Happy Birthday To Me

Originally published abt 2005

Today my wife woke me up announcing that this is the tenth anniversary of my stroke or as she likes to refer to it, “My Second” birthday.

It hard to believe it’s been that many years, the events of the day seem so fresh in my mind. I had stayed home that day because I had an intense headache. (My co-workers knew my headache had to be bad, because my wife ran an in-home daycare and the thought of me hanging around with 10 toddlers had to be an act of desperation.) I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and the next thing I knew I was on the floor, unable to get up. My wife asked me what the matter was and I realized I couldn’t speak. One of my arms decided to take on a mind of its’ own and started to swing around for no apparent reason. I had to use my other arm to grab it and hold it down. My wife tried to lift me up, but I was like a rag doll (A 250 lb. rag doll!) I can still remember 10 set of children’s eyes staring at me and asking “Are you OK?”

My wife called 911 and it seemed like only moments until the ambulance arrived. At the same time, a neighbor came in and took over the children (including one of my own) and got them out of the house, before I was placed in the ambulance.

I knew what was happening to me, I could hear and understand everything. I just couldn’t respond! None of my limbs worked, other than my right arm, which I was using to restrain my left arm from waiving uncontrollably. I was in a deep trouble! I realized that there was nothing I could do myself and I made a conscious decision to put my fate in a higher power and relaxed completely.

When I got to Waconia Hospital Emergency Room, they immediately put me though a variety of tests and x-rays. The tests revealed I had a 90% blockage of an artery leading to my brain. My doctor called my wife and pastor in. He told us about a brand new experimental treatment called TPA. It had not been used successfully yet in Minnesota, but it had great results in other states. Without the drug I would be guaranteed a life long paralysis, with TPA I had a 50% chance of recovery or a 50% chance of dying. —- It was impossible for me to give my opinion, although I knew I wanted it done. Instead, I had to listen to my wife and our pastor talk out the options about the life I would or wouldn’t have, if paralyzed. My wife decided to take the chance on TPA.

The effect of the drug was almost immediate. The first thing I noticed was that my arm stopped moving. Soon I was able to touch my fingers together. Within an hour, my speech returned, although it was slurred. It was a miracle, I had survived a major stroke and my second life was beginning. I had a lot of therapy ahead of me, but I soon found, I had a lot of friends willing to help.

After the injection the first visitor to see me was my brother Jim and his wife Jayne. They had left the office to come to Waconia to support me and my wife. Jim had complete confidence that I would recover. He never once spoke to me about replacing me at work. Even when I had my darkest days, he stood by me helping with the financial problems that accompany any major hospitalizations.

I also found that I was blessed by many friends in insurance, who took the time to send me notes, card and flowers. I remember the second day of my hospital stay, Kent Peterson from Chaska, stopped in to see me. He had brought a card for me to read. He was pretty excited to have me read it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read it, so I just smiled at him and said thanks.  That was the first time I realized that I had serious problems remaining that would require time to heal. My wife had figured this out before me, because when I was asked to name my children, I repeatedly forgot one.

I remained in the hospital for about a week and afterward I came home to continue the recovery. Within another week of being trapped in the house I was going stir crazy, luckily I got a call from Bob Comeau of Coon Rapids, offering to take me out for a drive. We drove west on Hwy 12 looking for used tractors; I had a great time going through the junk yards talking tractors. It really helped to get out and about.

During my recovery, I received many phone calls, including daily ones from Percy Ross (nationally known columnist). He made it a point to call me every day just to chat and ask how I was doing. He, by far, wasn’t the only to offer support. I had so many people helping me through my experience. There are just too many to name. I keep a scrapbook of all the cards and notes I received during that time. I still like to look it over to remember just how lucky I am to have so many good friends.

Why am I telling you this? I just wanted to let everyone know just how much I appreciated all the help I received. It humbles me to think of all the people who took time to support me, when it would have been much easier to forget about me.

To all of you that sent me cards, flowers, food and even money to help me out of my medical expenses, Thank you. To everyone that took time to visit me at my home and hospital room, Thank you. To my brother and co-workers who took over my work load, I know I can never repay you for you generosity, but at least I’d like to say thank you again.

It’s not everyone who gets a second birthday, and I want you to know I plan on celebrating it for many years.

Happy Birthday to me

Clarence

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