Saturday, August 9, 2014

9 Mistakes (You Should Not Make)

Now, if you are going to go and have yourself a stroke –

– and I do not recommend that you do and in fact, I would strongly urge against it, but if, despite my warning, you are going to go and have yourself a stroke anyway –

– then here are some simple things that you should avoid to keep yourself this side of a worst-case scenario:

First, if you are going to go and have yourself a stroke, do not do it while you are alone. Do it while you are around other people, so someone else around you can see you and notice you and maybe even say, “Hey! Look at her! She seems to be acting a little odd. I wonder if something might be wrong!”

And if you should be so fortunate as to begin to have your stroke right in the midst of all of your family and your friends, then do not mistake your stroke for a migraine and announce you are going home. Do not ride your bicycle the two miles back to where you are staying just to sit… all alone… on your couch… in the dark… stroking out.

Second, if you are going to go and have yourself a stroke while you are alone, then have a regular old garden-variety ischemic stroke, with its regular old garden-variety ischemic symptoms, symptoms that almost everyone recognizes when they see them or when they experience them. Do not have a rare, arteriovenous malformation (AVM) hemorrhagic stroke, because with an AVM, you probably won’t recognize the symptoms. Because with an AVM, the blood comes bursting out from a break between an artery and a vein, and the blood keeps leaking and it keeps leaking… as it slowly… fills up your brain… and fills up your skull.

So don’t do it. Don’t have an AVM.

Third, if you are going to go and have yourself an AVM while you are all alone, then you should definitely make sure not to have it in the left hemisphere of your brain. And if you defy me – if you go and have your AVM in the left hemisphere of your brain – then you should not have it start in that part of your left hemisphere that you need to locate yourself in time and in space. From there, you should not let it spread to the part of your brain that understands speech… and then the part that creates speech… and then the part that recognizes language… and then the part that senses the world around you… and then the part that controls your movement.


Because if this were to happen, then you might find yourself sitting on your couch for hours, staring at your cell phone and wondering why you picked it up, and wondering what it’s used for, and wondering what all these alien hieroglyphics on its buttons might mean.

Fourth, if someone finally finds you three and a half hours into a left-hemisphere AVM that has wiped out your ability to communicate, then you should make sure that that someone who finds you is not a twelve-year-old girl unfamiliar with strokes.

Fifth, if you are going to go and have yourself an AVM that wipes out your ability to communicate and are discovered three and a half hours later by a twelve-year old girl unfamiliar with strokes, then you should make sure you do not have an ex-girlfriend who has been known to accidentally (and okay, okay, occasionally on purpose) drug people without their knowledge for fun or for profit or just to see what happens. Because if you do, then this twelve-year-old girl who finds you might mistake your stroke symptoms for pain medication or roofies or ketamine and spend precious time on her phone trying to figure out whether the ex has, once again, dosed Mom.

Sixth, if you are going to go and have yourself this ill-advised stroke that you seem so hell-bent on having, then you should not have it while staying up north of town, way out in the boonies where the cell towers are scarce and phone service is intermittent at best. Because if you do, then the twelve-year-old girl who finds you is going to have to walk down to the lake. She is going to climb up on the boat house. In the dark. She is going to wave her cell phone around in the air from atop the boathouse for a full ten minutes to get phone reception.

And remember: Even after she gets phone reception, she is going to be calling people to find out whether or not you have been drugged.  

Seventh, if you are going to go and have a stroke while all alone out in the middle of nowhere, make sure that your middle of nowhere of choice has its very own Middle-of-Nowhere General Hospital. That way, when the twelve-year-old girl who finds you finally calls 9-1-1 (forty-five minutes after she finds you and four and a half hours after your stroke started), the 9-1-1 operator does not say, “It is going to take about an hour and a half for an ambulance to reach you. It would be quicker for you to drive her in!”

In fact, come to think of it, EIGHTH, do not have your stroke anywhere but at home. Back in Houston. You know: your home, which is two miles from one of the largest and finest and most renowned medical centers in the history of the entire universe?!

And FINALLY, if you are going to go and have yourself a left-hemisphere AVM while all alone, with no phone reception and miles from the nearest hospital, then do not go and have your AVM on the Fourth of July. You see, on the Fourth of July, rural East Texas emergency rooms are full to the brimming with bleeding, drunken rednecks. Some of the rednecks are young. Some are very old. Some of the drunken rednecks have blown off their fingers with fireworks.  Some of them have blown out an eye. Many of the drunken rednecks have shot each other while celebrating our nation’s independence.

