Friday, August 08, 2008

The last known survivor

As some of you know, I'm a stroke survivor. Yes, I'm as young as you think I am, but I still had a stroke at an even younger age, in January 2004. We are still not sure about the cause(s) of the stroke, though I did have subsequent heart surgery to close a hole that allowed the clot to pass into my brain, but we are sure about the effects. The clot landed in my left temporal lobe, the speech and language center of the brain, leaving me temporarily unable to speak or write at all, a truly terrifying time. Because, you see, I could think perfectly clearly; I understood what was going on, but I couldn't express myself at all. This is a fate I wish on no one, and the idea that this particular condition could have lasted longer or become permanent, as it is for many other stroke victims, still fills me with intense fear whenever I happen to think about it.

Because now, four years later, I'm lucky: days go by during which I don't remember that I had a stroke, until something happens to remind me, either something internal (such as the fact that I still mix up "he" and "she" to embarrassing results or, more frequently, I type something and read it back and think "did I just turn into a trained chimp right there? Sheesh!" because the connection between my brain and my fingers has gone on the fritz) or external (a youngish character on a TV show has an unexpected stroke or, more frequently, someone has to have an MRI--I HATE MRIs now). And then I remember, in vivid detail: the frightening inability to speak, the inexplicable headaches, the distressing lingering aphasia, the ongoing mental deficiencies, the "fun" heart surgery while awake, the many, many aggravating, anguished visits to the neurologist, the cardiologist, the maternal fetal medicine specialist (they are concerned when stroke survivors want to have babies, you see), the constant questions, etc., etc., etc. You see, when you have a cryptogenic stroke (which, if you know your Latin roots, means a stroke of unknown origin), the questions go on and on and on.

Fortunately, there is someone out there trying to eliminate all the unknowns about strokes and heart disease, the American Heart Association. And now here's the pitch (you didn't see this coming, did you? Sneaky, huh?): now you know someone directly affected by heart disease or stroke. Chances are, you knew someone already. Stroke is the country's #3 killer and heart disease is #1. To help support heart disease and stroke prevention efforts, the husband and I will be participating in the annual Lowcountry Heart Walk next month. We need your help to reach our donation goal and help raise critical dollars for heart disease and stroke research and education.

You can help us reach our goals by making a donation online here. And we will really appreciate it. As will any future survivors. Or, better yet, perhaps with your help we can dramatically reduce the number of victims there have to be in the first place.

And thank you for your support!

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