Stroke Reflections by Mike Tallinger

by Mike Tallinger

To My Friends:


My goal is to try to impart what I felt and what my caregivers went through. The most important piece of advice is that the stroke survivor will get better. It takes time and the desire to get better. It means that the stroke survivor will have to listen, trust and work along with their therapists, doctors, nurses and other caregivers.

I now drive, talk, listen, write, read, and walk. At the time of my stroke I was unable to do any of those things and I felt that I would never be able to do those things again. My right wrist is weak and I limp slightly but I continue to improve. It's the inside, my brain that was and still is my most important thing to me. The cognitive abilities that I had lost at the time of the stroke was the scariest to me. Being unable to connect thoughts or words sometimes made life unbearable.

My recovery at first was slow, tedious, frustrating. I guess frustrating sums it all up. I couldn't talk or get my wants or needs expressed. And when a stroke survivor can't express him or her self they will increasingly become more and more agitated. It is important to let the survivor know that you want to help to work through the problem and to try to allow the survivor to relax. I found that I was very anxious and demanding. I felt that no one understood me. This is a typical scenario. Caregivers will need to remember this and to try to understand that the stroke survivor is not mad at them, but at the survivor's own situation.

I want to thank all my friends and family who cared about me during my hospitalization and throughout the last two years. Your prayers, calls, letter and concern for me has been the reason I have been able to carry on. Thank you all and God Bless you all!

One thing about the semantics of "stroke lingo". Being very politically incorrect, I was constantly being told I was a stroke survivor, not a stroke victim. Well my friends call it what you want, but I am a victim and I enjoy it. You may as well get as much sympathy as you can, it won't last forever!

My History
 

I was aware of serious high blood pressure, along with very stressful, but at the same time very enjoyable employment. I was afraid to confront my high blood pressure as I had what is referred to as "White Coat Syndrome". This is a psychological condition where the person typically ignores symptoms and hopes that every thing will be okay. I drank a minimum of 10 cups of coffee daily and had a terrible diet for many years. Who knows what my cholesterol was at? At one point in 1997 I weighed 306 pounds. I ate steak 3 times a week and burgers, fries, malts, cokes, donuts, and anything else I could throw down my throat. I was a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen and happen it did!

I subsequently reformed my eating habits and began to exercise by walking about 3 miles each day, lifted weights and avoided fast foods. I lost about 80 pounds in a year's time. All the while knowing that I still had extremely high blood pressure but figuring that my eating habits and exercise would cure my past sins. I went to local blood pressure machines at drug stores and every time my blood pressure was in the area of 240 over 160. I was an idiot. I should have known better. Now, I constantly tell people I meet, get your blood pressure checked often. I check mine daily.

Twice in the year before my stroke I saw a doctor who each time said that I must be treated for my blood pressure. I was afraid I would have to go to the hospital so I ignored his advice thinking that it would go away because I was exercising and eating properly. On Thanksgiving 1999 in the evening I had gone to bed early to read as I would often to. And typically I would fall asleep with my head propped up on my neck. About 11 PM I woke up and found a balloon sized lump on my neck. I was scared to death. It didn't hurt, but I was freaked out about it due to the "White Coat Syndrome" that I had. I was scared enough to get up and tell my wife about it. It looked terrible so we went right to the hospital. The doctor on call didn't bother doing any type of Ultra Sound. The doctor on call told my wife that I seemed to have a serious psychological problem and since I wasn't co-operating the only thing she could do was to suggest that I see my family doctor the next day. I didn't want to hear that I was sick. I didn't want to be hospitalized, I wanted to go home and pretend that nothing was wrong. The next day the swelling started to go down so I did what I always did, I ignored it figuring it would go away. It is clear to me now, as evidenced by the ultra sound I had at the hospital at the time of my stroke, that I had injured my carotid artery. I had a complete blockage on my left side. Several day's before the stroke I began feeling quite anxious. I didn't know why this feeling occurred.

