I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)



There were a handful of teachers from my grade school days that managed to imprint themselves on the soft clay of my prepubescent cerebrum. Miss Bergman, my kindergarten teacher, was one. She had a knack for slipping character-building chores into our day so they almost went unnoticed. We painlessly swallowed cleaning the blackboard, organizing our cubbies and arranging chairs for story time. Every kid went about these tasks with Snow White-and-the-Seven-Dwarfs merriment. Every kid that is except Maureen Moriarty.

Maureen was a 5-year-old-princess with a type A personality who could play sick at the drop of a hat. Like a sorceress she would conjure up full-blown ailments ranging from nosebleeds to sinus infections in a moment’s notice.

For us it was: "Children! Story time." and we’d dutifully grab our chairs placing them in semi-circle formation.

For Maureen it was: "Mucus exploding out of your nostrils again sweetheart? Don’t worry. Stand here by me while Johnny gets your seat."

Forty-three years later I was in the ICU dealing with an explosion situation of my own. A dissected carotid artery had turned my 47-year-old brain into helpless baby mush. Maureen’s get-out-of-jail-free sympathy that I used to envy was now mine in spades. "Poor thing" and "what a trooper" were being whispered behind my back.

Let’s be honest, a stroke can make you look and feel pathetic. One’s sense of swagger and machismo tends to evaporate when you’re an adult man and you can’t be trusted holding a glass of water without the aide of a nurse.

"John, let me help you with that."

"You’ll help me sip my Wa-Wa?"

"Of course honey."

"Will you tuck me in too?"

"Absolutely."

"With my favorite blankey?"

"If it makes you happy."

Two and a half months later I was plucked from the nurturing bosom of hospital care and released into the bloodstream of humanity where I would be accountable for my behavior and expected to overcome basic obstacles like everyone else. Starting at home.

Aha! But now I had something in my back pocket that even Maureen didn’t have…the stroke card! And much to my wife Marilyn’s dismay I pulled it out every chance I got.

"Wanna do the laundry together?"

"Love to, but I had a stroke."

"How about making the bed?"

"Hel-looo, arm doesn’t work."

"What about a little dusting?"

"Sorry, no can do."

Soon the stroke card became addictive. I found myself pulling it out all the time. An aura of atrophy hovered over me like a storm cloud. People kowtowed to me like I was Henry VIII — cutting my food, carrying my packages, or reading me the paper. Even other disabled humans got into the act to the point where a random stranger in a motorized scooter insisted on driving me across the street.

There comes a time in life when you should reassess your situation, and being transported across 5th Avenue on the boney lap of a guy in a Hoveround seemed like the right time. Suddenly I had a cinematic view of my body draped over Scooter-Dude and it wasn’t a pretty picture. That’s when it hit me — I had become Maureen Moriarty.

So I went home, grabbed a bottle of Tide and headed down to the laundry room.

See a clip from John’s one-man show, Brain Freeze.

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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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.

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.

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

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 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.

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.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

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.

Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

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!