17 years post stroke

Seventeen years ago, this morning, was the last day I walked without the assistance of mobility equipment before surviving an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord.  As I sit and reflect on that life-changing event, I am recalling how the stroke changed my life, what I have regained, what I am thankful for, and what are my personal goals for coming year.

My backstory

If you are not familiar with my story of surviving an ischemic stroke to the spinal cord while in hospital for an ascending to descending aortic bypass, check out it Doesn’t Define me : How I rebuilt my life after surviving a ischemic stroke to the spinal cord!

Reflecting on my past

This year the calendar is in exact alignment with the calendar of the year I survived my stroke – meaning that as July 25th is a Thursday in this year, it was also a Thursday 17 years ago in 2002.

This is the second time since my stroke that July 25th has fallen on a Thursday (last time was in 2013).  When this occurs, I become more nostalgic about the events and remember exactly what happened on what date. 

  • January 2002 – My cardiologist told me I needed to undergo an angiogram
  • Friday, February 15th – Underwent angiogram
  • March 2002 – informed I needed to undergo an ascending to descending aortic bypass.
  • Saturday, May 18th – Proposed to my girlfriend Kimberly at John Thurman Field in Modesto CA on the field at a Modesto A’s vs. San Jose Giants between the top and the bottom of the first inning.
  • Father’s Day June 16th – Enjoyed a BBQ with my family and Kimberly’s family at Kimberly’s parents’ home.  Last photo taken of me before stroke with family.
  • Thursday, June 20th, a little after 8 am – Boarded Amtrak to travel to Anaheim CA to attend the first ever eBay Live.
  • Friday, June 21st, around 6 pm – Had trouble walking at convention.  Sat down and was offered to have an ambulance called – I declined
  • Saturday, June 22nd, afternoon – Taking a short break in my motel room, Kimberly told me of the passing of St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Derrick Kyle.
  • Sunday, June 23rd, afternoon – as eBay staff started to tear down the booths for the conference, I had my photo taken for the last time before my stroke.
  • Monday, June 24th – returned home on Amtrak
  • Thursday, July 4th – spent the 4th with Kimberly at a ballgame
  • Monday, July 15th – original surgery date – postponed weeks earlier.
  • Wednesday July 24th 3 pm – to calm my nerves about the surgery, I met with anesthesiologist (meeting did not go well!)
  • Wednesday, July 24th around 7pm – In a second attempt to calm my nerves, I played Putt-Putt.  It didn’t help.  After game and for the rest of the evening I couldn’t stop thinking “someone in a wheelchair could not play this game”
  • Wednesday July 24th and Thursday, July 25th – unable to sleep all night.  Packed, showered and prayed until 4:30 am.
  • Thursday, July 25th 4:30 am – Kimberly arrived at my apartment and drove me to hospital.
  • – Checked into hopital, and on gurney screaming “I don’t want an epidural!  I don’t want to wake up on a vent!” repeatedly until everything went dark.
  • Thursday, July 25th Late afternoon/evening – woke up in CVICU on a vent and fought to get it out until I returned to sleep.
  • Friday, July 26th – Taken off vent.  Tried to stand twice and fell to my knees both times.  We didn’t know it at the time, but those 2 falls were first indication that I had survived an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord – and a new chapter of my life began.

Counting my blessings.

The early days after my ischemic stroke to the spinal card were full of fear and discovering my new limitations in life.  I was unable to run, walk or even stand on my own.  I could not turn myself in my bed, dress myself or even pick up a fork or open a milk carton on my own to feed myself.

17 years later I can do all those things either on my own.  In the case of standing and walking with the help of a rollator.  Although I can stand for up to a minute without holding onto anything, I only do that in the safety of my home.

I know I have been very blessed.  I was blessed with a fiancée (now wife) who stood by my side through it all and blessed with a stubbornness that has enable me to never give up and to continue to recover every single day of my life.