Reflections of a Survivor

By Brian Kahlbaugh


“When you think your life is shattered,

and there’s no way to be fixed again,

. . . . .Love heals your heart”


The Song:  Love Heals Your Heart

The Band: Third Day




I have not come across a stroke survivor who has not been affected in several ways. From my own experience as a survivor, and the experience of survivors I have become friends with, without exception, there have been difficulties of the spirit and soul resulting from the lightening strike and the thunder which always follows.


I then question how those who survive the lightening strike, and the ensuing thunder, recover from the damage done in the soul.


Many survivors will confirm the first noticeable deficits of having suffered stroke are the physical manifestations. I will not elaborate here so as not to distract from the purpose of this discussion. I was very fortunate to have only mild physical deficits resulting from the three strokes which hit me.


Suspecting stroke, but not truly knowing, and holding out great hope for something other than stroke, I remember my cavalier attitude for the first day in the neurology ward during which most all of the tests were conducted. I felt as though I was being tossed around the hospital like a ping-pong ball.


Then in the morning of the second day, my newly formed relationship with a neurologist became cemented as he entered the room, sat down on the foot of my bed, and with my wife, mother in law, and parents present, proceeded to tell me I had suffered three strokes.





For a split second there was shock and disbelief.


I saw a look in the eyes of my wife and family, the look of fear defined.


In an instant my upbeat attitude, along with my smile, and the hope evaporated as a drop of water falling into fire makes a sudden hiss and is gone.


I could find no words to speak.


I shook hands with the one they call terror.


I suddenly was lost, and knew only that who I thought I was, in a moment had gone somewhere, leaving this person who looked like me without answers, without direction, without ability to make decision.


I suddenly was lost, and knew only that who I though I was in a moment had gone somewhere, leaving this person who looked like me without answers, without direction, without the ability to make decisions


There was now suddenly a void inside of me.



My soul was struck by the same bolt of lightening which struck my brain.


Stroke showed me I knew little about life and living. And that part of recovering was going to be an education in life and living.


The precise cause of about 30% of strokes remains unknown. My case falls in that area. It is known that clots were involved but not how they developed nor from where they came. “We don’t know why” was not an adequate answer for me. Within a couple of weeks of my strokes I became aware of several other “changes” which occurred from the strokes.


I began to intensely and obsessively research every possible bit of information about stroke. I just could not tolerate the lack of a precise reason and cause. I see today there was value in learning much of what was learned. I also recognize in hindsight the arrogance of this behavior.


In my messed up thinking, somehow I started to believe I could figure out the medical reasons and precise mechanism which caused my strokes. With this knowledge in hand I could proceed to tell the neurology experts, and doctors what THEY needed to do in order to ensure I would become exempt from stroke thereafter.


I somehow unconsciously must have thought 1) There is a causal answer to my strokes, 2) I have the capacity to find it, 3) Once I find it and share it with the neurology and cardiology people they will be able to repair the problem in some way so as to ensure the risk would be gone for future stroke, and 4) The void in my soul would become satisfied. . . I WOULD AGAIN HAVE THE SAME SOUL AS THE ONE I HAD BEFORE THE STROKES.


You know, badabing, badabang, badaboom. . .find it, fix it, forget it, never to be a concern again. . .and the soul, back in good repair.


Heard the saying, “Physician, Heal Thyself.”----I changed it to, “Arrogant Fool, Heal Thyself.”


I realized that despite all of the ground I had covered, the new information I absorbed, the radiologic images I had analyzed, I was no closer to the answers I sought. And worse, I was neglecting things I needed in order to recover, and WAS INDEED CAUSING MORE HARM . . . THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF MY INTENT.


By now I had already discovered StrokeNet, explored it some, made a couple friends, but was still only dabbling at it from arms length away.


Despite my best efforts, I had chased my tail in a full circle, ending up in the same spot, only now the ripped parts of my soul were torn even more. There was one tiny little difference now though, which I did not recognize at the time. . .I now had made some contact with other strokers in a support community called StrokeNet.


Little did I know the impact this was going to have on my life.


I very suddenly stopped the “Heal Thyself” program which brought me nowhere. I began a process of “Heal Along With Others.”




Love exists in many forms and often manifests itself in spoken and unspoken ways where the word itself is not even used and/or where its presence is not recognized unless it is focused upon. I hold this belief strongly. At this juncture I have no intent to elaborate on all of the many ways in which I see Love existing within StrokeNet on behalf of survivors and caregivers and anyone concerned with lightening bolts.


I simply ask the reader to take a moment to reflect for themselves the ways in which they have experienced Love by some manifestation of StrokeNet in their own recoveries.


One thing I will say, however, is that if not for the ways in which Love has manifested itself in my post stroke life through StrokeNet, I truly believe my progress to date would be far less. I am healing. My soul is being touched and healed, Slowly. . .bit by bit. . .I am getting there. 



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