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.