Reflections of a Survivor

By Brian Kahlbaugh






A few questions for pondering:


What is a “Stroke Survivor?”

Are there different “LEVELS” of survivorship

Are some stroke survivors “BETTER” qualified to be considered survivors than others?

Is the measure of what qualifies a person to be considered a survivor dependent on degree of physical deficits or disability and/or contingent on how much a survivor must “ENDURE” physically?

If I have not “SUFFERED” to the same extent as another who has stroked (in terms of severity of physical deficits, or in terms of degree of brain tissue damage) does this mean that I have nothing to offer in the community of all who have been hit by the lightening bolt?



“There will ALWAYS… is worthy of repeating: ALWAYS be survivors who have been struck by a bigger bolt of lightening than I have. And there will ALWAYS be survivors who have been struck by a bolt of lightening not as big as the one(s) which struck me.”


For those readers who have survived a stroke of one kind or another: Is there any one of us, even one, who can make the above statement and have it not be an accurate and truthful statement??


Is it helpful to make distinctions in our own minds which tend to set ourselves apart from others as being somehow LESS of a survivor, or MORE of a survivor than someone else? Is the purpose of support better served when we are inclusive and think of ALL survivors as having something to offer (including ourselves) for the greater purpose of the community?


I guess I would personally argue that the greater purpose of the community as a whole is better served when survivors are encouraged to give whatever gifts they have, combined with their stroke experience, to the table and offer it toward the support of others in that community.


And by contrast then, I would also argue that any withholding of gifts one has to offer, combined with not sharing one’s stroke experience, can result in the community not achieving all it is capable of in terms of providing support. The withholding of what one has to offer can result for at least a couple of reasons including when one judges the self to be something less than others, and/or when there is an environment present which causes there to be a propensity toward exclusion based on not meeting certain ill-defined and informal standards of survivorship qualification.


Is the environment one which seeks to encourage participation by all who have been through stroke, or is the environment one which somehow encourages exclusion and exclusivity that makes some within the community question whether or not their own experience with stroke REALLY might mean anything at all to someone else.


For me personally, I tend to periodically fall into the area of self-judgment whereby I sometimes don’t think my stroke experience was “BIG AND BAD ENOUGH” or my gifts are not “GOOD ENOUGH” to merit the giving of them to others, so to speak. (please make no comments one way or the other to me on this point as the purpose is not to solicit feedback on this one point.)


This is a scenario which I know with certainty plays out in the minds and lives of other survivors as well.


If a survivor of stroke, considers the experience of another survivor who happened to have been smacked with physical deficits to a much greater degree than them, and thinks something like, “man, what happened to me with my stroke is nothing compared to what happened to that survivor.”


They may take the VERY SHORT step from that point to the point where they think they have nothing to offer by their own gifts and stroke experience………………… A self-judgment is made in the negative and this survivor takes themselves out of the game of being useful for helping other survivors.


And then another new survivor of stroke showing mild physical deficit enters the picture, sees the one survivor who was smacked very hard with great physical deficits by stroke, thinks to themselves, “is there no one who can identify with what happened to me?


This newbie missed seeing the experience and possible connection with the first survivor because the first survivor, thought their own gifts/experiences were not “worthy” enough and did not, therefore, make themselves visible in a way that new stroke survivors may be looking for to identify with. An opportunity to help was missed, suffering which may have been soothed or lessened, may be unnecessarily prolonged and more intense. Recovery may have been unduly postponed or even neglected.


ALL who have had a stroke and lived, are survivors. I believe ALL who have survived a stroke have something about themselves, their experiences, skills, abilities, knowledge, aptitude, and creativity, which can be used in the arena of helpfulness. If you are reading this article, if someone is reading it to you, if you are able to understand this article…….then the bolt of lightning which struck you was not as big as the bolt which struck many others who are no longer with us.


If you had a stroke, look out in your mind and gaze upon the vast landscape of all people who have been struck by the bolt….and you will see someone who has suffered worse, endured worse, or who lost their life as a result…. But you will also see many within that same landscape who have not suffered as much, or in the same ways as you have.


Is there anyone who has survived stroke who has nothing to offer in support of other stroke survivors? I refuse to believe there are.


If you have had a stroke, and lived, you are a survivor of stroke……and you have something of value to others.



Copyright © March 2010

The Stroke Network, Inc.

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