The day my life hit the pause button



Everything seemed normal when I got up that day. I went to the gym. I was working in my basement home office when I started feeling a strange vibe I had never felt before.

It started with a queasy feeling in my stomach — not hunger, nor the effect of a hangover. It was different and it spread fast and I knew something was not right. My mouth was dry and my hands were not steady.

I had a premonition that something bad was about to happen. I wanted to get out of the basement but as soon as I got up, my legs gave out. I crawled up the stairs and stumbled, jelly-legged onto the living room couch.

Realization dawned that I was having a stroke as I felt my left side go numb. My mental faculties were still sharp enough to take the most important step. Knowing time was of the essence, I called 911. I could barely describe my condition and mumbled my location to the operator. I started praying.

After that it was a blur — people asking me questions, me mumbling answers, lots of voices in the background, needle pricks, stretcher rides, people reassuring me and ambulance sirens.

image of Amlan Dasgupta

The dust settles

When the dust settled and I was fully aware that I was in a wheelchair in a room overlooking the rehab hospital parking lot, the enormity hit me.

I wheeled my chair to the door, nervously smiling at the people passing my room. I guess I was looking for that person who could make this nightmare go away. Then, suddenly, somebody stopped, smiling back at me, saying “It only gets better from here.”

A big cloud lifted and the light of optimism shone through — the eternal candle of hope was rekindled. I was alive and I could work to get better. I didn’t know how — or how long it would take — but I knew I would get back to normal. Whatever it takes, I promised myself.

Time to write my own fight song

There came a time I call a “critical decision point.” I had to decide if I would go down the rabbit hole and play victim for the rest of my life or stand up for myself and put up a fight.

The path of least resistance is the rabbit hole — in other words, rolling over and playing dead. The difficult but rewarding path is to put up a fight. I firmly believe every human being has a fighter inside them who just needs encouragement. Once the choice is clear, we can start scripting our fight song.

Failures should motivate, not discourage. Initially, when I failed to do a simple routine at the rehab gym, it frustrated me. I kept at it over and over again. It would tax my brain, but my stubbornness didn’t allow me to give up.

A stream cuts through mountains not because it’s strong, but because it’s persistent and relentless. The definition of bravery changed for me. Bravery was that little voice at bedtime telling me that the task I’d failed today would be easier tomorrow when I would put in extra effort.

Moving on

Dwelling on a setback puts shackles on the feet. I learned to keep moving on. Moving on does not mean forgetting lessons learned. It becomes the launchpad for second chances at life, with experience and a roadmap. It can mean a chance to be an inspiration to somebody.

Moving on means changing what was done in the past — trying out new things and seeing what gives the best results. When I tried to maintain the status quo, I stagnated and went into a funk. As the beautiful saying goes: If nothing changed, there’d be no butterflies. I might not have seen the improvements day by day, but when I looked back after six months, I was amazed.

New horizons

Achieving smaller goals gave me the courage to set and achieve bigger goals. I finished a 5K organized by the American Stroke Association. I also learned a new trade as I found my brain was sharper than before. Setting these mile markers has made me move on and soon they’ll disappear from my rearview mirror, too.

I got a new lease on life and plan to make full use of it.

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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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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.

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!