August 27, 2015
I’m not going to lie. Having a stroke, even a small one, is no walk in the park. It can shake you up, change the way you look at the world, and remind you that life does not go on forever. Life is finite. If there are things you want to accomplish, there are only so many years, so many months, and so many weeks, days, hours and minutes to accomplish them. This is true whether you are 7 years old or 70.
Fortunately for me, my stroke turned out to be a minor one – a reminder from the gods about what’s important and what is not. Having seen the effect it had on my wife Carmela, I cannot, and will not call it a blessing, but you take from such experiences the things that are important and positive and accept the things that are not as part of the price you pay.
I am on the rebound. I am not all the way back yet, but I hopefully will be soon. The scheduled CAT scan showed that any remaining blood clots in my brain are gone, so I am on warfarin – the generic name for Coumadin – a blood thinner that hopefully will prevent a repeat experience. Next week I will go back to have my eyes checked, to see if I have regained peripheral vision in my eyes. I am sure that I have. I find myself checking it all the time as Carmela drives through traffic. At first I thought maybe my peripheral vision was returning as the doctors said it might. Or was it just the result of wishful thinking? Now I am sure of it. The doctors will be checking it out next week and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to drive again. I hope so. Carmela, who hates to drive, hopes so, and so does our Yorkie son Henry, who likes to curl up on Carmela’s lap while I drive.
I thank everybody for their kind cards and electronic messages of encouragement. I do plan to answer everybody, but it may take a little while. I still tend to tire easily.
Lessons learned, big and small:
As my pal, Freddy Nietzsche once said, anything that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Everybody from birth on, has a finite number of days on the planet. Identify what is important to you, learn from your mistakes, and try to take some joy in each and every day you have
Warfarin, the blood-thinning drug that I am taking, was developed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (the WARF in Warfarin) as a rat poison in 1948. It would be mixed with food bait, which rats would return to over a period of time to eat. It took about six days of returning to the same bait for the rat to accumulate a lethal dose, then he or she would quietly bleed to death internally. One popular conspiracy theory is that Nikita Khrushchev and others in the Soviet hierarchy used warfarin to poison Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin.
With a little bit of luck, I should be back in the saddle soon, maybe even driving a car and working on my new book, “Nothing is Forever.” Until then, thanks to everybody for their kind thoughts and well wishes.
August 7, 2015
Thanks everybody for the well wishes sent my way over the last week. For the folks who haven’t heard, I suffered two minor strokes late last month. I stupidly ignored the first one – there was no pain – and dismissed it as a case of being overly tired. The second one was impossible to ignore. At lunch at the Belmont Brewery in Long Beach, the conversation became disjointed, and although I could understand words and even phrases, I had no comprehension of what people were saying. I also had trouble seeing them. I did not tell anybody this information.
I have fought in a war, I have been in fist fights, I have lived by the male code – if you’re not dead, shake it off and move on. I drove home, not my best decision considering my limited vision, and fell into bed. Within seconds, I was asleep and slept until the next morning.
When I awoke, I was still having vision problems, although I still did not tell anyone. Finally, my wife, Carmela, nagged that information out of me. Unburdened by male pride and stubbornness, Carmela rushed me to Kaiser for an emergency eye exam, where they discovered I have glaucoma. They also discovered I had limited to no vision in the upper right quadrant of both eyes. That is not an eye problem – that is a brain problem.
When I was in Vietnam, Carmela was 9 years old. Too bad. We could have used somebody like her when the bullets started flying. This whole experience was much worse for her than for me, but she did not once fall apart, at least not until it was all over.
So I’m back. Not quite as strong as I was, but a lot smarter. I remain at high risk for yet another stroke until I can start taking a blood thinner – something I cannot do until the doctors are sure that any blood clot remaining in my brain has dissolved. Otherwise it could cause any remaining clot to break loose and trigger yet another stroke.
We hope to be able to start treatment in another week or so and to be in a better place by September.
Promises and advice to my friends – and even my enemies:
Take care of yourself. If you experience any confusion or other such symptoms, go immediately to the emergency room and tell them you think you may have had a stroke. There is a four-hour window in which they can mitigate the damage
Unless I regain full vision, I will not drive. Your children are safe from me
This final promise is to my loyal and loving wife. I plan to live forever. I go into this battle understanding, I probably will most certainly lose. But when that time does come I plan to go down fighting.
And finally, because of my eye problems, I will not be posting on Facebook or Twitter for the next month to give my eyes a chance to recover. If you want to contact me, my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t be checking it, but Carmela will.
Thank you for your well wishes, and I will be back in touch – hopefully thinner, healthier, and better looking.
Love to everybody and kisses to all the girls.
August 5, 2015
By George Cunningham
I want to surprise my wife with a little gift every now and then. But there is a gang of evil-doers out there with nothing better to do than thwart my efforts to be a good husband. Those evil-doers go by the names of American Express aka AMEX, MasterCard aka MC, and Visa, aka Visa.
Here’s an example. My wife has a birthday coming up in a few weeks and I thought I would surprise her with a funny gift. This is not a big deal – just a little gag to make her laugh. How much is my wife’s surprise and laughter worth? Let’s say 20 bucks.
So, I go on line and I order her a Colorama coloring book. You may have seen the ads for the Colorama book on TV. This is the commercial where the woman enthusiastically declares, “I look forward to jumping into bed with my Colorama book, and melting away the stress of the day,” then it shows a picture of her in bed, coloring her heart out. It’s so sad, that it’s funny. And every time we see the ad, we laugh at that poor woman, who after all is just an actress.
So I figure when the Colorama book arrives, I will wrap it up real pretty and give it to my wife and wait for the howls of laughter to begin. Unfortunately, that’s never going to happen, because my wife is a woman of the 21st Century. Within hours after I order her gift, American Express sends her an email saying our joint card was used to order a Colorama adult coloring book, and is that OK with her. American Express claims they do this for security reasons, but I suspect they just have a grudge against me and want to break up my marriage. Why would they harbor such animosity against me? You’ll have to ask them.
All I know is that instead of howls of birthday laughter, what I got for my money is my wife, sitting at her computer, saying why in hell did you order one of those stupid Colorama books? Well, I explained, and of course, she forgave me … no thanks to American Express.
I liked the old days better. Back when if you used your credit card foolishly, you just threw away that little receipt and nobody was the wiser until the monthly bill arrived in the mail. As they say, “that ship has sailed” and here I am standing on the dock with a stupid look on my face and a coloring book in my hand.
Thanks a lot, American Express. I hope you’re happy now.
July 29, 2015