According to the Mayans today is IT, the END, FINITO, “So long, and thanks for all the fish…” (Douglas AdamsHitchikers Guide to the Galaxy).

Really? If true I will never have to file taxes again, never have another colonoscopy, never trim my toenails. To good to be true, me thinks.

But really, no matter what happens today, tomorrow I will choose to celebrate a BEGINNING. If I have taken the big dirt nap that some seem certain will happen (same people that were certain about the chaos that would follow Y2K?), then I will be beginning that new afterlife. I’m dreaming of a planet where I get paid to ski and watch hockey.  Of course there are no lift lines and no NHL player lockouts.

However in the likely event that I wake tomorrow in the same bed, with the same wife, in the same house, in the same life, I will CHOOSE to celebrate a BEGINNING.

Whatever happens, I know I will be in exactly the place that I need to be…Now!

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What I have found…

These are a few things I have found:

The best way I have found to heal myself… is to help others heal.

The best way I have found to feel better about myself… is to look for the good in others.

The best way I have found to have a great day… is to be grateful to have today.

The best way I have found to laugh… is to look for amusement where it shouldn’t be.

The best way I have found to feel wealthy… is to be grateful for all that I have.

The best way I have found to be at peace… is to look inside.

The best way I have found to feel loved… is to love.

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Redbull may not be your friend….

I have been reading and hearing a lot this past week or two about brain plasticity.  This is the ability of our brain to create new neural networks and connections to do the work of those that were damaged, like during a stroke.
The research gives us all cause for increased optomisim.  This clump of matter between our ears is very capable of rebuilding functionality…. IF WE TAKE CARE OF IT!

When we are infants we are actively and continuously building these network connections as we learn to operate these bodies, learn to talk and many other activities.  If you have raised a child you also know how much sleep they require in those early years.  It is primarily due to the network construction project going on in our brain.  Kids need more than a full 8 hours of sleep at night and a nap mid-day.
If you have had a stroke (or other major brain trauma), you are right back where you were when you were at 18months of age.  Well, maybe you don’t breast feed anymore… but otherwise, you are there.

RESPECT THE FATIGUE! Your brain will be very clear about whether you are getting the sleep it needs to do the re-construction that you, your therapists and everyone else around you is patiently (I hope) asking you to do.  When you feel tired, step way from the TV, the computer, the video game, the book, the party, the smart phone. Get some Z’s.

I recently attended a rountable discussion at Stanford University titled Your brain, your life, and brain science in the 21st century.

On the panel was Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroanatomist who wrote a bestseller (in my opinion, the best book about stroke) called “My Stroke of Insight” about the stroke she suffered and recovered from.  She is a rock star in the stroke recovery world. During this talk she was asked “… what do you think it the MOST important key to recovery from stroke…?”  Her answer:  SLEEP
Go take a nap, then watch the whole YouTube video, then go read her book.

Your brain will thank you for all 3.

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Get back? Consider moving forward…

I often hear new stroke patients talk about “getting back to where I was before the stroke…”  Consider a slight re-wording and change your perspective.  “Look forward to the new you.”  Don’t put any limitations on what the new you will be.  Think of yourself as a child again with so many exciting new things to learn and the world to explore.

Mobility: Getting around post stroke for me and some of my fellow victors is just a nuisance.  But for some of us it is a daunting part of everyday life.  Many victors are either totally immobile or confined to a wheelchair. Most of us have some level of physical challenges that affect our everyday life. And then there are the challenges involved in fun and exciting activities that make life more full.
Give up your historical definitions of mobility and you will find a world of solutions.

Driving a car: I am fortunate enough to have gotten my drivers license back about a year after my stroke.  If you have a handicap placard it is amazing how easy it is to get people to take you, especially to parking challenged places like sports events, concerts and Costco. Recommendation: Choose the placard vs a handicap plate.  You can take it with you in any vehicle you are using, even of someone else is driving.

