This photo originally shared on Instagram
It was a freak accident - I cranked my head to the left as I made a u-turn on my bike, and tore my carotid artery in the process. A few hours later, after I had luckily - somehow - made it home, the injury threw clots into my brain and I collapsed. I was paralyzed down my right side, and could barely speak.
Even after all this time, the memory chills me. Yet thanks to immediate, world-beating medical care, I dug my way out of the terrifying rabbit hole and managed to recover. Today, I live with a lousy sense of balance and a massive appreciation for our health care heroes - and for this country’s priorities. But I’m still me, the same sarcastic, sardonic doofus I’ve always been.
Basically, I dodged a freaking bullet. But I couldn’t just leave it at that.
Because beyond my Canadian sense of gratitude I also feel a responsibility to tell my story. Not because I particularly enjoy the experience of doing so, mind you. Quite the contrary: it stresses me to talk about it. Even writing about it, my smartwatch says my heart rate is up.
But in the immediate days and weeks after it happened, I remember talking to friends, family members, and even strangers, and many of them had stories of their own. Too many of those stories were disturbing: victims shrugged off the symptoms, dismissed the concerns of others, didn’t seek immediate care. Some died as a result. Others lived, but with crippilng disabilities. Lives ended or ruined. Families altered forever.
Which bothered me. Immensely.
Stroke may seem like an uncontrollable event, but we can all control the outcome to a certain extent if we recognize the signs and move fast.
Move. Now. At best, you get the care you need, and you get to go back to your previous life. Or you live with far less disability than would have otherwise been the case. At worst, you waste a few hours in the ER and come home with a crazy story to tell.
So despite my fears of becoming identified solely by my stroke experience - and becoming “that guy” in the process - I dive in head-first every time I’m asked to talk about it. I’ve done interviews across the media spectrum, and will never say no for as long as I am able. I’ve even been chatted up in the frozen foods section, on a bike path, and in a coffee shop. And I've written about it here (check the links out below.)
Because my experience could be anyone’s experience - even yours. And hearing from one person who caught an interview or read a blog post or saw my story on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter is all the validation I need. If I reach one person, it’s worth it. But you know me: more = better.
I can’t change what happened to me. But I’ll do everything I can to change the outcome for others.
Maybe it’s my way of trying to make sense of something that seemingly makes no sense at all. Or to find the light amid the darkness. Whatever. Life is finite and fragile. I learned that lesson the hard way. I’m one of the lucky ones.
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