Reflections of a Survivor

By Brian Kahlbaugh





When it happens. . .it is you. . .and only you.

There may be others around

at the time.


In those moments

It is only you.


At that time,

No one else knows

That fear,

That confusion,

That bewilderment,

That vulnerability,

That lack of decisiveness.

Only you.


And at that time,

The thought comes.

Not clearly,

Not felt in terms of words

But somehow sensed

That you so badly want someone

To be there,

To help

To comfort

To take it away.


And you donít even know it yet,

But it is only beginning.



So in a flash we find ourselves in a new place. All of our other concerns in this world have suddenly vanished and the only thing before us now is the task of getting through the next minute.  HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO COPE WITH THIS?


We are facing something we have never known before. What is happening to us? What do we do next? Why does my arm not work like it is supposed to? How can I know what I am saying, but not be able to make the words come out sounding like words instead of just garble. I donít understand why I fell into that wall. Why, when I touch my face on the left side, do I not feel it? 


Am I standing, or am I falling. . . I canít tell.  Is this going to go away soon? This is so freaky. . .what is going on?  I am scared.  No, I canít be. I need to think. Should I tell someone?  Who do I call? What do I say? Maybe I should just lay down and rest. No, there is something way wrong here. Gotta do something but how do I keep from falling, am I falling again? 


Have I even stopped falling? How can it be that I can lift my left arm, but I can not feel it at all? And it is so clumsy, I am clumsy, should I call the doctor? Should I go onto WebMd? I remember they have a symptom checker. I will try. Ok. This sucks.  I can not type with my left hand as well as I can with my right. I canít even feel the keys with my fingers on left side. . .mouse. . .use the mouse. 


There, oh I wish I could feel good. How can I be falling and still sitting here using this computer? Is all of this really happening?  Iím starting to cry. . . I can feel that lump in my throat, and eyes filling with tears. Oh God, What is this? Heather where are you?  Somebody, please! Stop, canít right now. Hafta think. WebMd said get to emergency room. 


How?  Oh S***!  Now I am getting confused. Call the doctor. Ok, calm down. Take phone off, set it down on desk, dial with right hand, pick it up and put it to ear, wait for answer. . . . . . .(find out doctor is not in that day, nurse Barb asks me to tell her what is happening. I tell her as best I can. She tells me to have someone else drive me to emergency. . . . . can you believe I even asked her in that moment if the doctor would be in tomorrow?)


Ok, now what, should I go? How will I get there? Heather isnít here. . .oh Heather what do I do now, I donít have time, please forgive me Heather. I have to go, someone will call you. Iím fading. I dial my brotherís intercom at the office, only two numbers, tell him I got to go to emergency, and, before he can get the first question out, I find my way to my car, stumble in and start to drive.


And I remember crying then. . .crying very hard.  I was alone, and it hurt.  My judgment was gone. Just trying to hang on till I get to hospital. And then. . . . .nothing.


My next memory was waking up in the neurology ward. I saw my wife. I cried some more. Thank God she was there. I found out later I did, in fact drive to the hospital and made my way to urgent care. They did their thing and transferred me to emergency. I was admitted to the neurology ward.


The experience of the actual stroke is as unique as the stroke itself. Yet I bet many, if not most survivors will find an element or two of the abbreviated stroke experience just described to be familiar to them in some way.




When the bolt of lightening strikes, it often delivers loneliness with it. Those of you who are survivors, and who were conscious during most, or all, of your stroke, do you remember if it was like that?  Were you aware of your emotions at the time? Have you allowed yourself to go back to that place in your memory and acknowledge what your soul experienced when it happened?


We experienced the actual stroke alone, even if others were present. The good news is recovery does not need to be experienced alone. Our recoveries, our very lives, in fact, can be experienced along with others who know the experience. Our post-stroke experience becomes more valuable and richer. We can be thankful for the fact that the twists and turns of post-stroke life can be shared with others who know what we are talking about when we talk about our changed lives. 


There is a difference between the hand that reaches out to you, as a survivor and one who has not experienced a stroke but who is doing their very best to understand and support.


That difference means a great deal. It means we are no longer alone.



Brian stroked November 4, 2008. 



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