But beyond having the freedom that comes with a drivers license, I wanted more…
Motorcycle: I was hung up on my picture of wanting to get back in the saddle of a 2 wheeled bike, wind in my hair, ridin’ the turns in the mountains or along the coast. Someone told me to consider a 3 wheeled motorcycle, which was sacrilege in my stuck brain. But eventually the call of the open road got me to think outside the box.  I have had a 3 wheeled bike (CanAm Spyder RT) for just a few years now and  that old bias has completely evaporated. Some of my 2 wheel buddies desperately want me to admit that I miss ridin’ on 2 wheels. I am so happy on my Spyder, I’m not sure I would go back to 2 wheels even if I could. And am finding more of my 2 wheel buddies, who have all their physical abilities, seeing the fun I am having, and maybe, just maybe, seeing themselves moving to a Spyder in the future.

Bicycle: My wife is a fairly serious cyclist.  She has one of those super light models made out of un-obtanium and air. I went to a nonprofit org here in the Bay Area called BORP.  They provide adaptive sports programs.  They let me try many different types of bikes/trikes. (This is an amazing organization!) I now have a recumbent 3 wheeler. Think what you want about me being on a “Big Wheel” like a little kid, but these new “tadpole” style recumbents are a gas.  Like a go cart with pedals.  It is a blast, especially downhill.

Skiing: Early in my life I was fortunate to have discovered this wonderful activity. And I was also fortunate to be able to do enough of it to get pretty good. It was the first thing I mourned when I realized the impact of my stroke. Then my Kyle,my physical therapist encouraged me to look into an adaptive ski program. I went to NSCD at Winter Park in Colorado where they strapped me into a contraption that looked like a bucket seat mounted on a pair of skis, a “sit-ski”.  I had a difficult time for the first few hours because my brain wanted it to work like the skis I had been on most of my life. The instructor finally told me to “forget what you know about skiing and just have fun”.   And… it worked. I was on just a beginner hill, but I had a blast.  I found myself transported back in time to when I was a little kid first learning.  I crashed a lot, and giggled like a 7 year old each time

Walking: I have regained enough mobility that I can walk short distance with a cane and leg brace. But I wanted to explore more.  Ever tried a Segway? I remember the hype when these first cam out, especially when Steve Wozniak of Apple fame got one.  Then they disappeared from my radar.  We were planning a cruise and I was thinking (obsessing) about not being able to explore the various ports with my wife. I did not want her to have to push me in a wheelchair and renting an electric was just financially beyond our budget.  Then I noticed that not only can you rent a Harley in almost every port (the Harley rental places are almost as common as Starbucks in most resort ports), you can also rent a Segway. Now, given my balance and mobility challenges I had no idea if one of these would work for me.  So I went to a place local to me in San Francisco.  My wife and I spent about 10 minutes being trained.  To my surprise balance was no issue.  The design of these things is brilliant.  Getting on and off was the only process that took a few minutes to master.  Then we were off for  a wonderful hour tour of Golden Gate Park.  Since then we have rented Segways in Puerto Rico, Antigua and Rome.

Take away:

As most of my fellow stroke victors well know, getting back the functionality we lost is a long and challenging process.  Good days and bad.  But one thing that I have learned is to think about the new me, “Dave 2.0”.  If you find yourself thinking or saying “… I just wish I could (xxxx) like I used to….”, try turning your focus in a different direction. Look to move forward, to find new ways to do the things you like to do.  And don’t let anyone, including your own mind, convince you that the “new way” your are considering is “…just not as good as the old”.  Ignore those pictures/voices.  If you are having fun, it IS good.

NOTE: Click on any of the highlighted words in this blog to get more information about the adaptive devices and resources that I discovered. Or, you may find something else… hehe.

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I’m baack!

Many apologies to my “fans” for my absence over the past 24 months.  I have sooo many great excuses.

Favorite excuse: “…my blogs got attached to the Obama-care bill, but got scrapped in order to properly water it down so that congress could swallow it….”

