Stroke Survivors’ Personal Stories
I can clearly recall being in my pediatrician’s office as an 11-year-old, hearing that I had high blood pressure. I was told I might outgrow it or if not, just simply have to be medicated in adulthood. I never experienced any problems from the elevated blood pressure, and I was always a very good athlete, active in life in every way. I was an ok student, played the violin for years, participated in Glee club, Drama, dance. Went to University. I pursued Hotel Management as a career and rose to the very top of that field. As a mid-20-year old I was put on medication for the first time and suffered severe side effects that hampered my running, cycling and my work. I decided to stop the meds and the result was:
- My career continued on a very steep curve upward, including a decade on the mainland
- I got married and fathered 4 children
- I was an elite athlete, a two-time Ironman competitor and a sub-3-hour marathoner
In short, I could do anything that I made my mind up to do including staring down fears, and overcoming any obstacles thrown in my path. I felt that obviously I didn’t need any medications!
NOVEMBER 30, 1993
The afternoon of November 30, 1993 I finished my visits to each of the construction projects that we had in the works and returned to the office to meet with my project managers. It was 5pm. Two of my project managers got into a heated discussion regarding a particular project that was behind schedule. The discussion turned into an argument, and a heated one at that! I ended up having to scream above them to get them to settle down. Suddenly Kevin looked at me and said, “Hey boss you look like you’re having a stroke.” I said that I was just tired and to take me home. He said ok get in the truck, which I did. I was feeling tired but nothing unusual after a 12-hour day. Kevin drove me the 3 minutes home but after pulling in decided to take me to emergency as I had fallen asleep and he, being a former Ski patrol EMT, recognized the symptoms of a stroke and knew I needed help. He backed out and went directly to the emergency room, which was less than 3 minutes away. From the time we left the office where I walked out to the truck and got in on my own and arrived at the emergency room only about 5 minutes had elapsed, but already I couldn’t walk and fell out of the truck as Kevin got the ER staff to come out to get me on a gurney. Rebecca, my wife, had heard us dive up at home and then leave so she called the truck to inquire, and Kevin told her to meet us at emergency, which she did.
In emergency I was fully conscious, I think. On the Gurney they pushed me into the CT scan machine. My eyes were open, and I saw the laser that lines you up I presume for reference and measurements etc. I saw that red light and I thought, that’s a laser and those can burn your eyes if anything goes wrong, so I shut my eyes until I felt myself pushed further into the machine and I presumed the laser was now not focused on my eyes but further down my face, so I opened my eyes. I found myself in that totally dark black place that others talk about when they’ve had a near death experience! It was totally dark. I could see nothing! Except, out of the corner of my eye I caught the flicker of a star, just one tiny star. I looked back at the star and felt for the very first time in my life what I can only describe as the love of God, and I wanted to go to the star! I left my body and was floating above the whole ER scene. I saw Rebecca next to me. She was taking charge telling the staff to make me comfortable, etc. I went behind a curtain where two Doctors were talking. I heard them say, “This guy won’t make it, should we tell the wife his friends and family need to come now, if they want to see him while he’s still alive!” After hearing this I said, “I have to raise my kids!” and I started to float back to my body lying on the gurney. Suddenly someone grabbed hold of my hand and pulled me back into that dark black place, saying, “No! Stay here, this is where you need to be, I’ll show you the way.” With that I looked back at the star and felt really warm and nice again as we started to fly towards the star. I could sense we were leaving the ER scene far behind. We were really flying, and it felt good. I would look at the star and turn back to the ER. Each time, the star seemed to get bigger, closer and warmer while the ER scene never seemed to go anywhere.
Right as I got to the light, just as it touched my face I turned to take one last look back over my left shoulder. When I did this, I saw the faces of every person I had ever known in my life flash before me right there over my shoulder. At that I said to the person holding my hand, “In my life, I never took the time to tell some of these people how much they inspired me, how much they meant to my life, and how much I loved them, I gotta go back!” The person with me said, “No this is where you need to be!” I kept saying I had to go back, and I kept being told “No!” This conversation goes back and forth for a while until I finally said I was going back and I threw the hand away from me and I slammed back into my body and woke up! I awoke to the reality that I had gone from being a superb physical specimen, accomplished athlete, someone capable of anything, to serving a life sentence as a prisoner in a body that doesn’t work.
I have a very simple message
I’ll try not to waste your time with it
But I hope you will listen for a moment:
Behind this crooked smile
Inside this distorted body that doesn’t work,
Is a person, he is a man,
And although he is a prisoner in this shell,
He is still a man,
A man who has feelings,
A man who feels love,
A man who knows pain and hurt.
He strives and struggles every day to heal and improve,
To rebuild his life,
To earn an equal opportunity.
The disfigurement and spastic movements do not mask or reduce his
Physical, emotional or spiritual pains.
He knows he is not the athlete of yesterday,
Yet he still has his pride
He is still here
He shows up, he listens, he learns
He tries to laugh, he enjoys the views,
He treasures his connections to loved ones and friends.
If he is so discomforting to you that want him to stand elsewhere he will,
If you ask him to.
But please don’t just
But he thanks you for your honesty, for your feelings are important to him, too.
and he will,
Love you from afar…
Scotty October 2000