The evening before I had the stroke, I was rehearsing with the rock band I sang in. We were getting ready to do some recording and we had a great rehearsal. I was with a great bunch of guys. We had rehearsed from about 7 PM till about 10 PM. We didn't drink or smoke, but we drank enough coffee to market our own coffee brand! I thought it was the excitement of recording and having a fantastic band that was making me on edge. I didn't sleep at all that night. I had a queasy feeling that I couldn't shake. It was like something big was going to happen but I didn't know what or why. How things would change for me. It would be 7 months before I would even be able to think about trying to sing again. Even though I had a hard time talking to people, for some reason the part of my brain that allowed me to sing and recite lyric's came back to me quickly. In fact, because of the cognitive skills I had to relearn, my memory is better than ever.

The day of the stroke I was at work at about 12:30 and I realized something was very wrong. I told my staff I was going to go home and relax. I drove the half-hour to my home, changed my clothes and went in the back yard to do some garden clean up. I was a passionate gardener and this usually relaxed me. At about 3:15 my right arm suddenly dropped to my side and I was clearly in shock. At that time I was still able to walk but my speech was very weak. I walked into the house and fortunately my entire family was there. When I listened to my family it seemed like I was in a dream, it was like I was floating. At this point I had lost all ability to understand what was going on with me, and I am re-telling what my family told then transpired. My 10-year-old daughter said hi to me three times and I did not respond. I went to the bathroom and went to the toilet, then sat down on my bed.

 

My wife, Roni, realized that something was wrong and came into the bedroom. I just looked at her and mumbled "help me". She said "what?" I said, "help me". Being the "funny guy" that I was I didn't typically get any sympathy as I was always doing stupid things to freak out the family, in fact anybody who I came in contact with was fair game for my outlandish gimmick's. This time though, my wife knew it was serious. I wouldn't go in an ambulance, so my wife agreed to take me. We were both scared to death. I am sure it was just as bad for her that it was for me. Not knowing what was going to happen at the hospital or even whether or not I would actually make it to the hospital. Although I thought that I had lost conscience when I got to the hospital, my wife said that I was conscience all the way there and even in the emergency room. At that point I could still move my arms and legs and still was able to answer questions although I felt like I was in a daze and seemed like I was a mile away from everything that was going on.

My doctor told me that at the time of admission to the hospital my blood pressure was the highest he had ever seen, in the order of 290 over 180. The doctors worked to reduce my blood pressure, as it was so high that I was not able to use TPA "the clot busting drug" which would help me, until they could lower my blood pressure. A scan showed that I had suffered a major stroke, but it was not a brain bleed. Clearly, I had damaged my carotid artery when I had fallen asleep on the night of Thanksgiving. The entire right side of my body was not working including my speech and my normal cognitive skills. At this point I did not know who I was or why I was there. Within about two hours my blood pressure was down low enough to use TPA. I was fortunate to be able to receive the drug within the three-hour time allowance.

I was in the intensive case unit for 4 days. I was fed through an IV. During this time I did not know who I was or what had happened to me. My wife said that when I was awake in the Intensive care unit, I cried constantly.

The night before I was to be released to the intermediate care ward, the 3rd shift nurse woke me up and asked if I wanted to go to the bathroom. I had been wearing some sort of adult diapers because I was unable to understand what was going on around me and couldn't control my bladder. I didn't really understand, so she gave me a porta-urinal to use. I had never even seen on of those. She undid my pants for me and left the room. I held my good hand and proceeded to pee all over myself. Evidently she was not aware that I didn't have the use of my right hand or any cognitive skills to know what I had to do to go to the bathroom. All of that had to be relearned. That was so embarrassing! She was so embarrassed! Fortunately, she cleaned me up and changed all of my bed sheets.

Once I mastered the porta-urinal this device became my friend. In fact, a nurse gave me a clean one to use with a drinking straw in the lid and I was able to completely gross out many people. Ah, good times, good times!

