Sneaky, silent, sudden.


You might imagine a hillbilly version of Voldemort hiding behind a door. He’s armed with a cast-iron frying pan. The villain leaping into my path, bashes me in the head with a meaty thwack.

You know, a typical ambush.

Nope, my assailant hid in the right hemisphere of my very own brain. A brain aneurysm, abruptly transformed into a subarachnoid hemorrhage, took me down.


Visiting a hospital gift shop one morning, my vision zigzagged, my bones melted and I crumpled into a helpless puddle. Someone responded to my embarrassed cries for help and whisked me to the emergency room.

A doctor now known to me as Dr. Stupid laughed like a braying mule and sent me off for an angiogram.

“Heart Hiccup,” he later announced, chortling.

Discharged, I huddled in my bed wrestling with the worst headache I’d ever experienced, for five long, internally-bleeding days.

“This is not a normal migraine,” I told my family.

Back to the emergency room. Diagnosis: migraine. Treatment: an appointment with a local neurologist, now known to me as The Witchdoctor or “that smug asshole.”

My son accompanied me and my husband to the appointment.

The witchdoctor looked Gabriel up and down then asked, “How many children do you have?”

“Two.” I answered.

“Why so few?” he chided. “I have ten!” In my slightly fictionalized recollection of this appointment he grabs his crotch for emphasis.

He then took my nineteen year old son into the hall and asked him if I did this sort of thing for attention.

To my husband, he shrugged and said, “Get her a nice massage.”

Luckily we have a friend who is a massage therapist, she is also a registered nurse. Kristi rushed to our house, worked her magic for an hour, then did what nurses do and checked my neck and eyes. “Something else is going on here,” she told my husband. “I suggest you take her back to the hospital and ask them to do a spinal tap.”

One week after I lost consciousness in the hospital gift shop…Back to the ER we went. The spinal tap revealed blood in my spinal fluid. Diagnosis: probable cerebral hemorrhage. Treatment: two hour ambulance ride to nearest hospital with neurosurgeon on call.

This is actually where things begin to go downhill.

Brain surgery…complications…brain surgery…complications…stroke.

According to my neurosurgeon Ninety-nine percent of people like me are dead. Fifteen percent of those die before they reach a hospital.

When people hear this bit of trivia, they say, “Oh, you are such a strong person.”

I didn’t really have anything to do my survival

I didn’t know I was dying.

Most subarachnoid hemorrhages result in rapid massive brain injury, subsequent organ failure and finally, death. When there is no pilot a plane crashes.

I’m still here.

I am told, “God has some purpose for you.”

And I imagine this white haired bearded dude lounging in his cumulonimbus Lazy Boy, thumbing a game controller with supernatural speed.

This is not my God. But I figure it’s theirs.

An Old Testament God with his lightening-tipped finger pointing at my dread-covered head. BAM!

Still here.

Once again, I really didn’t have much to do with my survival.

After the surgery, I was a stranger to myself, with limited understanding of what had transpired.

All I knew was I’d lost the ability to walk and use my left arm and think in complete thoughts. Even worse, strangers dressed me each day, a large paper bib was tossed over my head at meals of soft food eaten while seated in a wheelchair. They called it rehab, I called it hell. All my personal care, and I mean personal was relegated to overworked emotionally-empty, sometimes angry nursing assistants.

The love of my family was the only thing that compelled me to open my eyes each morning.

It’s been five years and five months since my life took this crazy turn.

My God doesn’t have a plan for me. That would imply God conjured up this entire scenario. My God would never intentionally harm.

Things break, they wear out. After fifty-plus years of 100,000 heartbeats per day, flaws manifest themselves.

In the words of Mr. No-Bad-Talking, dookie happens.

The “why” of this wacky episode doesn’t matter.

Every life contains a smidge of drama.

Today, I close the curtains on my drama.

I’m too busy getting on with my full slightly-tilted life to think about that old news anymore.

I have a vacation, a garden, a craft project, a birthday party, a home-cooked meal, and a new writing topic to plan.

See ya somewhere.


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Vic’s Addiction


I experienced some extremely comforting drugs in Neuro-ICU after surgery.

Dilaudid is a derivative of morphine. I distinctly recall asking for more of that. “Can you give me some more of that “D” stuff?” I couldn’t remember the name, but the sensation of sinking into a cloud of cotton  wowed and numbed me, which after days, or hours, or minutes, or even seconds, of struggling in my hallucinatory battles is right where I wanted to be.


Which is why I am addicted to Chapstick. The left side of my mouth and nose are always the tingly numb of post-dental-surgery. So my lips feel chapped when they are perfectly moisturized.

One hundred percent of the time.

There is a tube of Chapstick at every spot in the house I am apt to linger for over a minute.

I would patrol the house and count them, but I’d be embarrassed to provide you the actual number.

