How I came to love my damaged brain: The ancient stroke story and a newly-improved ancient stroke story.

Could things have turned out differently? Perhaps.

Normally, the brain surgeons would have had “the Merci Retrieval System

an FDA-cleared device for restoring blood flow in the neurovasculature

by removing blood clots in patients experiencing ischemic stroke”.

( Or, if after the

car accident, I would have gone to the ER and complained about my

neck. Or, if my ex-wife would have questioned me about my headaches,

tiredness or unwillingness to program my website. Well, we were a

codependent married couple and were not talking really to each other.

My Interventional Neuroradiologistnwrote to the

driver’s car insurance company: “A note was made at the time of

procedure of the organized nature of the clot that we retrieved –

commented to the brain surgeon how mature and scarred the clot was. In

order for a clot to mature to this degree, it would need time, on the

order of weeks, or more. I was quite surprised, and concerned, as when

we tried to get the rest of the clot out, it would be much more

difficult than if we were working with a clot that was ‘fresher’ (not

as tenacious or scarred). It was obvious that this clot was not

something that had recently formed, but had been there for quite some

time… and am quite certain that barring any other significant blunt

trauma since that time, that this was the cause of his injured carotid

artery (dissection), which led to thrombus formation in the injured

vessel. In my opinion, this thrombus became a scarred/organized clot

over time, and embolized (broke free and traveled upstream, into his


Before the stroke, I used to believe that a ‘stroke victim’ was

elderly, disabled and very, very rare. I used think that a stroke was

damaging to the heart, not the brain! (I am a college educated man.

Wah wah wah).

Can you guess what the number two cause of fatalities in the world happens to be?

Not war. Not pestilence. Not drug use. Not terror. Not breast cancer.

You know what it is? A stroke. Strokes come in at #2 of the worldwide causes of mortality.

People under 65 years of age are 33% of population of stroke survivors.

And, this is increasing all the time. Listen to this: Stroke victim are

babies, mothers who had a difficult birth, college football players, U.S. soldiers

blown up from IED (improvised explosive device) in Iraq,

thirty-somethings and of course, 40 somethings. All of us. ALL OF US.

I survived.

In 2011, I watched a YouTube video about Dr. Nina Drinkers’ discovery

that “Tan”, a French man with aphasia, who died in 1861, wasn’t

bruised around his Broca complex (the speech unit). Instead, Tan’s

superior longitudinal fascicles (outer rind of the brain) was

‘bruised’. The superior longitudinal fascicles control speech, motor

functions and memories. My blood clot was located where my left-side

superior longitudinal fascicles happen to be. Thus, paralysis and aphasia.

memory and logic were affected.

Yes, I had speech problems. I was pretty much a mute for most of the

three years in the post-stroke period. And then when I began to speak, I had

the ‘Foreign Accent Disorder’ that gave me an awesome European accent.

Other manifestations of my stroke were problems with my short-term

memories, working-term memories, long-term memories, the motor system

of my right body, atrophied muscles, numbness and seizures. I could

hear and understand what others said to me and formulate my ideas and

thoughts BUT the ability to form complex sentences was damaged by the

blood clots to the left side of my brain. I was a stroke ‘victim’ and

my family was crippled by my hospital bills, my inability to move, and

my lack of speech.

Many, many stroke survivors have problems with both receptive and

expressive language skills, respiratory ailments, anxiety, stress,

depression and suicidal thoughts.

Or, someone like Jill Bolte Taylor author of “Stroke Insight” who had

a para-stroke in her occipital lobe. Or, a person who had a transient

ischemic attack, or TIA, also called a ‘mini stroke’. I can tell when a

‘mini-stroke’ person is writing a saga with fully realized paragraphs

on Face Book complaining about how s/he had a stroke, three month ago.

My family ushered me to rehab center to spend a thousand years in

a six month period. They taught me how to balance my legs. How

to maneuver one hand instead of two hands. They tried to teach me fine

motor skills in my atrophied arm and hand, but they couldn’t because the

general gross motor skills were gone and my left hemisphere brain was

numbed out.

I didn’t want the physical therapists to coddle me. I wanted to be a

results-minded manager of my body and of my brain. My drill sergeant

persona is a genius (also, my physical therapist). My drill sergeant

marched me outside and commanded me to ‘run up’ this potentially

hazardous hill and down again”.

And I did!

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