Camarillo Brillo

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor, John Kawie.



On day 28 of my stroke I was standing at the Barbie-doll sized sink in my hospital room about to shave when I was taken aback by the image in the mirror. Frankly, I looked dreadful. The left side of my face drooped like melted candle wax, giving it a Salvador Dali creepiness. But what drove me crazy was my out-of-control hair. A dense, kinky shrub the shape of a catcher’s mitt appeared to have sprouted overnight. It screamed for its own “This Old House” landscaping segment. My curly hair has been an enigma since the British Invasion. In ’64 I attempted a Beatles haircut, but ended up looking like a giant Chia pet. While straight hair billows angelically in the breeze, a category 5 hurricane couldn’t disturb my thick, snarled nest.

Later, in ‘68, I found myself standing at the corner of counter culture and anti-establishment, so naturally I let it all hang out and grow out. I even ditched my razor. When I first came home from college, my dad opened the door, then called out to my mom, “Jenny, John the Baptist is here!”

Anyway, back to day 28. It’s visiting hours and I catch my wife giving me that same look. Finally Marilyn said, “Who’s that woman who cuts your hair? Is it Anna?” In no time we were on the phone with Anna asking if she made house calls. She answered in her soothing, sexy Eastern European accent, “For you, John, anything. Tomorrow is good?”

Simply put, Anna was hot… and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Patients emerged from their rooms like Lazarus from the dead.

Tomorrow was perfect and I could hardly contain myself waiting for her arrival. While I was in the middle of neatening up my room (for the third time), I heard a commotion down near the nurse’s station, accompanied by the distinctive click of stiletto heels. I stuck my head out the door and there she was, strolling down the hall with her long flowing chestnut hair, willowy model figure, easy smile, and best of all, tight black leather slacks. She dazzled against the ghostly backdrop of the rehab floor.

Simply put, Anna was hot… and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Suddenly heads were popping out of doorways. Patients emerged from their rooms like Lazarus from the dead. Guys who refused to go to PT somehow discovered how to walk again. Those in wheelchairs gave her a police escort complete with wheelies. When she greeted me with her sweet two-cheek kiss, you could hear a collective sigh throughout the hall.

Soon every man on the floor was headed to my room. Aides were arriving with Graham Crackers and apple juice. Nurses were tending to vitals, reading my chart, checking my temperature. My BP was taken so many times I was afraid it was going to cut off my circulation. Even doctors were coming in to fluff my pillows! Where were these guys when my finger went numb ringing the call button late at night? If I were dying, I wouldn’t have gotten this much attention. When my room started resembling the cabin scene in the Marx Brother’s “Night at the Opera,” I screamed, “OUT!” and the crashers reluctantly retreated, leaving just us two.

As she worked her magic we chatted and caught up. In no time the floor was covered with curls like someone had just sheared a sheep. When she finished I looked and felt like a human being again. But the best part was, for one hour, I wasn’t a stroke survivor… I was just a guy getting a haircut.

 

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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear. We have trained several members of ASA's national call

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!