A Day in a (Rehab) Life


Comedian and Stroke Survivor John Kawie

While rummaging through a box of used notebooks the other day, I spotted a black, pocket-size 3-ring binder buried on the bottom like a sunken Spanish galleon. Having a hunch what it was, I began unloading the box with the urgency of Paula Deen wolfing down a glazed-donut burger.

And there it was, my old Rusk Institute Outpatient Rehabilitation schedule that I carried like an extra appendage for the better part of two years. It contained therapy class times, room numbers, Access-A-Ride information ... everything I needed to navigate Planet Rehab. It was my pre-smartphone stroke GPS, and without it I was adrift like George Clooney in “Gravity.”

I cracked open the binder, which hadn’t seen the light of day since 1998, and instantly came under the spell of déjà vu. I found myself back in a wheelchair trying to motor one-handed from class to class, continuingly banging my head on those ever-present wall-mounted Purell dispensers hanging throughout Rusk’s fun-filled hallways.

8:30 AM: Psych Therapy — Forget the coffee. Nothing kick-starts your day like diving into the deep end of the Freudian analysis pool. Sigmund claims the best way to dissolve all my worldly cares is to blame my mother for everything ... the sluggish economy, global warming, the Red Sox in last place, and best of all — my stroke!

10:00 AM: Physical Therapy — A perfect follow-up, assuming this was your typical health club workout, because after talking about your mother for an hour you need to blow off a little steam. But this was less Zumba and more Bataan Death March. We stroke survivors were forced to hike over an endless obstacle course of ramps, stairs and two-by-four bridges. At the end I wanted my mommy — or to go back to Psych where I could at least talk about wanting my mommy.

1:00 PM: Cognitive / Speech — Here I discovered if there were enough live neurons still left in my brain to remember what the phrase “The glass is half empty” means. Fortunately, there were, but apparently not enough to pick out the prepositions in a paragraph from a New York Times article. I knew they were there, but to my eye all those nouns and verbs camouflaged them. Sure, I used them when I wrote and spoke, but when I read, my brain translated like Tonto from the Lone Ranger: “Secretary State decide have pow-wow, kemosabe.”

2:30 PM: Group Therapy — What better way to end the day than mingling with the brain-injured discussing our, well, injured brains. Think boisterous happy hour where a few too many martinis have been consumed and everyone’s stepping on each other’s conversation. Yet this is where I shined. The facilitator let me open every session with a joke and suddenly Group became my stage. I’d labor for days on one bit. The best part was I always killed. Of course, I’m not sure if they thought I was really funny or if it was just lability. Reflex laughing or not, who cares? I was back performing, doing what I loved and it was a start.

English novelist L.P. Hartley wrote, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” I had let the memory of those days sneak away like socks in a dryer. But discovering that old rehab schedule gave me one of those rare chances to go back and find out what I lost — and more importantly, what I gained.


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.

Stroke Connection. Get the app for free.


- Advertisement -

This link is provided for convenience only and is not an endorsement or recommendation of either the linked-to entity or any product or service.

AD. Amramp Making Life Accessible. 20 years. Be accessible to everyone. Protect your clients & their caregivers from slip and fall accidents. 888-715-7599. Click here for more info.

AD: American Stroke Association-American Heart Association logo. Did you know that about 1 in 4 stroke survivors have a second stroke? Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association logo. American Diabetes Associaiton logo. Know diabetes by heart logo. Living with diabetes? Inspire others. Submit story button.


AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control.  Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association Support Network. Facing recovery after a stroke or heart disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. You are not alone. Our community is here for you. Join us today. heart.org/SupportNetwork.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


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!