How a Stroke Straightened My Priorities
It was Easter Sunday morning almost four years ago. I was picking up my then 86-year-old mother and bringing her to my place for the afternoon. On the way home, while driving on Interstate-95, I had a stroke. I wasn’t feeling stressed. I had no numbness or weakness in my face, arms, or legs. I was fit and healthy. I wasn’t stressed, confused, lightheaded, or dizzy. I didn’t have a headache. The truth was, I FELT NOTHING.
As the stroke was happening, my mother, who was in the passenger seat, panicked. She snapped her fingers in front of my face. There was no response as I kept driving, my hands gripped to the wheel. She screamed, “Bonni, pull over! Pull over!” I did hear that in the distance, but didn’t react. I wondered why she was telling me that, and looked down at my right hand, shaking in the console. Then my mother did something heroic: she highjacked the wheel and sent us crashing into a guard rail.
Such began my long journey into the strangeness of Stroke Land. It was two hospitals; brain surgery; acute-care in-patient rehab; physical, occupational, and speech therapies. I had to re-learn how to walk, talk, swallow, and get back to living my life.
It’s going to be my birthday soon. I can’t help but think back to the stroke, personal victories (like tying my shoes), and how thankful I am just for being alive. The isolation of the pandemic, though, has made me appreciate life even more. While I miss being with friends, general socializing, travel, Broadway shows, going to the movies or jazz clubs, and I could go on and on, life gets down to the simplest of things.
I am healthy. My family and friends are healthy. While after the stroke, I couldn’t organize my thoughts, today I can sit here and type. A once weakened body, who could barely feed herself, is now strong and getting stronger. Even four years later.
Remember: A stroke can happen to you. Any time. A n y w h e r e. As human beings, our frailty can present itself when we least expect it. (The fact that mine happened while driving on I-95 was pretty creative, wasn’t it? Thank goodness it didn’t happen when I was alone in the car, or on a hill, at an intersection, or someone was walking in front of me.)
I am grateful to have made it through another round of the moon and to be surviving this strange Year of the Virus. With much indebtedness for living, I say to myself with most heartfelt emotion, “Happy birthday.”
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person,” Albert Schweitzer wrote. “Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”