It’s an affliction that affects most young people today, but I didn’t think I had it this bad: presumed invincibility. For me it came from hardly ever being sick and never missing a day’s work in over twenty years. I was feeling invincible and kept ignoring the warning signs my wife was pointing out. My blood pressure was dangerously high. She pointed this out whenever she could get me into one of those pharmacy blood pressure readers, whose reliability I thought suspicious. It all came back to haunt me one Sunday morning in late April of 2014.
I had gotten up early, watched TV for a while, and fallen asleep on the living room couch. Some hours later, my wife noticed there was a show on I never watch so she asked why I had it on. I tried to tell her I fell asleep but the words wouldn’t come out. I attempted to get up and also was unable to do that. After about a dozen tries I managed to roll off the couch and made it to the bedroom to change while my wife kept saying something was wrong and we needed to go to the hospital.
I was still unconvinced but the idea began to make more sense as I found myself unable to perform simple everyday things like buttoning my shirt or buckling my pants, and it was getting worse by the minute, with my left side’s mobility deteriorating rapidly. We got to my wife’s car and drove to the University of California, Irvine Hospital in nearby Orange. By the time we got there my left side was virtually dead and I was barely able to put two words together.
I was rapidly hooked up to a group of devices whose functions I couldn’t explain even if I knew what they were. A series of CAT Scans revealed what my wife suspected. I had fallen victim to a massive cerebrovascular accident of the right side of the brain, a stroke in simpler words, which had ruptured a blood vessel and caused bleeding in my brain, loss of speech, and loss of mobility on my left side. I later found out that I had also experienced a series of associated “mini strokes” over a period of possibly years which affected my feelings and actions without other outwards effects.
I remember very little about my first few days in the intensive care unit, except that I was given a half dozen pills daily and because my ability to swallow was compromised I had been placed on a diet of pureed food, basically little more than baby food. I eventually regained my senses but kept this to myself as I realized the doctors would talk about my condition while they thought I couldn’t hear them. I found out that way that they thought I should have died days before, when I was first brought in, and this set off something I hadn’t done in years.
Decades ago I became a student of a remarkable man who had done an intense study of mysticism and mental control over the body’s functions, and he passed on some of his abilities to me before he returned to Sri Lanka, where he unfortunately seems to have become a casualty of that country’s civil war. It was a great loss to me because I never completed learning everything he knew, but I was left with the ability to control some things about my body that most people would find impossible to believe, including the ability to heal yourself with your mind.
This is an exhaustive process, however, and it requires enormous amounts of rest, but rest time is what I was abundantly blessed with in my condition, so I took every opportunity to sleep for hours and go through the restorative process. Within days, one of my nurses noticed it was easier for me to get out of bed and into a chair with little help so she got me a modified cane and helped me take my first steps out of my room and down the hall.
This caused a minor sensation and a change in my surroundings as the doctors debated my progress and scheduled my transfer to the Acute Rehabilitation Unit where, way ahead of when I was supposed to go there, I would undergo therapy to restore my body functions and speech.
In the ACU I was assigned a bed with another patient there for physical therapy after an automobile accident. He was on morphine and various other painkillers and would often moan loudly in pain during the night. Rather than disturb me, this increased my desire to get out of there. After or between my therapy sessions I would take every opportunity to rest and restore my body. The physical therapy team was outstandingly good and constantly had to change their routines as I kept performing everything they set up for me.
Everything, that is, except successfully restoring the full use of my left side and my voice. The last two weeks I was there, especially, I made sure that everything was aimed at my left side. The damage is greater than I thought, obviously. Everything improved: my diet was upgraded to regular food and thin liquids like water and fruit juice, and my wheelchair was ditched for a walker, which even now is rapidly becoming obsolete.
My left side is still corrupted by this stroke. If I try to touch my nose with my left index, I fail miserably ninety-nine times out of a hundred. If I attempt to hold a bottle or even a tissue in my left hand, it falls to the ground. My left foot still occasionally drags as I walk, so the walker must remain an option as I walk outside, although in the house I am depending less on it daily.
My voice is now just a shadow of its former self—a weak, squeaky cartoonish parody of my old radio voice which has put my radio show on a permanent hiatus just as I was getting ready to put it back on the air.
The overall outlook is like this: the doctors say I will never work again, but then they first said I would never walk or talk again. There are forces at work here that they don’t understand, and honestly I’m not sure I fully do either. I have proven that my teacher was right about the recuperative powers of the human mind, but it has limitations. I am now forced to take four types of prescription drugs daily to control my blood pressure, but the battle continues for my voice and body on my own.
There were lessons to learn here. I have discovered that life is very fragile indeed, but I had to almost die to learn it. People put too much faith in modern medicine and not enough in themselves. There are people who find out about this after devastating auto or sports injuries. I knew about this before my stroke, but didn’t ever think I would get a chance to do it in my life. Also, what if I have a second stroke? Will I be strong enough to fight it again? I hope I never find out.