I was released to the intermediate care unit and within the day I was taken to the 4th floor at Waukesha Memorial Hospital to begin therapy. Several of my band members, many, many friends and my family were there to see me start the next phase of my recovery. So begins the next six weeks in the hospital. My family and friends were the reason I was able to maintain what little sanity I had left. Never let yourself find reasons not to go to see friends or family in the hospital. Your presence and caring is so very important to them. I was so very blessed to receive so many beautiful plants from so many wonderful friends. My hospital room looked and smelled like a garden. I still have several of the plants I received in the hospital.

The First Two Weeks
 

Expect the stroke survivor to be scared, confused, frustrated, depressed, and lonely.

I wanted to go home. I wanted to be normal again. What is wrong with me?
I was unable to talk, but I did understand some of what was going on around me.
I could not walk, I could not use my right arm and it was difficult to eat. I could only eat soft foods. I because very confused when more than one person talked to me. However my wife, my family and friends and the wonderful staff at Waukesha Memorial Hospital started me on the long road to recovery. I was extremely fatigued constantly. I was receiving Physical, Speech, and Occupational therapy twice a day. From 9 AM to 10:30 AM and again between 1PM till 2:30 PM. I slept between the noon hour and again after the afternoon therapies. I was very tired from the therapy sessions but I believe it was the best thing that could have been done for me.

After about a week I was able to be wheeled into the shower and was helped with a daily shower. It was at first very embarrassing having someone have to wash me, but after awhile I was able to relearn how to wash myself to some extent. I had to be helped to learn how to brush my teeth and shave. It took me about a year before I didn't have to rest for about a half-hour after showering.

Before my stroke I was known as a "comedian". When I sang with my band I often worked up short sets of comedy. I had also been involved in comedy nights and had sent in several comedy skits to Saturday Night Live along with several other venues. Maybe what I should say is that "I" thought of myself as a comedian. I was very irreverent and some might say, quite inappropriate. And I liked it that way. I had all the necessary props. Fake poop, fake vomit, silly glasses, and sound effects including a remote control fart machine. After about two weeks I was able to retrieve some of these "necessary" items. I started to get a name for myself in the stroke area. The nurses would send in "victims" such as new nurses, doctors, and the like and we would shock them.

 

I won't even go into the things we would do, just that it is my opinion it helped me get through the day. Well, after about 3 weeks I was asked to attend a session with the head therapy doctor, all of my therapists including physical, speech, and occupational therapists. In addition my wife was in attendance as I could still not speak and I had severe cognitive problems. The doctor, who is a wonderful but somewhat "stiff" no nonsense type of person, started by saying that she was concerned that I must have suffered serious emotional problems as I was acting quite inappropriate. My wife looked at her and said that I had always acted inappropriate and that the fact that I was acting this way gave her hope that one-day I would recover. After that I tried to reduce my preponderance for silliness. I tried and failed! Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.

Weeks Three and Four


Expect the stroke survivor to be very tired, but become used to their environment and try to make them feel at home. They may believe that they are not being properly taken care, of but from what I have seen the caregivers at the hospital bend over backwards to be helpful. It is important that family members encourage stroke survivors to listen to and follow all rules in the hospital. Often stroke survivors don't understand that they do not have the ability to move freely in the room and because of this they fall or suffer other injuries. Encourage them to always call for a nurse when ever they need something, rather than trying to do things themselves until their doctor authorizes them to do so.

I settled into my environment waiting for the day I could be released. Then when was talking with a physical therapist I told her that I right leg ached. She immediately contacted a doctor and I was taken for an ultra sound. A blood clot was found and was rushed back to bed and hooked up with blood thinners. I was scared to death as I did not know how a blood clot could affect me and wasn't given any answers until the next day. Evidently because of lack of movement and the effects of my stroke it is not unusual that clots could form. I was thankful that I didn't wait to mention the pain in my leg to the therapist. Due to the blood clot, I was unable to get out of bed for 8 days. The worst thing was that I was unable to go to the bathroom and had to have a bedpan. It took my 4 days before I got up the nerve to sit in my bed and poop. Then I had to be cleaned. Any baby who is reading this knows how horrible it is to have your butt wiped! Icky! I hope that doesn't offend anyone, but YOU KNOW ME!