Oh. Only nine. Plus one in each vehicle and two in my purse.

I don’t have a secret hidden stash, but it might not be a bad idea.



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pedicure-shoe1“Mama is that lady drunk?”

The girl didn’t ask out loud, her wide eyes and worried brow said it for her.

It’s 9:00am on a sunny Tuesday. The nail salon is crowded with respectable females.

My nails were painted with a glossy coat of plum-purple. I clambered down off the elevated pedicure chair, struggling to keep both my balance and those flimsy pedicure flip flops on my feet.

The girl sat watching me with the same concerned awe she’d display watching a dangerous high-wire act. Soon, every eye in the place found me.

I shuffled and lurched toward the drying table, staggering like…. well…like a drunk.

In a room crammed with chattering women and girls—

I was the entertainment.

Desperately hoping to arrive at the drying table with pristine nails, I focused on maneuvering through the crush. I hazarded a glance at the girl’s mother, who briefly met my eyes; then found something fascinating on the floor. If you don’t acknowledge the drunk lady at the salon she’s not really there.

I finally plopped into the chair and sighed, bugged  by the scraped glob of half-dry polish on Lefty’s big toe.

My observant pedicurist saw my dismay and came to the rescue with polish remover and fresh double coat of polish. Pretty.

For years, I’ve been that weird middle aged white woman with dreadlocks.

Now, I guess I’m that strange drunk-ish white woman with dreads.

Just a minor change.

I can live with it.

Posted in stroke recovery, stroke survivor | Tagged | 2 Comments


snafuWe all do it, the off-hand, “How ya doing?” We say it to loved-ones and complete strangers.

No one ever really answers question. The reply is most often the completely meaningless phrase, “I’m fine”.

When I’m asked,the answer I think silently is, “Snafu.”

Well it’s true. Situation normal all fucked-up. My normal is just a little bit different.

I usually tell people they expect to hear, “I’m okay.”

And I am.

Just imagine the indeterminate rambling reports I could issue in reply.

Because I’m polite, I will keep responding with. “I’m okay.”

But in my exhausted mind I’ll think:


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Maybe I should just grow some new ones

growing new armIt has taken five years to understand a few things about the “new” me.

The sole of my left foot is numb 99% of the time, meaning I can’t feel the ground beneath my foot which= HAZARD!  The other 1% of the time Lefty’s sole is ultra sensitive. A tiny rock in my shoe produces piercing pain which shoots all way up my leg and sears my brain.

Until Lida’s fingertips redevelop tactile feeling it will be difficult to grasp things in day to day activities.

I cannot hold what I cannot feel.

These short-circuited nerves will probably remain numb until something in my head clicks back into place. Perhaps electric stimulation therapy will improve the connection between my left extremities and my brain. No one really knows.

The numb bums and I are just hanging around trying new moves until we find out.
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conga line Bathing-beauties

Edgar Allen Poe said, ” Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”

Confession time: I am one of those obnoxious optimists, the kind of person who methodically excavates and studies events in order to discover good in disaster. Here is a partial list of good things related to my stroke:

1. I skipped Menopause.

2. Realized I have an abundance of devoted friends who are enthusiastic in their efforts to keep me their lives. They invite me to events, pick me up, drive me home, and pretty much bring the party to me.

3. No one asks me to be the designated driver; nor do they frown when I have a second glass of wine.

4. I received a perpetual handicap parking placard, which I try to use thoughtfully. There are certainly other people do need it more than I do, but it is great during a thunderstorm.

5. I have met some incredible people in the medical community: former strangers who impacted my life ways they cannot imagine. They kept me alive and keep me living – which are two very different states of being.

6. I appreciate my family more than ever– they have infinite patience and an amazing abundance of loving support, support I never knew I’d require before my “Big Bang”.

Sometimes catastrophe rips bonds asunder. Sometimes it acts as emotional super glue.

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Obsession or Focus?


As the fifth anniversary of my brain aneurysm and subsequent stroke approaches, I wonder:
Do I dwell on this admittedly dramatic event and its impact on my life too much?
Or is this constant attention the reason my recovery flourishes? Considering each waking moment an opportunity for therapy and improvement, certainly keeps *Lida and *Lefty at the forefront of my consciousness.
I don’t believe I’m obsessed with my affected limbs. But I’m always aware. They feel weird and don’t work right.
I try to take special care of them with lots of stretching and mental focus. They rarely respond overtly to my ministrations, but this perpetual scrutiny has definitely resulted in subtle improvement.
The connections to my brain have been under construction for five years, but the roadblocks now have detours that eventually get messages to my fingers and toes.
 So I am a little preoccupied with my post stroke symptoms, but the key word here is “occupied”.
I’m busy.
 Ever since I tumbled into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, my goal has been to grow in the sun and thrive.
And for Lida to give Death the finger.
*Lida=Little dead arm.* Lefty= my goofy foot.
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