Stumbling Around

Thursday, August 31, 2006

* * * * * Book Availability * * * * *

The Story of My Stroke referred to in Welcome Back (Part II) is available for $30 which includes postage. Send orders to 42326 Pumpkin Center Road, Hammond, LA 70403 and include a check made out to Star Publishing along with mailing instructions. To make other arrangements contact the author at 985-956-6151.

The Story of My Stroke describes my experience having a stroke and going through the hospital and rehabilitation process in graphic detail. It is intended to help other stroke patients, their relatives, loved ones, and friends understand and deal with this life-changing event. Humor is used to soften what is otherwise an extremely traumatic experience.

Medical information including included helpful appendices help to understand the stroke process, the effects of diabetes and acts such as smoking on the stroke process.

Readers Comments – First Edition

It is 8:30 pm and I have been reading since 6 pm. I can't put it down.
I can see how your experience can help so many others who have had a stroke. The indignities of the whole ordeal are filling me with much compassion and a new insight for anyone going through such a hard time in their life. Your humor and great ability to write so candidly is quite entertaining, yet soulful.

Patricia __________, Star of Broadway musicals for over 40 years

I could relate to absolutely every story in the book. In one form or another, exactly the same thing happened to me.

Arthur __________, Stroke patient

The book is well-written and surprisingly interesting reading. It was like the author was sitting across the table telling me a story.

Mary __________, Barber

My family and I can’t believe that this is what you experienced. We think you made the whole thing up. [LBF Note: She was kidding.]

Marie __________, Employee – Large International Corporation

I use the book every day as part of my speech therapy program with stroke patients. One of the appendices contains the tongue twisters we use. Another one is a glossary of stroke-related terms. Another has blood-sugar levels information for diabetics. And another has information about blood pressure readings. Patients will tell me about their sugar levels or blood pressure levels. Sometimes, they will tell me something their doctor told them. In the Appendices, I can quickly find information pertinent to them. Tue, I have all of this information in other books and files in my office, but it’s just easier to have it at your finger-tips in one place. Besides, this way I can give them passages to read as part off their speech therapy program and they can relate to what they’re reading.

Robin __________, Speech Therapist

This book is perfect, just perfect. Don’t ever change a word in it.

Tom _________, Grocery Store Owner

Everyone in my household has read your book except me. They are all enjoying and commenting on your humor. I hope this letter finds you in good or better health.

Cleon __________, Social Worker

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Welcome Back (Part II)

Professor Writes Book to Help Others Who Have Had Stroke

In the inaugural “Stumbling Around” column, “Welcome Back (Part I)” I started to introduce myself, introduce the column, and explain both the name of the column and my reason for entitling the first one “Welcome Back!” I started to do these things but ran out of space. This column will continue the effort.

I left you hanging on the disturbing phone call I received from my daughter Robin following her emergency surgery for a brain aneurysm which had left her partially paralyzed, with impaired speech, and a variety of memory and aphasia problems. She asked if I could move back to this area to help her care for three children from Pennsylvania where I had been living for over thirty years. In the column, I asked “What’s a father to do?”

I don’t know what others would have done, but there was no hesitancy on my part. I packed up everything I owned, both for my business and personally, filled out paper work to discontinue my company in Pennsylvania, contracted with a moving company, drove to Ponchatoula, rented a house, and unpacked the truck when it got here. As soon as I could, I incorporated a new company in Louisiana and began establishing contacts and looking for environmental consulting business. I also talked with Southeastern University and got appointed as an Adjunct Professor in the Chemistry Department (a position which would not pay a salary until I started actually teaching classes.)

Things were going well until one fateful night the bottom dropped out of my world – I had a stroke! Overnight, I went from an energetic, hard-working over-achiever to waking up in the hospital intensive care unit with my entire right side paralyzed and unable to speak except for a few guttural grunts! I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even move my little finger. That happened on May 15, 2005.

It took a while for me to realize the enormity of my situation. Here I was formerly self-employed (essentially), now unemployable, with no job, no income, no savings (I had drained my savings moving to Louisiana), and no medical insurance. The policy I had with my company in Pennsylvania had terminated when I discontinued the company. I was too young for my retirement program with Du Pont to kick-in and too young for Medicare programs to apply. There was only one program available to me from Medicaid but it required that I pay 20% of my medical costs. When you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars, even 20% of the total is a large number. The only thing available to give me money for everyday expenses was Social Security Disability but that required a waiting period of three months after being disabled to become available. Thank goodness for friends and family. They got me through the first three months.

