately following the “accident” (as the medical people are apt to describe it), I suffered from intermittent crying jags, (which I continue, periodically to endure); any strong emotion is usually translated into sobs and tears. The doctor prescribed Prozac, which I did not care for as it reminded me of central nervous system stimulants, interrupting my appetite and sleep patterns. I quickly halted that regimen. While the drug did wonders for my mood, the side effects were unacceptable. I’m sure Prozac (and the like) have helped many; it just wasn’t right for me.

Therefore, I continue to move hopefully forward; I will press on with the various activities I enjoy but am now obligated to enjoy less: music making, hiking, photography, writing – though the latter two present fewer problems than the former. Perhaps in time and with the requisite effort all these things will fall back into place.

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I Had A Stoke; The Stroke Doesn't Have Me by 


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