I spent my time working on my therapies, watching TV and seeing friends and family. I found that looking at speech therapy books were extremely helpful to assist me in relearning words and names of items. I could see the words but the names would not come to me. It was if I had a short circuit in my brain. I couldn't tell you what a radio, TV, car, rabbit was and so on and so on. The words did not come to me even though I knew what they were. I had Aphasia, the inability to speak or understand what I was reading.

It was great to be able to again actually have a shower after lying in bed for 8 days. I was unable to use the shower by myself the entire time I was in the hospital. I had requested a shower each day. It was a pain for the nurses but I found that this helped me feel better about myself, staying fresh and clean. I can't stand to be without a shower.

One evening I had called for a nurse to assist me to go to the bathroom. I was not allowed to move from my bed to a wheel chair by myself for safety reasons. It seemed like the nurse was not responding in what I felt should be enough time. I now realize that many stroke survivors are not able to understand time and become impulsive. Well, I was able to get into my wheel chair, get myself into the bathroom and then get back into the wheel chair and wheel over to my bed. Unfortunately, just that little bit of work  completely fatigued me. When I tried to get out of the wheel chair and get into bed I was unable to lift myself into bed and fell on the floor. Fortunately I did not hit my head but I did cause quite a bruise on my leg and arm. I was found about 15 minutes later. I really got into trouble for that. I didn't realize that I was still not able to take care of myself. I guess I didn't want to be a burden to the nurses. I can't stress enough how important it is to listen to your nurses and caregivers for your sake, and the sake of others. Many injuries happen in the hospital when patients do not listen to nurses and take it upon themselves to help themselves. My advice to you is to relax and wait for assistance.

My Last Two Weeks of Hospitalization

Try to fine-tune the therapy exercises that your therapists teach you. You will find that you need to continue your daily exercises after you leave the hospital. I have found that through the exercises I use daily that I am continuing to improve after 2 years after my stroke. When possible and if you are able try to befriend someone who has also has a stroke to give them your positive benefits. We are each one of us, continuing to improve, if we want to!

There were many times I suffered through depression wondering what it was going to be like when I was released from the hospital. First I couldn't wait to leave the hospital and then as my release date grew nearer I became apprehensive. The hospital was safe, secure. I realized I would have to take care of myself to some extent and I worried about that. I also worried how others would look at me. I still was unable to walk more than a few feet without resting. My arm was cramped up to my chest. Fortunately my doctor prescribed Prozac two days after my stroke. I have found that Prozac has taken the edge off on my fears and anxiety. I have no medication effect other than helping me feel better about myself.

I continued working on my two-a-day therapies. I started to compile a list of exercises, which I could continue to use when I was released from the hospital. I continued to have many visitors and calls that really made me feel good.

A friend of mine brought a present, which became the talk of the physical therapy area. It is a tee shirt, which says, "I had a stroke, what's YOUR excuse!" My wife had 4 more made up for me for my out patient therapy sessions. I have given several away to other stroke survivors to brighten up their days.

In the last week of my hospital stay I was allowed to get up from my bed and move about in my room, very carefully. It was wonderful watching out the windows at the birds, and clouds and the people on the street. I realized that I was about to be sprung from my prison.

Then it hit me. I was happy in the hospital. I was safe. I had been well taken care of in the hospital. The food was great. I really didn't have to take care of anything. My prescriptions were given to me at the right time. I was scared!

My Release!


Scared, unsure, frustrated. It takes time for the stroke survivor to heal. And you will never be the same. But you can take heart. You are alive. And there is so much that you can share for those who have gone through your experience.

