KC Column: Stroke! (MAR 09)

 height=So, a funny thing happened to me after I finished my last column - I had a minor stroke.

Don't panic! I'm going to be all right. I'm already up and around. I'm three weeks into physical therapy, where I'm walking sideways on treadmills (in training for my next music video!) and standing on big plastic balls to help me regain my balance. I can walk and talk just fine. My vision was not affected at all. I've already been cleared to drive, at least in the daytime.

The downside is that I need to regain some control over my left arm, which is still a little "loose." My biggest struggle right now is to write, or more correctly type, as my left hand is slightly out of rhythm with my right. Oddly enough I'm typing more letters than I need - mostly x and z and q, which renders spell check pretty useless. And I often hit the SHIFT key at the wrong time. Which means that I'm spending more time fixing things than actual typing. Here's what my unedited typing looks like:

batman Annd Robbiin JUmpedw over the lazzzy dog. "oucxh," Yhelled Krypto!

As a result, this column may be a little shorter than usual. Although I'll probably be adding a little bit to it every week, as I am able to. So please check back for updates!

Also, please send questions or letters! Theoretically, cutting and pasting will be easier for me than actual typing right now.

*********************

The doctors aren't really sure what happened to me. I've been referred to as some sort of "medical mystery" as all but one of the various tests they ran on me came up clear. Only the MRI indicated some stroke-like activity, but that was minor. I guess that technically it's called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Isn't Ischemia one planet over from Rann? If so, I was attacked by homeless DC Universe aliens and now I can't type.

Yes, I realize that I'm being quite flip about all this, since it is a very serious situation. But what else am I gonna do about it? I refuse to wallow in misery or despair, and I've always been a big proponent of laughter being the best medicine. I'm very dedicated to my physical therapy right now, and as soon as I'm able, I plan to start a major exercise program to drop as much of my excessive poundage as possible.

I don't plan on being a zealot about this, but I do realize that there are a lot of guys like me in the comics world. We carry around too much extra weight, eat crap, don't exercise, and spend most of our day behind a keyboard or at a drawing table - or just sit around reading comics or watching DVDs all day. There are serious consequences to this lifestyle! And your pal Wolverine isn't gonna be of any real help to you when something bad finally happens! Don't just think about it...

*********************

There's something quite surreal about reading about stroke on the internet while you're in the middle of having one. But that's exactly what happened to me.

My "attack" happened while I was sitting at my desk, talking to a friend on the phone. I realized that it was probably going to be a long call, so I sat way back in my desk chair to get comfy. A few minutes later, I needed to shift positions, so I sat up straight - probably too fast - and realized that I was quite dizzy. Thinking that I was just light-headed from sitting up too fast, I sat there for a moment, waiting for the dizziness to pass. But then I reached out with my left hand to grab the base of the phone, and I saw my hand floating around uncontrollably, unable to grasp the phone.

Knowing that this was one of the warning signs of a stroke, I got off the phone with my friend and immediately called my wife, Johanna, to have her come home. Luckily, she was only a couple of minutes away. While I was waiting for her, I thought about getting up and trying to make it to the bed to lie down. But I was still a little dizzy, and since I would have to walk by an open stairwell to the downstairs to get to the bed, I came to the conclusion that this was a really bad idea. So I stayed at my desk until she could get home to help me.

To pass the time, I fired up the internet, went to WebMD, and read up on stroke. I also started reciting things out loud while I was waiting, fearing that my speech was slightly slurred. Some of the things I remember reciting were the Star-Spangled Banner, The Lord's Prayer, U.S. Presidents since Roosevelt (can't do 'em all), the Beatles albums (in order), the opening to the Adventures of Superman TV show, and the Green Lantern Oath. Luckily, Johanna got home before I had to do the LSH home planets. She got me to bed and called the doctor, who ordered us to the Emergency Room, where I walked in under my own power. Three hours later, they couldn't find anything wrong and sent me home. By that time, I had mostly regained control over my hand and I wasn't dizzy, just weak.

Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up violently sick and very dizzy. This time, my doctor wanted to see me, so we went there first despite the fact that I could barely walk and was throwing up every 20 minutes. Surprisingly, my doctor wasn't there, although a very helpful PA gave me anti-nausea drugs and realized that I needed to go back to the Emergency Room. So I got my very first ambulance ride, which is not as much fun as you might think. This time, they kept me in the ER for over six hours, trying to figure out what was wrong with me, before admitting me to the hospital.

I was remarkably calm through most of what was going on around me. It was in the ER that I realized that I was eventually going to be ok. We were watching Lost there (a very surreal experience, actually). Johanna hadn't seen much of the show, so I spent much of the hour explaining all the characters and their backstories to her. I realized that if I still understood Lost (or at least pretended to), then I was ultimately going to be all right.

 height=

Me getting wired up for a brain scan. After the tests were done, they connected a satellite dish to my hat - Free HD! - directly into my brain!

I was in the hospital for two and a half days. The first day was a flurry of medical tests, which kept me very busy, but by the second day, everybody was pretty much done with me, so I got very bored being in bed all day. By the evening, I was pacing aimlessly around my room in circles, dragging my IV stand around with me. I was having some problems walking by then, but I was convinced that it was mostly due to weakness and boredom. They finally felt sorry for me (or gave up trying to figure out what happened to me) and let me go home on Saturday morning. I started physical therapy (PT) the following Tuesday, and I have been getting better and stronger every day since then.

Except for one other thing - I find that I need a tremendous amount of sleep these days, currently around 12 hours daily, but occasionally as much as 15 hours. Since much of my waking time is spent on PT activities, I find my time (or alertness) for writing very limited. I've theorized (or rationalized, take your pick) that I need so much sleep because that's what my brain requires for "down time" so that the brain cells that were destroyed during the attack can grow back. I need them to get back my balance and full control of my left hand and most likely some of my typing abilities, so I'm not trying to fight it much. I apologize to you and to the fine folks at Westfield for not giving you a full column. I'm hoping for an update next Friday, so please stop by then.

I've been reading a lot of comics. Maybe I'll talk about a few...

KC CARLSON is now sleeping. Please refrain from loud noises.

Got comments or questions about this column? You can contact KC at AuntieKC@WestfieldComics.com

To link to this column, use this link (right click and copy)