I’ve had five years to ponder the events of that day (here’s what happened, here’s more background, and here's some more) and I keep coming back to the singular fact that I’m incredibly lucky for so any reasons. That I didn’t die. That I wasn’t left severely disabled. That I was able to crawl back out of the rather deep hole I was in and back toward the life I had previously known.
I know the experience has changed me, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My sense of balance, never all that great to begin with, is even worse now. I won’t be pulling a Wallenda on a highwire anytime soon. Nor will I be jumping out of planes, or scuba diving through underwater caves. I'm good with that. I was never much of a daredevil to begin with.
But here’s the thing: That’s minor stuff. Because it pales in comparison to what could have been if I had bled out, alone on my bike, at the corner of Wonderland and 9 Mile Road, if the tiny clots that landed in a certain part of my brain had landed somewhere else. Or if I didn’t get world-class medical care a mere 10-minute drive from my house. If my wife hadn’t recognized the symptoms and immediately called for help. Or if our entire community hadn't rallied around our little family.
It also pales in comparison to what happens to other stroke victims, folks who aren’t so lucky. Over the past five years, I've heard from so many who have been touched by stroke, and too many of them tell sad tales of ignoring the symptoms, of shrugging off calls by friends and loved ones to get it looked at. Until it was too late. I can't fix them, but I can raise awareness. Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada has a wonderful page on stroke awareness here:
If you do one thing today, please visit the page, read, learn, and share.
I've had five years to count my blessings, but as it turns out I had a lot of early-life preparation. I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child, and learned then that someone always has it worse than you. When I was in the children's ward, my bed was opposite that of Dimitri, a child (we were both about 5 years-old at the time) who broke his leg and was in traction. At night, after the lights were turned down and the ward went quiet, I would slip out of bed and wander the hospital in a wheelchair. I'd tell him about my adventures when I got back. He couldn't move, but I could. That sentiment continually rings through my head every time I’m tempted to buy into the “woe is me” line. I had nothing to complain about then, and that's just as true now.
I still push myself to get out there. I still ride the bike - despite the fact that a bike ride is what touched off this whole adventure. I still write. Still speak about geeky things on-air. Still have a sense of humour. Still shoot the world through a bizarrely skewed lens. Most importantly, I still get to enjoy life with my wife and kids - because, really, what else matters more?
I know I'm lucky to have been given these five years. Indeed, we all are, and you shouldn't have to experience critical illness to come to that realization. Every day is a gift, and there's no way of knowing whether we'll get another one. I'm just grateful to have been given the extra time, and grateful to be able to share the experience with others. Maybe I'll still get to write an update in another five years. That would be neat.
Your turn: How do you cherish every day?