Light My Fire

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

Her beauty pulled me in like a tractor-beam, and we were just getting to know each other when my cousin Rosemary barked, "OK kids, time to move on." Our connection was shattered like a line drive through a picture window, and my magnificent new friend instantly flew away.

Yes, flew.

We were in the greenhouse of the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and her name was Papilio Ulysses, a species known for their majestic electric-blue wingspan. This was the first leg of a planned day trip with my cousins, and I could have stayed at this Sandals Resort for butterflies a bit longer. I mean, how can you absorb thousands of these exotic, fluttering wonders in under one hour? But my tour director cousin and her husband Ray were anxious for Marilyn and me to get to stop No. 2 on the itinerary: The Yankee Candle Shop. Plus, they had the car.

As we motored down tree-lined country roads I’m thinking what’s the rush? It hadn’t even hit noon. We’ll watch some Nathan Hale look-alikes re-enacting colonial candle making in days of yore, buy a couple of vanilla votives and we’re outta there.

Suddenly Rosemary squealed an exuberant "Here we are!" I looked for the quaint cottage, but all I could see was a red barn-shaped building the size of a GM assembly plant. There was a gaggle of handicapped parking spots, and we slipped into the closest one. Although in this case "close" was still an ambulating nightmare. By the time we got to the door, I was wasted.

Then "Greeter Bob" appeared, extended his hand, helped me over the threshold and handed me a map. You know you’re in trouble when you need a Rand McNally Road Atlas to shop.

Store? This was a theme park with over 400,000 candles under one roof. In no time I was swept up by the hording shoppers, a veritable vortex of frenzied parents and toddlers that made mosh pits look like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Our first stop was Scenter of the Universe where more than 200 scents collide in your olfactory membranes all at once. I not only lost my sense of smell, I was blinded by the luminescent floor to ceiling palettes of wax. And this was just the tip of the iceberg. The swell of humanity surfed me through the cluster of jumbo spider webs in the Spooky Room, landing me in Santa’s Workshop "where it snows every four minutes." I tried to get my footing but I lost my balance and slid into Popcornopolis, taking down one of its skyscrapers made of — you guessed it — popcorn!

Right around Fudgeworld I felt a tug on my arm and was yanked from the mob. "Found him!" Ray yelled and dragged me to a bench where my crew had set up base camp. Enough of this sensory processing overload. The only scent I needed was "Smelling Salts."

Then I spotted my favorite attraction: a security guard standing in a doorway under a sign that read "EXIT." And we did.

After all of this physically challenging adventure and character building struggle, I longed for the peaceful Zen mindfulness of the conservatory. That’s when it occurred to me that the morning was beauty and the afternoon, beast. I suppose you need to experience one in order to appreciate the other.

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

DVDs of John’s award-winning one-man show, Brain Freeze, are available at For booking information, contact John at

For every Brain Freeze video sold from 8/1/10 through 7/13/15, and after the recovery of startup costs, Parma Recordings will donate 17% of the retail sales price to the American Stroke Association. Brain Freeze contains adult language and situations that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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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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!