On The Road Again

A Unique Perspective on Survival by Stroke Survivor and Comedian John Kawie



If you witnessed the exact moment of my stroke, you’d be surprised how underwhelming the event was … no dramatic collapsing or keeling over. In fact, I was asleep at the time.

Marilyn and I were in a Connecticut hotel room and I was passing up prime weekend gigs at top New York City comedy clubs to attend my friend’s wedding in New London. For a comedian this was comparable to the Pope sitting out Easter mass. But I was determined to make the best of it — PAAAA-TEE! — and I did. This included several (seven?) glasses of Moet, a Kentucky cheroot and dancing. I danced with my wife, the bride, the groom, a waiter and a couple of folding chairs.

My strapping 130-pound body is more Olive Oil than Popeye, but when I went to bed at least everything was working. The next morning, suddenly English was my second language. When I turned to Marilyn and said, "Sumptin’s wong" we both knew I needed medical attention. So Marilyn did her best Andy Granatelli up Route 1 and we quickly made our way to the closest ER.

Getting out of the car wasn’t as easy. It felt like my left side was spot-welded to the seat. Two attendants, noticing the problem, came running towards us with a gurney. One was named Donna and the other Karen. As they wheeled me in a joke managed to work its way through my numb lips. "I dithn’t know Donna Karen wath two people." Not the greatest bit, but I expected at least a chuckle. Instead all I heard was the ER’s buzzing gadgets and beeping monitors.

They stretched me out on the examining table under high-powered surgical bulbs that were brighter than any theater lights I had ever experienced. A team of doctors started poking and prodding. When one of them stepped forward to announce their findings, I imagined him as the emcee introducing me to an audience.

"You’ve seen him on Comedy Central, you’ve heard him on radio, and now ladies and gentlemen, the man has had a stroke."

Ta-Dah!

"Get him started on heparin right away."

So I mumbled, "You know, my wife lookth like Auuuudthrey Heparin."

Okay, another weak bit, but again, not even a smile. Had the humor gods abandoned me? Here I was being given a possible life-ending diagnosis, my body was like a rag doll, I couldn’t sit up by myself let alone walk, and I was worried because my jokes weren’t working. During my two-week ICU stay, therapists came and went faster than my setups and punches. Still, no reaction. This was the worst road gig ever.

Finally Marilyn had me transferred to St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City — a three-hour trip. They wrapped me mummy style in a blanket, strapped me to a gurney and shoved me into an ambulance. I looked like a giant egg roll in a straight jacket.

When we pulled into St Vincent’s the EMS guys rolled me through the bedlam of the inner-city ER. A doctor wearing a blood-splattered gown asked, "What’s his problem?"

My guy said, "CVA."

I blurted, "No, I hath a stroke."

"CVA means cerebral vascular accident," he explained. "It’s the medical term for stroke."

Reflexively I said, "They should rename it a C-V-MF-U! Cerebral vascular major foul-up."

With that the entire ER broke into hysterics — an audience of doctors, nurses and attendants laughed at my joke! I was killing in the emergency room! That’s when I knew everything was going to be okay.

Good to be home.

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

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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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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

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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!