If you go to a rural East Texas emergency room on the Fourth of July, suffering from what looks like a migraine and drug side effects, then the bleeding, drunken rednecks are going to get priority over you.

You will sit in the emergency room for three more hours.

You will finally see a doctor eight hours after blood began pouring out of an artery in your brain, filling up your skull.

So I would like to discourage you from having a stroke at all – ever! – but if you are going to go and have yourself a stroke, then at least consider having one in a manner that avoids the bad ideas I have listed here.

And if you can manage to avoid even a single one of the bad ideas that I have listed here, right above, then you will find yourself in a better situation than Dana did. 


  1. Gosh! Thanks for all those tips! Besides the pertinent ones concerning my impending AVM, I'm especially heeding the ones to stay out of East Texas all together. I got run outta the panhandle 40 year ago so I already had a notion.
    I have captured your Brain-on-drugs pic above and set as my desktop. Looks gooood.
    ps i knew this was going to be about dana

    1. Hi, bj!

      There are tons of fantastic and psychedelic pictures of brains floating around out there and over the next few weeks, I intend to use them all!

  2. It is now a month and five days later. I don't know if I can wait at the pace you're going to find out her current condition.

    1. It's all part of my somewhat 3rd-rate attempt to build suspense in storytelling.

      Of course, I'm not a complete jerk. If she were dead, I wouldn't be doing it this way... I don't think I would, anyway. Only one way to find out...

  3. That sounds horrifying. I don't know Dana, but I hope she's okay.
    Thanks to your tips, I've developed a plan to have a massive coronary before any stroke situation arrises. See you later, heart, my brain will thank me for killing you first.

    1. I have always tried to live a life so ridiculous that some accident or random sharknado was likely to take me out of commission long before the old person problems ever started up.

      But Dana's only a few years older than i am, so I guess I'd better get going!

  4. OK, now I understand your earlier posts, my life is now a little more complete.

    I have had to deal with this stroke business two and a half times. Such an inconvenience...

    thanks for reminding me to take my heart pill

    1. It better get to be a lot funnier topic pretty quickly, because I have like 10 more of these stroke-related posts still to go!

    2. A fun read, your style -

    3. Nice... Going to check out some more of his stuff!

    4. Hey there Katy chick - saw your perry stuff - however, the sun is peeking out this raining day

      theme for the week, if you want to play

      Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
      With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
      Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
      A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
      Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
      Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
      Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
      The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
      "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
      With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    5. I've only got a couple more months for the Guv to notice me before he's Guv no more.

      So far, all of my plans have come to naught.

      The bastard.

      That fantastically-coiffed bastard!

  5. I think I'll go kill myself rather than worry about arranging things so I'll have a stroke under the right circumstances.

    1. You certainly do have a lot more control over things that way.

      But you should probably go watch sitcoms or join a cooking club to keep your mind busy so you don't think about the futility of everything and the ugly end each of us is inevitably going to have all alone.

  6. Beautifully written, Katy. We can definitely relate, and I will, because I'm pretty sure none of the people in the following tale will ever be caught dead (or stroking) reading your blog, or mine, for that matter. Least I hope not.

    About two months ago my wife's eight year-old niece called us in a panic and asked if we would mind coming over, because her Nannie was acting all weird and could talk well. A friend of my wife's mom had gotten the first panic call from said eight year-old, and she was already on the scene. So we jumped into the car for a mad dash across town, and asked to speak to the other adult while we flew through the intersections.

    My wife's mom's friend (got all this?) told us Cindy's mom was slurring her speech, didn't recognize her own granddaughter, much less her friend standing by the bed talking on the phone. We asked if she had done the prudent thing and had called 911 for an ambulance... She hadn't because her friend, Cindy's very headstrong mom, had insisted an ambulance wasn't necessary.

    So we told her to hang the fuck up and call an ambulance, we'd be there as fast as possible.

    When we got there the eight year-old was crying, hugging a Pooh Bear stuffed animal and repeating, "She's dying! Nannie's dying!"

    Turns out Nannie wasn't having a stroke after all, but had suffered a slight brain hemorrhage caused by elevated blood pressure due to a combination of chemo meds and the pharmacy of other drugs one takes when dealing with chemo. But I, being the shithouse doctor I am, having seen every episode of "House" multiple times, misdiagnosed the very obvious symptoms of a stroke and took the eight year-old aside to explain in great detail what her Nannie was going through. And I was way fucking wrong. Wrong with the shithouse diagnosis, wrong with even shittier prognosis, and WAY wrong to think it was my place to tell an eight year-old anything of the sort.