I came home on April 10, 2000. I missed my bed, my yard, my plants, and my privacy. I was surprised when I came home and saw my house. My mother in law had paid to have a walk in shower along with grab bars. It was a wonderful present. I was able to get into the shower by myself. It was a real morale booster!

Then came the outpatient therapy. I was taken to and from the hospital by a hospital van three days a week for about 2 1/2 hours daily. I continued to get stronger. I worked on my exercises twice a day. Yes, it was boring and yes I was sick and tired of the work but I "wanted" to get better. It's the "want" that continues to make you improve. Not every day was a walk in the park. There was not a noticeable improvement each day or even each week. And I still became (and yes become) frustrated, but with patience and prayer you will learn that life continues to improve.

July 12th I received my driver's license back. It took at least 4 months to really feel comfortable driving again and I continued to use the hospital van service until July.

My First Summer


Fatigue is my biggest problem.

I figured within a year and a half I would be back to work full time. Sure, I did not have use of my right hand and I was unable to get words out, but I was alive and I was sure if I pushed that I would get better quicker. So I set myself a goal. Each time I saw my doctor I told him I expect to go back to work and each time he would tell me that I was fortunate to even be alive and that I needed to take it slow.

I spent time in my yard. I couldn't really do much of anything, just enjoy the beauty of the plants and the animals. I have a large in-ground pool, but I was afraid to go in the pool for fear that I would have another stroke and drown. My wife, kids and brother mowed the lawn. I had always loved the yard work and it was my goal to be able to do that again. My fatigue was the worst thing. Not only was I tired but also any type of agitation caused even more fatigue. I told my doctor about my frustration and asked if I couldn't get a prescription to calm my nerves when I became overly anxious.

 

I told him that I was given Adavan in the hospital to help me get to sleep at night. Nighttime was the worst. I had too much time to think about how bad my situation was. Of course my doctor already knew I had been taking Adavan in the hospital and he allowed me to get a prescription. It is important that anyone who uses any type of anxiety medication be careful not to over use it. We should only use it when needed, not just because it is there. At first I found myself using the medication about every other day in the first month. Then, as I was able to relax myself and keep myself away from stress I was able to reduce the Adavan to 1 or 2 times a week.

The first summer was a learning experience for me. Even though I was able to get around I was not comfortable driving too much. Normally when I would go to lunch with friends I would be picked up. I still had to use a cane throughout the next year and it was quite difficult maneuvering.

I used to love McDonalds coffee. So, in order to get my driving skills back I decided to treat myself to a large coffee every other morning. One day I had a lunch date with a close business friend. I had got my cup of coffee in the morning but I decided to skip breakfast so I could have a nice lunch with my friend. That turned out to be a bad mistake. At lunch we talked and had about 3 or 4 coffees. I ordered a large order of fries because I was to embarrassed to eat anything, else due to my inability to eat in front of people. I was still working on feeding myself left-handed. Seems like an easy thing to do but for me it was difficult.

I started getting the feeling at I first felt when I was having the stroke. My head was spinning, every thing seemed like a dream. I asked my friend to drive me to the hospital. I was so scared and I didn't want to go through this again. It was horrible. My friend wasn't familiar with Waukesha and I was so scared I couldn't talk due to my Aphasia and the stress of thinking that I was having another stroke. It is typical for stroke survivors to fear another stroke and normally you live in that fear for the first two years or so.

At the hospital the emergency paramedic brought me into the emergency room. They found my hospital records and I gave them a little paper that I keep in my pocket in case of an emergency. It has all my medications along with the date of my stroke, my name, address and family phone numbers. I was given Adavan to reduce my nerves. I was then covered with a warm blanket as I was shaking. Mind you, it was a hot summer day in July but I couldn't stop the shaking. They gave me a CAT Scan to see if I was having another stroke. The results were very encouraging. It showed that I had not had another stroke and that I was continuing to heal from my first stroke. That news, along with the intervenes Adavan that I was being given, had relaxed my symptoms. After awhile it was determined that I had my first panic attack. Wow, it was horrible to relive the stroke but at least I knew what had happened. I was told to stay away from any caffeine products and to never skip meals. I should have known better. Now I drink decaffeinated coffee and teas and avoid any caffeine beverages of any kind. Of course I eat chocolate but chocolate is a medicine, not a candy!

