Guide Headlights . . . How I Turned the Lights Back On After My Stroke and Aphasia

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Deans' stroke musings

After stopping at a small marina where he brought a stringer of red snapper from a fisherman who had just docked, Uncle Hank drove out toward the bay, stopping at a spot that gave us a wide vista. I was getting my first glimpse of the ocean, and I mentioned to Uncle Hank that I had expected to see big waves and surf crashing against the rocks. It was true. All at once, the whole world seemed to be holding its breath. The water was smooth as a mirror. The terms and the seagulls that had been circling over the bay had fallen silent.

The clouds seemed frozen in place. By the time we got back to the house and pulled into the gravel parking bay, which was under several inches of water, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was out in full force. Vapor steamed off the pond-sized puddles and kudzu-covered telephone poles along the road. As we climbed shakily off the truck, mom ran inside to fetch towels.

Headlights . . . : How I Turned the Lights Back on After My Stroke and Aphasia

Meanwhile, Aunt Rosie upbraided Uncle Hank for letting us get so drenched. That evening, as Uncle Hank grilled snapper, I regaled him with questions about Florida. I was particularly interested in the venomous snakes, alligators, jellyfish. He said that the alligators were so lazy and well-fed that they sometimes dozed off while waiting to go on stage. The wrestler would then embrace the gator with his other arm to give the impression that he was trying to subdue it by brute force.

Uncle Hank strode around the car to join Aunt Rosie and mom. How do you keep yourself looking so beautiful! I was fascinated by him. And then there were my girl cousins. The highlight of the visit occurred the night Uncle Hank drove with Aunt Rosie to Waukegan to visit one of his buddies, leaving the kids behind. After at least a half an hour of giggling and splashing, the girls emerged shrieking and laughing from the bathroom soaking wet wrapped in a single beach towel.

Attracted by the commotion, everyone in the house converged near the top of the stairs. Sure enough, midway down the hall one of the cousins apparently lost her footing, bringing down the whole crew, at which point, Hank, Jr. It was at that moment that Dad, who was the last to climb the stairs, suddenly froze. I can still recall the look on his face as he will stared, mouth gaping.

Only years later that I determine that his smile was one of complicity, and acknowledgement that he and I had just witnessed something rare and exotic, something imported from a hothouse climate far removed from our northern urban prairie — a little gift from Uncle Hank and Aunt Rosie, along with the shellacked puffer and the big, white conch shell that held within it the sound of the ocean.

The painting above was done in The painting below was done in The third picture painting was done when I was a junior in high school. My suspicion was that he was incentivized to fail patients the first go around so he could encourage them to go through another round of physical therapy. I, the actual patient remains the one most suited to evaluating his or her condition.

Barely concealing his exasperation, Dr. What a relief! M once. As you may recall, Dr. M was the neurologist assigned to my case after I had my first stroke. On the second day of my hospitalization, Dr. Now, to put my response into fuller context, please allow me to provide a little background. In the year and a half that intervened between receiving Dr. I had read the literature on dissection strokes, and in most cases, Dr. Dissection strokes do tend to heal spontaneously. At one point, I even checked herself into the emergency room, convinced that I was having another stroke.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

When she asked me how I felt at that time, I said that it had abated to the extent that I could leave work, get into my car, and drive to the hospital. On Aug. But some of the special characters in my childhood had such an impact on my life, its [sic] like they are urging to write this.

It haunts me.

Migraine With Aura Symptoms | Triggers | Treatment

When I reached Mom by phone, she reiterated that she felt compelled to write her life story. A little background: I am the oldest of eight children. Intrigued and flattered, I agreed to her proposition. Riddled with misspellings and teetering on the edge of grammatical coherence, her life story would ultimately encompass more than pages. I wish I could assert that I was equally diligent in transcribing her installments as they arrived, but in truth, I worked on them sporadically for a few months, and then just let them accumulate.

I was caught up in all the busy work that defines a man, who, along with his wife, was trying to stake his career in the unstable world of journalism, while also trying to raise three boys. With the exception of this shocking revelation, she has little to say about the four years she lived in the orphanage.

She was 13 when she and her sisters were released from the orphanage. Their mother had found work as a caretaker for several elderly clients. When I told her how much it paid she was all for it. Their marriage had an inauspicious start. My Mom meets my Dad about one-third of the way into her life story, and it is he, not the childhood friends to whom she previously alluded, who wrests control of her narrative. Indeed, Mom goes so far as to accuse Henrietta of pressuring Dad to divorce her, arguing that he married beneath his station.

She chronicles increasingly dark years marked by undiagnosed bipolar disorder, which entailed numerous hospitalizations and subsequent electroshock treatments; a descent into alcoholism, and, ultimately, a seemingly miraculous recovery when the last in a long list of exasperated psychiatrists threw caution to the winds and prescribed a new and controversial treatment: lithium salts. Although we no longer lived on the Hill, our new house, situated on a block dominated by modest ranch houses and two-flats, evoked wealth.

Life After Stroke

I can appreciate the toll this took on mom during those years. She writes of the unrelenting time and effort involved in housecleaning, laundry chores and meal preparation. Dad would go to work at Blue Cross every morning as mom began her round of chores. But it reached a point where Mom would usher us through our bedtime rituals around , kiss us goodnight, and then head back down stairs. In contrast to my short-tempered father, Mom would initially come off as the voice of reason.

However, a half hour or so into the argument, Mom would hit some sort of red zone, and literally start screaming. The drinking would escalate. Four or five months later: repeat performance.

She went on. I was nonplussed to come across this entry. But then it goes threw [sic] my mind. Who could I get? However, his transition back to the world of the living was remarkably swift. How can I describe her gift to us, make it tangible? He had eight children and made a point of bequeathing exactly one-eighth of his estate to each of us. Now consider my mother. Dad finally relented, taking her at her word that she had always vowed to name her first son after her favorite apostle, Saint Thomas. An excerpt of this post was previously published in the winter, , issue of After Hours.

Last fish of the season.

Stories of life after brain injury

My best time was 70, but that was with my right hand only. She could not tell me what Dr.


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Back in my room, Ron, my new roommate, was talking quietly to his wife Jennifer. So what is my first thought? Oh my God, I contracted one of those antibiotic resistant bugs! After finally determining that my stroke management protocol needed a kick in the shins, Dr. M had put in an order for me to have surgery. A little aside, dear reader. Not surprisingly, Casey was charged with first-degree murder. I filled them in on the latest. The nurses caught a few more minutes of the trial, leaving just as my lunch arrived. For a change of pace, I was having the Burrito Grande, along with French fries, a fruit cup, and a strawberry milkshake.


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My goal was to memorize them while the CNN trial coverage droned on in the background. Before I knew it, supper time had rolled around. Assuming I passed this test, I would then take a road driving test with a driving instructor contracted by Evanston Hospital, who supposedly has expertise in evaluating physically impaired drivers.

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Mastering the first component of the test was very similar to the light board test I described at the beginning of this post, with one difference: the moment a light flashed, I needed to depress a foot pedal mounted on the floor approximately where a car brake would be. I should note that the left-side stroke I suffered had a devastating impact. My right foot and leg were perfectly functional. As you might recall, I had driven to and from Coon Valley, Wisconsin, a mile round trip, during the five-day span when I was still in denial about having suffered a major stroke.

Next on the agenda was the test that would assess my knowledge of the rules of the road, as demonstrated by my ability to identify the various signs. I retook the sign test and passed it, which left only the road test.