Don’t (Do) Look Back

headshot of John Kawie

A Unique Perspective on His Survival by Stroke Survivor and Comedian

Historians have traditionally ignored stroke survivors. This column will attempt to right that wrong. But don’t worry; it won’t bore you with research because it’s based on personal fantasy and good old-fashioned guesswork.

Prehistoric Era

Prehistory was difficult for stroke survivors. Hostile, vicious, person-eating predators roamed the earth. This made hunting and gathering no walk in the park. Actually, for stroke survivors, a walk in the park is no walk in the park. As a result, they hung out a lot trying to look busy. This sitting around in the guise of being engaged in productive work was the stroke survivors’ first contribution to human civilization, forming the underlying basis of many modern institutions — such as customer service, highway repair and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Ancient World

Yes, it was a time of ignorance and fear, of pestilence and famine, of extremely high B.O. levels. But there was fun stuff, too, like feasting, dancing and public beheadings. Yet how would stroke survivors get to these great activities? They’d bribe their chariot-owning friends to take them, thus establishing the inspiration for the modern-day Para-transit system.

Middle Ages

Stroke survivors asked the question, “Who came up with the idea of wearing metal?” It was a dangerous time for two reasons: 1) the bubonic plague; 2) stroke survivors were lousy sword fighters

On the plus side, stroke survivor Ethelred the Unsteady discovered restraint therapy in the Tower of London.

Elizabethan Age and the Renaissance

In England, stroke survivor and fashion designer Sir Winston Halston designed a special collar that the queen wore to the opening of “Hamlet.” This became the inspiration for those satellite-dish cones they put on dogs after an operation. The huge painting and sculpting craze in Florence was great for stroke survivors because they got plenty of work as models. This turned out to be the perfect job because they didn’t have to get dressed in the morning. And in Spain, Columbus tried to recruit them as sailors. They responded, “Hey, we can barely stand on dry land and you want us to live on a boat?”

The Englightenment

Man used his reason to discover the world. Sir Isaac Newton said there’s a force in the universe known as gravity. Stroke survivors said, “Duh!”

Age of Revolution

The western world underwent several revolutions. A French stroke survivor invented the guillotine, which he used on his own head because he couldn’t make change for a Franc. In the Colonies, Paul Revere yelled, “The British are coming!” Stroke survivors hollered back, “So what do you want us to do?”

Industrial Revolution

Big technological breakthroughs in mechanization, steam power and mass production. Yet the streets were still horse-poop-filled cobblestones. Stroke survivors constantly slipped and took a header. The stroke survivor law firm Klutz, Walker & Stumble saw a market. Their ad in the 1820 Stroke Connection magazine read, “M’Lords and Ladies, hast thou befallen a fall? Give us a call.” And the first ambulance chaser was born!

Modern Era

Enter the digital 21st century. Here everything is “smart.” Too tired to drive? Your smart-car will take the wheel. At the office wondering if your arugula is limp? Your smart fridge can tell you. Need to communicate with dead Uncle Clarence? Yup, your smart phone has an app for that.

But here is what concerns stroke survivors: setting this stuff up is a cognitive nightmare. Nevertheless, we will adapt. History has taught us that.

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

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!