uring his first visit to the hospital, my friend Paul said, “Well, we
have to have some way to refer to what happened to you.” After
only a little wrangling, we decided on “the incident,” always said in
a whisper, eyebrows raised, and after a dramatic pause.
What was the incident? A hemorrhagic stroke on July 17,
1997. This past July, I had my 15th Homage to My Hemorrhage
celebration, in recognition of the day that divides my life: me
before my stroke and me after my stroke. To me, it is like a rebirth. In fact, recognition
of this day is so important to me that it almost eclipses my actual birthday. Sure, the
incident left me with deficits that persist to this day: hemiparesis, left-side neglect,
neuropathy, proprioception problems and spasticity. Yes, to experience the condition
is to know the term to describe it, though I can think of better ways to expand my
vocabulary. But I am alive, and I live life to the fullest.
I’ve always been a fighter. With eight brothers and no sisters, I have been battle-tested from an early age to meet whatever I am confronted with head-on. And that
includes the ravages of stroke. But to take on this opponent, you need more than
courage and determination. You have to believe in yourself. That’s called positivity.
And you have to have a sense of humor.
Straight away, I put the word out to all would-be visitors to my hospital room:
“Come armed with a joke and be prepared to laugh. Don’t dare show up with pity
written all over your face.” Pity is a useless sentiment that casts a pall over everyone
By Julia Fox Garrison, Survivor | Foxboro, Mass.