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Anna C-A.


Dirty Dancing After My Stroke

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner…(Patrick Swayzee in Dirty Dancing).”   Sometimes, after my stroke, I felt those words impact my every move.  Here I was an energetic, there’s nothing I can’t do but fly attitude and personality, to a tiredness that can only be described as, while similar to being ‘put’ in a corner, feeling you had, I had, been placed in a saturated paper sack, and that, of itself, would have been difficult if not impossible to escape.  Where is that dirty dancer when you need him?  In reality, truth be told, I don’t think, even he, could have lifted the extreme fatigue I was experiencing then.

While I am no longer in that inescapable saturated bag, I am still, sometimes, in a corner keeping Baby company whether she likes it or not.  I’ll wait and, hopefully, the next dance will be mine.  The extreme fatigue lifted, for the most part, on most days that aren’t filled with unexpected company, moving mouths that I am positive are in conversation, judging by their animated hands and facial expressions.  You see, my stroke didn’t just leave me with fatigue in its aftermath; it also left me with, among other things, what I call environmental overstimulation that causes my heart to palpitate, my speech to become slower, words jumbled, lost, dropped, or suspended just beyond my lips’ grasp.  Environmental overload; and if someone asked me to describe it, I suppose I could make the attempt here.

“Okay, Baby, help me out here, please. And you can have the next dance with Patrick (I’m not well balanced right now anyhow…shhhh…don’t tell Baby that though…balanced like in standing on my feet while trying to rock or gyrate, you know dance, isn’t happening for me yet - another ‘little’ effect of having a stroke).”

Anyway, Baby wobbles in, her back arched, her legs weighed down at the knees, carrying a watermelon, obviously, heavier than anyone that size should be lugging.  The music is blaring, bodies are sensually grinding, conversations surround her and still she’s carrying that damn watermelon.  And she manages to, after meeting hunk master dancer (if you haven’t guessed by now, I loved this movie…okay, okay, Patrick in the movie!), evidently embarrassed and out of her element, say, “I carried a watermelon…” well duh.  Even she admits that was dumb.

Here’s my version of the same scene after my stroke.  Anna comes in carrying nothing because it would be rather difficult to hold a watermelon that size with one hand while trying to maintain balance (not to mention I’m not particularly fond of watermelons…get your own please…chocolate anyone?...now that I could carry); walking into a room full of gyrating bodies, loud music, and a constant stream of conversations, for me after my stroke, would be like putting a blindfold over my eyes spinning me around, literally, for ten minutes, then plopping me beneath the roaring engine of a jet plane ready to take flight and, if that’s not enough, when they ultimately take the blindfold off, I discover I’m not just beneath the plane, but the wheel is ominously close to riding over chest.  Unlike Baby, it’s not a duh moment; rather, it’s usually I’m crying hysterically, laughing uncontrollably, the kind of laughter that comes unnaturally, not forced, but unnatural just the same, then, ultimately, as if my body has decided in collusion with my brain to say good night and put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign; white flag; surrender to it; and yes, I know the fight will continue another day.

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner…”  Funny thing about corners; we sometimes refer to ourselves as being cornered when we are faced with  challenging questions or asked a favor we do not wish to acknowledge; cornered (at least hunters, I suppose) refer to having cornered their prey; it always seems to be connoted that to be cornered is to be trapped and vulnerable.  There is, however, another cornered; it is one whereby two sidewalks come together, and yes, I know, this is usually referred to as ‘the corner.’  I rather like my thought in regard to this cornered thing.  I’d like to think that there is always something waiting just around the corner that doesn’t fill you with a sense of dread, doesn’t make you cringe at the thought of the unexpected, doesn’t leave you paralyzed with fear, a fear that neither allows you to move forward, or retreat, if that is what you choose.  Choices.  Indeed, a stroke is not a choice. Deciding what to do when you come to the corner however, requires a negligible amount of thought as well. Choices. If we choose to stand still on that great open highway, are we not cornered? 

Call it what you will. Cornered for a favor; cornered as prey; painted into a corner; all metaphors- figurative language.  The reality is simpler, I had a stroke; I am recovering with the help of some very knowledgeable therapists (come on now you know who you are!!!!), great help from my family, and, as an old song states, “I get by with a little help from my friends, I can try with a little help from my friends…” For now, Baby and I are friends.  But, you can rest assured no one has put us in the corner.  We’re just waiting for our turn on the dance floor with or without Patrick!


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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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