Stumbling Around

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


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