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”.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2TNz-TniIA). 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.
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
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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