Slow Down



A Unique Perspective on His Survival

Comedian and Stroke Survivor John Kawie

As Ferris Bueller wisely said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while you might miss it.” This is true, unless you happen to be a stroke survivor.

In 1990 when I traded my Connecticut office for a New York City stage, it was as if I swapped a John Deere for a Ferrari. Even as a kid I was a speed demon, and the energy of Manhattan was a perfect fit. Every day began with a starter pistol and ended with a checkered flag. I was ripping up and down subway stairs, catching buses, hailing cabs and generally keeping the speedometer needle buried.

Then the stroke slammed on the brakes.

I had become a tortoise in a town full of hares and discovered that everything must be done with the deliberateness of a tightrope walker. What used to take minutes now took hours. But I wasn’t having any of it. I thought I could get back in the saddle and maintain my same routine.

I quickly learned just getting out of the apartment required the premeditated plotting of a NASA interplanetary mission. There was no more running down to the coffee shop to get my overpriced Café Wake-up-acino. In fact, the word ‘run’ was no longer in my vocabulary. A snail on Ambien could get out of my building faster than me.

I ignored the packet my OT gave me that included post-stroke “Fun Facts” on morning routines, so I rushed dressing as though the stroke never happened. One day I was in the elevator and my neighbor’s kid pointed to me and said “Daddy, he has an innie.” I looked down and realized my midriff was totally exposed. Man, how long have I been going out looking like a Calypso backup singer for Harry Belafonte? Since then those “Fun Facts” have been my bible.

Unfortunately there was no packet for navigating the city sidewalks. Here, I was on my own. In my mind I was going flat out, but the speedometer needle barely moved.

I was Scotty in the engine room of the USS Enterprise — “I’ve not got the power, Captain!” Not only did I lack the power, I had the agility of an ironing board. Bobbing and weaving was impossible. It was as if an Apple Store explosively pollinated itself on the streets of the city, and I was an inflatable punching clown getting slammed by oblivious plugged-in pedestrians hypnotized by their smart phones.

Worse than getting banged around was that my newfound sluggishness made me feel dull. It was the rush of speed that I was missing. Life used to be about getting somewhere as fast as possible rendering the world a blur, but I didn’t care.

Then one day, I couldn’t make it across 7th Avenue before the light changed. Having cars, cabs and buses thundering two inches from my nose threatening to turn me into road-kill was all I needed to get my adrenaline pumping again. My surroundings magically came into focus, and suddenly everything became three-dimensional like the terrain of a relief map.

I’m afraid it might be slow going for some time, perhaps forever. And that’s OK. I now notice details I never really saw before. It’s changed the way I look at life, which, as Ferris says, moves pretty fast anyway.

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Stroke Rehabilitation Two-Part Series

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 in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-art 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.

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.

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!