Since September 2000, I have been fortunate to meet dozen's of stroke survivors and their caregivers from all over the world via the Internet. I enjoy helping person's to understand that a stroke doesn't have to be the end of their world. We all have our problems from time to time and it is how we resolve to handle these difficulties that will make us all better people. It may sound funny but I am glad that I had the stroke. Sure, at first it wasn't fun at first and still sometimes I wish it never happened, but I realize how fortunate I am to be alive. I thank God for every new day. I have a complete new outlook on life, and I am better for it.

In October of 2000 I was fortunate to be asked to be in an Aphasia Support Group at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. Julia is a speech therapist, who I found to be extremely helpful dealing not only with the Aphasia but also with my cognitive skills such as listening and writing. The entire therapy department at Waukesha Memorial was and is excellent! I really enjoy the interaction with other stroke survivors. I am still a member of this group and hope to continue to be a member. When I started I was unable to string a few words together without becoming confused. Now, if I met you on the street or over the phone you would not even know that I had the stroke.

The First Year after my stroke


I celebrated my first anniversary of the stroke with the speech therapy group on March 1, 2001. It was wonderful what progress I had made. But I knew I had to continue to get better. I continued my exercises. I wanted to do something to help others, so I volunteered at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. I figured that there must be something I could do to be useful. Little did I know that this volunteering would actually be more beneficial to me than anyone else. I went to orientation and was asked about any abilities I might have. After looking at my skills the volunteer coordinator felt that she had a position for me in the Regional Cancer Center.

Quite frankly I was scared. I think it is very normal for a person who had been out of the work force and had suffered severe brain attack to be fearful of the unknown, and unsure of himself or herself. I had been a mortgage officer and the stroke wiped out all of my numerical skills in addition to my spelling and writing skills. I was originally right handed and I had to relearn writing using my left hand as I no longer have the ability to use my wrist to write. Although I could read numbers to myself and understand them I was at first unable to translate the numbers I was seeing.

The staff at the Cancer Center made me very welcome. My immediate supervisor is Nancy. She took the trouble to help me ease into the position and was so very patient with my learning abilities. What a pleasure it was just coming to volunteer. I felt that I should be paying the hospital because of the wonderful experience and retraining I was receiving. Slowly I was learning the computer system and the software, which I would be using.

It took some time but I started working at home with reading numbers to myself out loud and finally I was able to read, write and type numbers. At first, I could only type a number or two without reviewing it to see what I was trying to read. It was frustrating but I was seeing real progress for the first time since my stroke. I started to feel useful to the world again. And more importantly I felt that the volunteering I was doing was helping others. I realized I needed to be on the giving end and it felt great!

I started volunteering 2 hours per day, twice a week. It was all I could do. I got very fatigued from mental work, just as I did physical work. But I figured that in time I should be able to work up my stamina and get better. After about 3 months I got up to 2 days a week, 3 hours at a time. Around November I figured I should be able to work up to 4 hours a day, 2 times a week. However I found that I was unable to keep up those hours and I started having panic attacks. I started finding myself having to use more Adavan to relax myself, so I reduced my hours back down to 3 hours a day, 2 times a week. The panic attacks stopped and I started bringing a snack to volunteer each time I came in. That made a big difference in my ability to work. It is so important to eat properly and rest when you need to.

In December 2001 I was offered a job with a great bank in Milwaukee in mortgage lending. I was torn because I really liked what I was doing at the hospital. But I did have the idea that I would be able to go back to work and at some point resume my banking career. I didn't even think of asking whether or not there may be a position available at the hospital because I heard that there was a hiring freeze on, so I didn't ask.