    But here's where this applies to your post: if you're going to be on chemo, and if you're suffering from advanced multiple myeloma, and if you're having blood pressure spikes that are blurring your vision and making you light headed, and if you're too bullheaded to call for help when all this shit starts, DON'T have your mini-aneurysm in a house with an eight year-old as your only lifeline to help.

    That little kid's been through half a dozen medical events no little kid ought to witness, and rather than see that she's spared another, she's still basically the medical lifeline for an elderly woman who thinks everything's gonna work out fine if she just maintains.

    But hey, at least she's not in east Texas with no cell reception an hour and a half from help... (and no one suspects us of having drugged anyone... yet...)

    1. You did what you thought was best with the kid, which is all anybody does when a kid is around, I think. I have found I am lousy at diagnosing medical problems. I mean really, unacceptably bad at it, and WedMD appears to only make it worse, so I don't do it. I won't do it at all.

      Did the woman turn out okay?

      All those guest stars on "House" had the good sense to have most of their medical emergencies in a hospital, in front of a full staff of hospital staff (staff who, incidentally, only had one patient at a time!).

      Most people aren't so lucky.

    2. The woman in this sorry tale is my wife's mom, and no, she's not doing well. On top of dealing with a horrible illness, she has to be the single most ungrateful, hateful, vengeful, ill-tempered, suspicious, narcissistic person on the planet. Not that I have strong opinions about my mother-in-law or anything, just sayin'... she's a real piece of work. Remember that "moving" story you commented on over at my blobber? She's the "she" in that story. Not happy to have three family members bust their asses all day moving her shit, but bold enough to complain about how it was done...

      Dr. House had a whole team of specialists who took one mystery case per week. Wouldn't it be cool if regular people could afford that kind of dedicated care and attention?

      I miss that show. Cranky curmudgeons are fun when their on TV, but not so warm and fuzzy in person.

    3. I've heard bad people die just like everyone else, although Billy Joel had a theory about some sort of minor differences.

      You can always hopes she goes soon and quietly and that the one day you need to pretend she was a saint in life gets done with quickly.

  7. Playboy had an interview with a weird couple some twenty or thirty years, ago. i believe they were psychologists or some other quacks, not physicians, They maintained that if you examined the consequences of curing all cancer and heart disease, society as a whole, probably wouldn't be happy with the results. Of course individually, everyone would choose for themselves and loved ones to forget it, On with the cure.. You guys are smarter and I reckon most of you know the answer, If you don't. please take a minute to think before looking down.

    Forget the world, just the USA. We would live a longer, but we'd still age.and die Maybe we'd get ten or twenty extra years..Never mind SS and Medicare. If you didn't die of cancer or heart disease it might be from the Black Plague or Bull Head Clap. Many would get Alzheimer's, or worse., You might Stroke Out. in East By God Texas, . Maybe you'd get lucky and live, alive and aware, trapped in your own body for another ten or twenty years, Can't see or hear, no one know, so no way to communicate.. Personally I'll take my chances with the Bull Head Clap.

    1. Hahaha... There's a one-frame comic I saw years back (my grandmother might have had it on her fridge) where an old guy is sitting in front of his doctor in a lump, looking sad. His doctor is saying, "Remember how you said you were taking care of yourself so you'd live more years? These are those years."

      The last I read, the docs don't think we can physically hold it all together past about 130 years. Any longer than that and you'd have to be artificial.

      I'm not so in love with the idea of ME that I'd want to live forever, in my corporeal form or otherwise.

