Every Saturday I share a story written by my dad while he wrote commentaries for his local newspaper in Northeastern Oklahoma, a.k.a. Green Country.
I saw him at a local discount store making his way between the kitchen products and the greeting cards. I was there picking up a birthday card for my sister, and I could tell from the stiff-legged gait that reminded me of the paisano bird or the road runner that he’d had a stroke.
I knew the walk too well, after suffering a crippling stroke myself a couple years back and sure enough, after we had howdied and shook, he informed me he’d had a stroke while umpiring baseball. This man had been wearing the tools of umpiring for thirty years and having a stroke was the farthest thing from his mind.
Blue still had his mental faculties and was still lucid and we talked about what we had to do to try to get back to 75 or eighty percent again. There is no getting back to a hundred percent after a brain attack, and Blue was looking at getting back to where he could umpire some slow pitch softball games where he wouldn’t have to wear all the equipment that goes with a baseball game.
Some may call the strokes that Blue and I suffered a stroke warning, but I can tell you that they are devastating to the victim. You are confused and usually can’t communicate with the care-giver and tell them what is bothering you. I have seen men in the rehabilitation center in Muskogee that couldn’t remember their name–sharp guys—they just couldn’t remember their name or what their nose or lips were supposed to be called.
It was terrible, and while some of the men were cheerful and upbeat about the whole thing, others were withdrawn and just gave up on the idea of ever getting back to any semblance of normalcy.
When you first feel the symptoms of a stroke coming on, you are confused as to what might be happening. That feeling of confusion doesn’t leave for many months. Perhaps you can bluff your way through like I tried to do, but you are better off to accept the stroke and get busy living. The alternative is awesome.
I always worked jobs that required me to be outside. I rough necked drilling rigs, was a boilermaker and hung “red iron” and was a troubleshooter for a major pipeline. I walked tall on the earth, and in my pride I was always ready and able to take care of my wife and children. All that ended when I had my stroke.
All of a sudden no one wants to hire you, medical insurance is just a memory. Thank goodness for the W.W. Hastings Hospital or I would be a charity case. It’s one time that being an Indian did me a heap of good.
Strokes occur when the blood vessels to the brain become clogged or leak blood. The narrowing of blood vessels over time or blood clots can result in the deprivation of oxygen to the brain resulting in a stroke. Leaks are less common and as in my case occur when a faulty blood vessel leaks blood into the brain housing group.
Then it’s MRI’s and brain scans, long waits for tests, trips to Tulsa and you are just praying this is all a bad dream and you’re going to wake up and be late for work again. But that is not to be, you’ve had a stroke now , you must deal with it.
Severity of a stroke depends on how long the brain is cut off from the supply of oxygen and the part of the brain that is damaged. Your motor skills are gone, your vision is impaired or it’s partially gone. Your face is drawn and your speech is impaired. One side of the body goes numb–in my experience, strokes that occur on the right side of the body are much more severe than those that occur on the left.
A good point to remember about stroke patients is that their brains are still in good working order, just scrambled around a little bit. Give him time and you’ll see that he is as sharp as ever. The only thing about a stroke is that it’ll take more time for him to communicate with you in a positive manner.
So Blue, I hope you make it back to umpiring. I also hope that I’m sitting there in the bleachers cheering you on or cussing you out depending on what the situation allows.
I found this following insight written on a tattered card that my son collected and it seemed appropriate for this column. It reads: “I’ve been bawled out, balled up, held down, held up, bulldozed, blackjacked, walked on, cheated, squeezed and mooched, stuck for war tax, excess profit tax, sales tax, dog tax, and syntax, Liberty Bonds, baby bonds and the bonds of matrimony, Red Cross, Blue Cross and the double cross; I’ve worked like hell, worked others like hell, got drunk, gotten others drunk, lost everything I had and now because I won’t spend or lend what little I can earn, beg, borrow or steal. I’ve been cussed, discussed, boycotted, talked to, talked about, lied to, lied about, worked over, pushed under, robbed and damned near ruined. The only reason I’m sticking around now is to see, what the hell is next.”