I think of the weather when I think of serious disease! It can be clear with no clouds or it can be otherwise, as in hurricane warnings or the unexpected. To my way of thinking, many diseases such as cancer are like a hurricane. Others are like a tornado! One day on TV, the weather forecaster is talking about a depression in the Atlantic.  A physician suspects something as routine diagnostics are ordered.

The depression in the Atlantic has now formed and is heading for the Caribbean. The medical diagnostics confirm the issue and the patient is properly concerned. The physician recommends an oncologist be consulted and another week goes by with the patient and their spouse mentally beginning to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Perhaps they go to Church to pray on it or seek a pastor’s counsel. The hurricane is now bearing down in the Caribbean as the news from the oncologist is likewise threatening. Surgery is grimly scheduled as the hurricane’s intensity is growing. Fear is in the air! 

In contrast, the unsuspecting person in Nebraska looks up, and holly shit! A ferocious tornado is earth bound with likely destruction and possible casualties. For me, that was a stroke! In the blink of an eye the house in Nebraska is no more. The life I was leading was no more. No warning – no time to acclimate, pray or anything else. Paralysis, incontinence and aphasia, among other deficits were in the air!

Well, that person was me in January 1996! Remarried just eighteen months before, I suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke. After a ten day stay in Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, here I was in an ambulance heading to a nursing home at 53.  Paralyzed on my previously dominant side, in a wheel chair and forecast to stay that way, unable to get more than two words out, not thinking, and incontinent. My tornado had struck!

With hiccups in the hospital for ten days and mostly sleeping from exhaustion, I had absolutely no idea just how sick I was. But sitting in my wheelchair during my initial speech evaluation it hit me that I must be a quite allot sicker than I thought! I couldn’t repeat a simple three word sentence. The words would not come out as hard as I tried. Me, a former management consultant, heck they talk all of the time, even in their sleep! In spite of these obvious deficits, I thought, I’ll beat it in a year – no question, a year is such a long time. Well we learned that that was B.S.

However, I’d have to say it never occurred to me that I would not recover. Likewise, my bride and ultimate caregiver, Debbie was definitely not entertaining anything but my recovery. As I stabilized from the ten day bout of hiccups which was finally overcome in the nursing home, I got into a busy rehab having speech, occupational and physical therapy, each several hours per day. That went on for three months until the day came to discharge me to what I considered the unknown.

It dawned on me that to beat this disease I would have to work really hard and in a sense own my therapy program. Writing my book, I later learned that I was engaging my recovery, of course, at that point I was just reacting from my gut. It also occurred to me that to be successful I would have to tame my impatience and adapt a one-step-at-a-time approach. Using these gut instincts allowed me to proceed without the more typical patient depression.

(To be continued...)

Bob Mandell, 
Stroke Victor