    2. Right about the time I got my draft notice, I before I could find enough dope to OD on, I got a call about 30 minutes later asking if I STILL WANTED TO PULL A GEORGE W BUSH AND DRAFT DODGE WITH THE OTHER COLLEGE PUKES? from the 808th Engneering Company, where I'd been on the list for two and a half years, Maybe you can guess my answer. No one can say I wasn't patriotic. I ended up getting two honorable discharges, more than I can say about anyone I know..
      What happened was I took my oath as a draftee. I knew what was supposed to happen but Nixon had been lying to us for four years by then so I was more than a little worried. The Lord was with me because they quickly handed me an honorable discharge. Then i went to the next table where I took the oath again, this time to enlist in the Reserves. Six years later i got my second homorable discharge. Later on active duty I asked around. No one knew of another instance where someone else won the draft lottery.
      Which brings me back to the beginning, Right about the time I got my draft notice, I had just read a book called "Johnny Got His Gun". It had been written in or right after the Fiirst World War, and was banned, pulled off the liabrary shelf's in World War II. It was the story of a patriotic young enlisted man who volunteered for the infranty in World War I. He dreamed of coming home a hero, Well, he came home, without arms, legs, was blind, deaf, couldn't speak. He lived a long and heathy life totally out of touch with the world. The doctors knew he was alive in there, but had no Ann Sullivan to Helen Keller him. He laid in the Veterans Hospital bed, rolling back and forth all day and half the night for the rest 0f his life. I don't think I want to live to 130 either because the last, in my case, 65 years could end up like that.

    3. Damn I'm good, Every time I think I'm getting Old Timers I prove myself wrong, It's been almost 55 years since i heard or read a word about Anne Sullivan. Of course I probably hear about Helen Keller about every five years or so, usually in a lame joke I could have done without. Fifty five years and change and I miis it by an e. Got a little worried so I googled her. Never would have worried beforel You think maybe worring is an early sign of Old Timers?

    4. Old Timers for sure, Can't even rememger what i wrote a minute later. First i write slmost 55 years and about a minute later i write 55 and change. Writing about rocking back and forth made me a little nervous. Time for a shot of Everclear I guess,

      Serioously I can't get drunk any more. Legally intoxicated yes, no problem there. I just can not get high. Seems no matter how I mix and match I can;t even seem to get wasted, Just get tired and go to sleep, I don't think I'm gotten a happy lose my inhabitons high in more years than i care to admit. i guess I burned out all the important hippie dope synapis. , Got to keep on trying though, My daddy taught me not to be a quitte,. Never give up, never lose hope. Words i live by.

    5. I know "Johnny Got His Gun" 3 times removed. Not from the book, and not from the film based on the book, but from the film excerpts that Metallica used in the video to a song of theirs called "One."

      The whole morse code "Kill me" thing, with Hetfield singing,"Darkness imprisoning me/ All that I see / Absolute horror."

      Almost everything I know is music-based.

    6. Thank You, I had no idea it spawned a song? I'll check it out, tomorrow when the sun comes out,

    7. There's also a good rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind kid, but it has less to do with war than... pinball. I don't think there's a connection there.

  8. geez. kinda glad i am not dana...
    esp when it comes to drunk rednecks shooting each other
    because chances are, they may still be doing in in the ER,
    i guess though under the circumstances, that could be a
    blessing. geez.

    1. I'll assume they bring their guns with them, sure!

      I was just outside a few minutes ago and saw that it's a full moon tonight.

      An ER on a full moon might be worse than on the 4th of July.

      That doesn't make any sense to me, but the people I know that work in such places swear that it's true.

  9. Okay, I printed this post out and put it in my pocket for the next time I have a stroke. I just hope that when I do have a stroke A) I'll possess the motor skills necessary to pull the note from my pocket and unfold it and B) the words will still look like words and not alien hieroglyphics. Wish me luck!

    1. That's a good idea.

      I hope that this is only the first in a series of posts in which I give pointers on things like "how NOT to be in an airplane crash" and "how NOT be the victim of random violence."

      People normally just don't think ahead.

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    1. Antony ended up driving her in the hospital, once Rachel got a hold of him.

  11. Ahhhhh I can't read stuff about strokes and heart attacks without getting all squicked out and convinced i have a blood clot. Eesh.

    1. Hi, Gia!

      Yeah, not the easiest topic to write about or read about...

      ...which is why I'm going to try.

      I want to make EVERYONE uncomfortable..

  12. So at first I thought this was about you. Then as it became more and more dire that seemed to make less sense, unless it had happened some time ago and you had somehow never mentioned it before. Then it became clear who were referring to (I mean, before you mentioned her by name.)

    Also, the way you wrote this does a pretty good at conveying your concern for the person it happened to and your incredulity at this particular medical emergency happening in this particular fashion. Most of us would have been stuck with a more or less literal "I can't believe that this thing happened, and to someone I know, no less!" I don't know if you meant to convey those things, but you're a good writer so I think you did.

    And I'm sorry that this happened to her, and I hope she's doing okay.

    1. It's like a perfect storm comedy of errors.

      And of course, it's just dark enough for me to write about.

      This page used to be funny.


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