ne morning in June 2014, I woke up early and
went to my computer to go through emails as
I always did, but something strange occurred.
I found that I was reading the words in a
mixture of English and Spanish. In a life full of passions,
mastering Spanish had been one of them, and I’d become
quite fluent, but the emails were only in English.
I called my wife Sonya, and she noticed immediately
that my words—both English and Spanish—were coming
out wrong. She called our insurance company, and they
told her to rush me to the nearest emergency room, which
was nearby in Napa. I would spend the next five days in
the ICU. I couldn’t find the words to answer the questions
they asked me. I learned that I’d had a hemorrhagic
stroke, caused by a blood vessel bursting inside my brain.
I was 80 years old.
After three days of physical, speech and occupational
Life Before the Stroke
therapy, I was sent home. There’s nothing more they
could do, they told me. But it became apparent during the
months of speech therapy that followed that the stroke
had caused aphasia. I have since learned more about this
condition than you would ever want to know (unless you
or a loved one experiences it!) I will share with you what
I’ve learned about coping and thriving after a stroke. But
first, I should tell you who I am.
Growing up in Detroit and Los Angeles, I was always
active, playing baseball from grammar school to junior
college and football from junior high to college. I played
guard and tackle for a Navy football team in San Diego
and on a partial scholarship for University of California
Santa Barbara. I always tried my best on the field, as well
as in the classroom.
The healthy practices that go along with being an
athlete — exercise, good nutrition, ample sleep — are
cast aside by most college athletes once they graduate. I
stuck with them as an adult and even made it my calling
to encourage others to follow my example. I suppose
that’s why the stroke came as such a surprise — because
TO HEALTHY HEALING
How I bounced back from a stroke —
and found humility and clarity in the process.
By Hal Milton, Survivor | Napa, California