Bruce Smith
Date of Stroke
May 30, 2000

At 5:30AM on May 30, 2000 My World Changed Forever. I was dressing for work when I had this strange feeling in my head. Within a minute, my right side went slack and I fell to the bed. As I lay there, several thoughts ran through what was left of my brain. Obviously, I had experienced a stroke. The nearest phone was twenty feet away. In other words, just as useful as one on the surface of the moon. I lived alone and it would probably take at least a day or two for anybody to find me. As I closed my eyes, I thought it was for the last time.

I was very nearly right.

I woke a month later as an infant. I couldn’t walk, talk, sit up, or feed myself. I wasn’t even potty trained! Ten years later, I live alone and do all my own housekeeping and yard maintenance. Several times each year, I visit my kids 1,500 miles away and go on terrific cruises once or twice a year. Oh yeah, I can stagger around leaning on a cane after spending a full year in a wheelchair. Besides all that, I can tie my shoes just like a big boy. I am all growed up.

Free advice, remembering that advice is seldom worth more than you pay for it:

Breathe deeply when you wake and remind yourself that you did. Task one each day is to wake. The rest is detail.

Keep your sense of ha ha, or develop one. It helped to keep things in perspective by making fun of others and myself when I was going through my own nightmare. I am the most ridiculous person in the world, except for everyone else.

Accept that there is no alternative to a lifetime of hard, lonely, and painful work to restore only part of what you had before. OK, there is an alternative but I am not a curl up and die kinda guy.

You have lost no friends. Many people you had considered friends will turn out to have been mere acquaintances. More than a few seemingly close relatives will turn out to have been much more distant than you had thought. I encourage you to do what I did and not focus on those fair weather friends.

Finally, and this is pretty important, you will face a key question: “Why me?” My answer is; “Because it was. Deal with it...” When you want to complain about how badly life has treated you--and you will--think of someone treated worse. You will feel better about things. Is that cruel? Yes. Is that simply human? Yes. Does that work? Oh yeah, still does for me.

My old self passed away ten years ago. He will never return. My new self, while similar, can’t do as much as he, but… The important thing is not what I cannot do, it’s what I can. Tomorrow, even more.

For more from Bruce, read his advice on Celebrating Life after a stroke.