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Rick B

January 6, 2015

I am ... A Survivor

I am a 6 time stroke survivor with 2 minor strokes. My first stroke happened when I took my wife away to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. I was unfamiliar with stroke symptoms and while we were reliving our wedding day including eating at the same exclusive restaurant, I started coming down with all the classic symptoms. The waitress asked if she should call 911 and me, being a proud, stubborn man refused. Partly because we were 300 miles from home, my wife didn't know how to drive in this town and she didn't know where the hospital was. She said lets just go back to the hotel where I spent the remainder of the week in bed. When we got home I went to the hospital where an MRI confirmed I suffered a massive stroke and were shocked that I was still alive without receiving medical care. I went through intense therapy to learn basic everything again. From tying my shoes to reading, math writing, everything. I had 4 children at home that I was supposed to be teaching and here they were helping me out every day. The hardest part was the damage done to my ability to swallow. The connection from my brain to my swallowing muscles were damaged and after 42 years of eating normal I now had to change the entire way I eat. I have to turn my head to the left every time I swallow food or drink or it goes into my lungs and I aspirate causing me to come down with double pneumonia within 48 hours. Needless to say I learned the hard way. I was hospitalized with double pneumonia over 30 times in 18 months. I spent every holiday except Christmas in the hospital, I missed every birthday, anniversary and special occasion. I suffered short term memory loss, left side weakness/paralysis if I tried to lift something. After 3 months hospital free I was hit with my 2nd stroke. This time I went to the hospital where I was given a clot busting drug and spent only 3 weeks in the hospital this time. I also left out the fact I suffered 2 heart attacks and I was 44 years old. They did massive testing to find out the cause of the heart attacks and strokes but could find nothing but then my family doctor called from 200 miles away and suggested one last test just as I was about to leave and sure enough, his hunch was right. There was a hole in my heart and the clot would come in and shoot all over my body. They set me up for heart surgery and I was only 45, only 45 and my body was falling apart. I was in the operating room and they were going to insert a metal rod in the hole and once inside it would open up like an umbrella and plug the opening and the heart muscles would grow over this device making it a part of the heart. So they started by going in through the groin, on my right was the camera and on the left was the operating tools. Shortly after they began, they bumped a nerve in my leg with the camera and words cannot describe what it felt like other than someone putting a grenade up your rectum and pulling the pin. It felt like my insides were boiling to the point they were going to boil right out of my body. I woke up screaming in pain and my scream started a chain reaction of the nurses and other surgical team members. The doctor ordered several shots of morphine which I told him won't work, that my body doesn't take that drug, it has no effect. He ordered a new bag filled with morphine to drip in my arm and he cleared out the room for 5 minutes. I was told that 5 nurses were so traumatized that they had to go home and a new trauma team had to be brought in. Guess what? You got it, I was wide awake, my adrenaline was pumping so fast that they couldn't put me under. They even tried propofol, the deadly drug Michael Jackson took and I was wide awake. He couldn't wait so he started the procedure and I remained awake the entire time. I even offered to help him if it would go faster cuz it hurt so bad I just wanted it over. I told him I don't care if you do a crappy job just please hurry. If there is one surgery you DON'T want to be awake for, that's the one. That made my recovery so much longer and so much more painful. Being awake for heart surgery is the only thing I was afraid of, not dying or by paralyzed it was being awake. Well after that was over, and enough time went by we all though I was cured, this must have been the problem. NOPE. Welcome stroke #3. I was alone, collapsed on the floor of my living room and crawled to the phone. I won't bore you with each individual experience, but I never quit, I never gave up, never lost my faith and I never lost my hope. I learned through an MRI that I have an inoperable brain tumor as well. I am 47 and to briefly sum up my medical history: You know about the strokes and heart attcks, I also had SIRS ( my organs shut down, near fatal ) I suffered a brain hemorrhage while in the critical care unit that fractured my skull and left me deaf for 6 months, I had a pulminary embolism where my right lung filled with hundreds of thousands of blood clots. I was misdiagnosed and had prostate surgery when I was 39 (everything works), turns out it's a neurogenic bladder. IN SPITE of all of this, after my 5th stroke I had an offer to get a book of my poetry published that I wrote after my strokes. Even though I went through hell, litterally, and my brain not working well, my mind did work and something positive was triggered as a result. My book is due to be released within the next month or so and it is aptly named "A Stroke Of The Pen". I am also donating part of the proceeds to The American Stroke Association. It's too late for me but maybe they can help somebody. You can contact me if you wish at

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