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Bob S.


Hole In My Heart

On the morning of June 28, 2008 I had just finished mowing the front yard and starting on the back. It was a beautiful day in Marietta, Georgia with a cooler than norm temperature and a gentle breeze. My daughter Abby from South Carolina was visiting for the weekend and she was inside with my wife, Kathy picking out pictures taken at Abby's wedding. At that moment my whole life changed. In a matter of seconds I found myself laying in the grass in my back yard. I had no feeling in the entire right side of my body. I could not walk, stand up or call out for help. I kept falling in and out of consciousness but I felt no physical pain. Part of the time I was conscious I knew I needed help and part of the time I was just admiring the beautiful day. I'll tell you why later. At one point I felt as though I was watching myself lay in the yard. I tried to yell to my neighbor but no loud sound came out of me. My whole life flashed before me and I felt this was my moment of transaction. The thought kept entering my mind, that life was so short. That the 62 years I had spent here on earth went by so fast. I still had things I wanted to do. After a while my daughter came out of the house and got me help. When they were putting me into the ambulance, I was conscious and I felt that if I passed out again that would be it. I passed out. I regained consciousness when I was at the hospital in the CAT scan machine and I was surprised to be alive, but relieved. It's not that I was scared to die. I just hated to leave those that I loved here on earth for any length of time. I passed out again, and again came to. This time I was being rolled down the hall of the hospital towards the intensive care unit. I was shocked again as God had granted me another chance. The next few days were a blur of visitors and test. The doctors told me I had suffered a stroke and was only minutes away from death. I was found in time and given a miracle drug that broke up the clot on the left side of my brain. Administering the drug was very risky because it would have caused further harm, even death, if I had internal bleeding.

Test revealed a small hole in my heart which allowed a clot to pass through and lodge itself in my left brain. I was surprised to find that I had the hole since birth. I was also shocked to find out that about 20% of all people have the hole and live their entire lives with it. In most cases, the risk to close the hole is greater than the risk to live with it.
The brain is divided into two hemispheres; the left and the right. Each side thinks different. Some people use each side of their brain equally and some use one side more than the other. I happened to be an extreme left brain person. The side of my brain affected by the stroke. I was in a seminar once where 120 people took a left brain, right brain test to determine which side of their brain they used the most. I was the most left brain person in the group. My left hemisphere was the side of my brain that was partially wiped out by the stroke. This side of the brain tells a person their identity; in essence, who they are. It is also the side of the brain that analyzes everything. I mean everything. I pick out details from the present and compare them to details from my past to determine reality for me. Part of that information was deleted from my brain in the same way as information is deleted from a computer's hard drive. I did not know who I was anymore. My right brain was being used more for the first time and it confused me. The right brain deals in the present moment and deals with feelings much more than the left brain. I found myself crying and laughing at things that did not affect me strongly before the stroke. That was very new for me. I also found I was not questioning what was going on around me. The details that I once could not live without were no longer important to me.

I stayed in the hospital for about three weeks. The day I left, I could walk with a cane, had about 95% use of my speech, was still using a catheter and had about 70% use of my eyes. The part of my brain that interpreted what my left eye and right eye were both seeing together was affected. My brain had to re-learn what I was seeing. This along with the catheter was the most frustrating thing for me. The day I went home was one of the happiest days of my life. I was treated well in the hospital but there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed without tubes coming out of your arm. A few days later I got the catheter out and was able to regain normal function in that area.
The next thing that needed to be attended to was the hole between two chambers of my heart. This was done successfully and another fix was behind me.

While in the hospital it was discovered that I had prostate cancer. I chose to have it removed. The surgery went well, my prostate was removed and I was back with a catheter in my bladder for two weeks. The longest two weeks of my life. I'm convinced that we could get any information we wanted from enemy combatants by threatening to insert and retract a catheter. After the first time, we would have them singing like a song bird not to have that done again. The second big problem was taken care of and I thought I could concentrate on fixing my stroke problem. I was wrong. You don't get rid of a stroke; you only work to make the effects less. At present I am still working out at the gym by exercising my right leg and arm. Mine is a slow process. Every stroke survivor's recovery is different, so concrete information on how much feeling I will regain is impossible to say. I only know that I can either concentrate on what I don't have or concentrate on what I do have. Although hard to do, it makes more sense to spend time appreciating what I have instead of wasting time thinking about what I don't have.

When I was feeling better a mentor and friend of mine, invited me for lunch to catch up. One of the first questions he asked me was, "What did I learn from having the stroke?" I had thought about it before, but no one had asked the question. He has a way of getting to the heart of what is important in life. I had learned many things, but the first that came to mind was, life is short. While laying in my back yard experiencing the stroke, I did not think I would make it out of this alive. Just like in the movies, my whole life flashed before my eyes. I thought to myself, is this it, will I not see tomorrow. Life seemed so short to me. The truth is we never know when our last day on earth will be. Sometime we have an idea about when it will be, but most times it will come to people when they least expect it. Life is short here on earth, so do things that are important to you now. God left you here for a reason; find it and get on with your life.


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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