Second favorite: “…what’s the point? According to the Mayan calendar the earth, as we know it, is going to cease to exist in December…”

The story(short version):
Following my stroke in 2007 then the passing of my mother and then my wife in 2009, I visited the question… “what is the meaning of life?”  My version had a few “F-Bombs” in it.  And the answer “42” was not as funny as it had been before.  I was having a pity party fit for a Rock Star. It was during this time that I started this blog exercise…to “give my life purpose…” whatever

Then, I got distracted…. I got busy exploring the possibility that I could actually enjoy life regardless of what happened yesterday.  Hell’ I had been living that way all my life, and it hadn’t been too bad, most days.  It’s all how you choose to look at things. So, instead of psycho-therapy… I
-bought a motorcycle

-took a meditation class

-met and fell head over heels for an amazing woman (and I wasn’t even looking)


-learned to segway


-got married

-moved again

-started riding a recumbent tricycle

-spent a week with my new in-laws in New York

-spent a week with my new in-laws in Italy

-went on a 2 week cruise cruise in the Mediterranean

-became a spokesperson for stroke awareness and recovery issues

-took a week-long motorcycle trip to Yellowstone

-took a two week-long motorcycle trip to Nevada, Oregon and Washington

-and went back to school.

So,yes, good distracted.  Life is good.

I have lots of blog subjects I have been saving for you, so watch this space…
I’m baaaak….!

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems,
but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
– Herm Albright
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Planning to have a stroke of your own?

I don’t recommend that you become “one of us” strokevictors if you can avoid it.  Although I have been told I make it seem glamorous, it really isn’t all it may appear.  The physical therapy is a total bore, and neuro-surgeons do not have a sense of humor (contrary to what you see on TV). And chicks do NOT generally find guys with a cane hot.  I was just fortunate that my fiance’ has some unusual interests… she is very uniquely special.  (I am hoping she is reading this…)

If you are in the South Bay area (in Northern California for those of you reading this from Kazikstan) the nice people at the Stroke Center at El Camino Hospital Los Gatos are offering FREE Stroke Screening this Saturday (10/16/10) from 8:30am to 12:30pm.  If you are interested in finding out whether you are a candidate for our victor club I encourage you to visit El Camino saturday.  For more info visit their website. To register for the FREE screening call 800-216-5556.  (Registration is limited).

They are probably serving free chocolate donuts or cheeseburgers.  Strokes love that stuff.

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Prius – The new VW Van

It is not a coincidence that 90% of the times that I find myself behind a slow car on the roads these days, it is a Toyota Prius.  It is not because a Prius is incapable of going as fast as most any other car.  The other day I was (surprisingly) following a Prius down I280 in San Jose at about 80mph.

It is likely that the average Pirus operator in incapable of going faster, or even as fast, as all the traffic around them.  There are 2 factors that combine to cause most traffic to be backed up behind these silly looking cars:

1. The target market for Prius is people pre-disposed to drive slow.  For some reason they believe that by driving slow they will solve the energy crisis, global warming and middle east peace.  What they don’t realize is that their slow driving is the #1 cause of most road-rage related deaths.

2. Toyota has chosen to bombard the operator of a Prius with an abundance of real-time data to prove that, for example, by entering the freeway at 42mph they have just saved themselves, and the planet .003 of a gallon of gas.  Further there is an additional display that shows them that saving this amount of gas each day for 2.46 million years would easily end our dependence on foreign oil.

If you were driving a car that gave you this data, wouldn’t you drive like they do? (I read recently that Toyota is planning to add a banner line at the bottom of hte energy consumption display that suggests a lighter touch on the gas pedal will also save an endangered species alternating species each month.  So cute….

So, next time you are stuck behind a line of traffic check to see if there isn’t a Prius at the head of the line.  In the old days it used to be a VW Van.  At least then you could count on hearing some Greateful Dead coming out of the 8 track perched on the dash and the sweet scent of Maui Waui out the windows.

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