Those Were the Days

A unique perspective on his survival by stroke survivor & comedian John Kawie

Here at Stroke Central my injured cerebrum is on high alert because another season of “Game of Thrones” will be upon us soon. My worry is not that a fresh batch of graphic limb severings or gratuitous breast barings will be unleashed on the television landscape. No, my concern is trying to keep track of the insane number of characters on the show — at last count 150 main ones, not including direwolves or White Walkers. It’s like a New Deal work program for actors, employing more people in one episode than currently live in the state of North Dakota. If non-brain-injured viewers get confused, it’s a cognitive nightmare for stroke survivors. Who can be a couch potato when you’re busy taking crib notes for an hour?

Hell, I can’t figure out who’s who on Sesame Street, and their characters come in colors. Aside from being an outdoorsy bunch, all the men on G.o.T. wear the same hammered metal and leather kilt affair accessorized with lots of Smokey-the-Bear pelts. The eunuchs prefer a Depends variation on the theme. The women are minimalists, with flimsy garments that fall to the floor with the slightest provocation. One cool exception is Daenarys Targaryen, an unforgettable petite blonde who happens to be the mother of three dragons that are essentially fire breathing Boeing 747s with teeth. Get in her way and you’ll end up a charcoal briquette — or a serving of Purina Dragon Chow.

I sometimes wonder if modern TV shows are fast becoming the 21st century equivalent of those lavish Cecil B. DeMille productions. Life was different when the medium was born. It was 1953. TV repairmen roamed the land making house calls, people polished their sets with furniture wax and shows had an average of four characters. Chances are their names were in the title: “Leave It to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet” or “I Love Lucy.” Simple, uncomplicated and perfect for the brain injured. It was SSTV: Stroke Survivor Television. You could skip cognitive therapy for a week and still keep up with the storyline. (However you’d need to double up on your psych sessions to deal with the antenna-fiddling-rage so you could actually see the show.)

Now let’s jump ahead 40 years to when I had my stroke and “The Sopranos” became a hit. The number of characters on that show was oobatz yet I remembered them all — Bobby Bacala, Johnny Sack, Paulie Walnuts. As Shakepeare said, their names were “pronounc’d to me trippingly on the tongue.” Plus those guys ended up whacking everyone else on the show. The upside? Fewer characters to deal with!

Then came the English series set during that European whackfest called World War l. “Downton Abbey,” for all of it’s proper Edwardian etiquette, was stroke survivor hell. Why? Well, Robert Crawley was also Earl of Grantham, Lady Sybil Crawley became Sybil Branson, Lady Edith Crawley was really Edith Pelham Marchioness of Hexham (whatever that is) and … well, you get the idea. Plus, it took me three seasons to even understand what they were saying.

What lies ahead? Maybe driving DeLoreans with flux-capacitors, more-elaborate TV productions streamed directly into our brains, and “Game of Thrones” becomes the new SSTV.

If that’s the case, stroke survivors of the future better have damn good health insurance and the cognitive therapy that goes with it. They’re going to need it.

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed or linked to 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!