The bank knew of my stroke history and was aware of my limitations. I still had Aphasia to the point that I really couldn't speak either on the phone with clients and certainly talk for more than 3 or 4 minutes in person without getting confused. Because of my mortgage lending experience, I was to do development work, assisting other loan officers on the computer to help them be more productive. I was to work 3 days a week, Monday, Thursday and Friday from 10 AM till 2:00PM. Well, boy did I fail big time! At my orientation I was unable to write or could hardly talk because of the number of people in the class. I got confused and couldn't even fill out my W-4 form. It seems that I am able to converse with a small group of people but I get over stimulated with more than a few persons speaking at one time along with filling out forms. Not a good sign for a mortgage loan officer.

At that point I realized that I was still not ready to get back to the work that I loved so much. I was depressed. I called my boss and let him know that I would be a burden to the company and I asked that they forgive me, but I had to resign the position. I lasted one day.

Meanwhile, at the hospital I had told them that I would be starting to work in a week or so and that I would only be able to volunteer 1 day a week. The next day before I had a chance to let the staff know that I was not going to be able to work at the bank I was asked to speak with the manager. I figured she was going to see when I would be available to volunteer. I have learned that Waukesha Memorial Hospital was very patient, family and employee friendly. I sat down and sensed a feeling of urgency with this meeting for some reason.

 

The cancer center manager asked if I would be willing to take a job at the hospital in the Regional Cancer Center Office Pool, where I had been volunteering. I couldn't believe my ears. For the first time in over a year I actually had tears in my eyes. I actually felt that I was wanted. Not that they didn't thank me every time I went to volunteer, but I guess I figured that because of my stroke and my limitations I would never actually be able to really be useful again. Especially after the fiasco where I found myself in, with what I felt was my failure to be able to assimilate back into mortgage lending.

The second year after my stroke


March 1st, 2002 was my second year stroke anniversary. I have heard that when you reach your second year after a stroke that you start feeling better about your prospects for the future. And indeed I do.

In April, in I had a battery of tests for an up coming complete physical in June of 2002. I am ashamed to say that I had never had a complete physical before that. All of my results were great. Cholesterol was 87/41, blood pressure at 116/74. My PSA, the indicator for prostate cancer, was only .45.

June of 2002 I had my first ever complete physical. I was poked and prodded. It took an hour. I felt scared that the doctor would find something wrong with me. But, at least I went! When it was done I was given a clean bill of health.

I asked questions regarding my stroke. The doctor then told me how gravely ill I was at the time of the stroke. He said that he felt, based on the images of the brain scans at the time of the stroke that he thought that if I actually survived it was probable that I would have to taken to a nursing home due to the severity of the stroke.
Again, the stroke was due to a totally blocked carotid artery of the left side of my neck. I was ready to find out if I may have arterial blockages, which may be continuing to advance. I asked for a scan of my carotid arteries.

I had a Carotid Duplex exam, a kind of Ultra-Sound, on June 20, 2002. I have become a veracious reader since the stroke, reading everything I can about strokes, the causes of stroke and potential of improvement possibilities. I also wanted to know about possible atheroscherosis either self inflicted by my previous bad habits (which I will not discuss other that I was a moron) or possibly through disease. My hope and prayers were and are that I would not only find that I am not only holding my own but that my blocked carotid artery would reverse itself.

The test took only 20 minutes. During the test I was able to hear a heart beat sound from the blood pulsing through my vessels. First, the right or remaining artery. The sounds were clear and strong. No problem there that I was able to ascertain, not that I would know anyway. Next, to the left side. The nurse was expecting to not be able to see and hear any change from the occurrence of my stroke. She looked puzzled at the results. My left carotid artery was actually working! Praise God! It was the evidence that I was continuing to recover.

The summer and fall has been uneventful for me and that is a good thing! I continue to work at the hospital. I am looking forward to a long and happy life. Take care and God Bless you!

Copyright January 2003

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

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