I won’t dwell on the therapy and rehabilitation program which followed over the next year plus. I’ve described that program in a book entitled “The Story of My Stroke.” The book is designed to help stroke patients and their friends and relatives what has happened and how to deal with the consequences of a stroke. It is my understanding that I am the first patient in hospital history to document the process of having a stroke and going through the therapy program. In my columns, from time to time, I will mention various incidents which occurred during therapy (some in the book and some not) that I think might be beneficial or of interest to readers.

For the purposes of this column, it is sufficient for my readers to know that I progressed from total to partial paralysis and from a wheel chair to a walker to a cane over a little more than a year. Today, I cam walk without the cane but elect to use it at times for safety reasons. Mostly, I just stumble along – hence the name of my column.

Why did I name this particular column “Welcome Back!”? Mostly I am welcoming back “The Daily Star” into my life, but I am also welcoming back my former column readers—although, like me, you too may be grand-parents by now. I am also hoping that you will welcome me and my columns back into your lives.

When I wrote “Inside SLC,” Editor Joe Coyle afforded me wide latitude in my selections of topics to cover. I expect and hope that this freedom will continue under Lil Mirando, the Executive Editor. I will write about interesting and unusual events in my own life, perhaps a little history of the area with which you may not be familiar, and maybe even a little genealogy information which may surprise you. I may even throw in some information about chemistry and the environment (after all, I do have a Ph.D.); medial information (I qualify as an expert on strokes now having written a book); legal matters (I’ve testified in court many times); religious matters (I’m helping my current therapist, who is also a minister, prepare a sermon); and a variety of other subjects. I will also welcome input from readers about what they would like to see me cover.

I’ve told you about myself. Let me hear from you! You can reach me by phone at 985-956-6151 or by e-mail at starcompany@erols,com. You can also post comments or questions about this or other of my columns at

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Welcome Back! (Part I)

'65 SLC grad stumbles back into writing

Since this is the inaugural “Stumbling Around” column, I’ll spend a few minutes introducing myself, introducing the column, and explaining both the name of the column and my reason for entitling this one “Welcome Back!”

From 1961 to 1965, I attended Southeastern Louisiana College (so-named at the time) and graduated with a B.S in Chemistry (and a minor in journalism). During that period of time, I wrote a column called “Inside SLC” for the Daily Star about interesting, strange, and sometimes funny things that were going on at Southeastern. I didn’t earn a lot of money as a columnist so every now and then Editor Joe Coyle would give me an interesting story to cover so that I could earn a few extra dollars. Some of those stories have been very memorial. With newspaper income; a student loan each semester covering 5 and 2/3 days a week worth of meals, registration, and books; and working for the Chemistry Department for $0.25/hour, I made it through four years of college. Of course, there weren’t many dates along the way, and I couldn’t afford to eat Saturday night and all day Sunday, but such was the life of a poor struggling college student.

The austere life did have its advantages though. When I graduated, I had the highest grade point average of any of the Chemistry majors. There were nine of us, the largest chemistry class in the school’s history as of that time. If you don’t have enough money to eat or date, what else is there for you to do on week-ends, but study?

After SLC, I entered Graduate School in Chemistry at LSU with a Teaching Assistantship and five years later accepted a position with the Du Pont Company in Wilmington, Delaware. After 17 years with Du Pont in a variety of positions, I was made “an offer that I couldn’t refuse” by the founder of a newly-formed and rapidly growing environmental remediation and consulting company to join the Company as a Senior Manager. That brought on a whole slew of new jobs and new activities within the environmental industry. In 1993, the company was purchased by a larger firm and I was faced with having to move from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, a move I did not want to make. Rather than move, I resigned and started my own environmental consulting firm which I named STAR Environmental. To this day, I don’t know if the name of my company harkened back to my days with “The Daily Star” or not. (Eventually, the company which purchased my former employer was itself purchased by Shaw Industries of Baton Rouge.)

About two years ago, my daughter Robin (who lives in Pumpkin Center) suffered a brain aneurysm and underwent emergency brain surgery at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. Although recovering, one day she called me in Pennsylvania saying “Dad, I don’t think I have long to live. I’m worried about my three children. Is there any way that you could move back to Louisiana?”

What’s a father to do?

To be continued next column