Ask Me Why

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

I think of myself first and foremost as a comedian. However, when I mentioned in a previous column that I would try to be more involved with our readers’ recovery, I started receiving a blizzard of letters. Now I’m feeling more like Dear Abby for CVAs. While this may not be my forte, I was so flattered that I swung for the fences and dove right in. Let me share the advice I gave to two of my favorites, and you be the judge.

Dear “Going Rogue for a Ride in Alaska”:

Thank you for your letter. I have never received anything from your great state, so imagine how excited I was to receive your muddy, tundra-stained envelope. (The roaring Kodiak bear stamp was really scary!) While it probably took a variety of airplanes and the better part of a year to reach my NYC apartment, it’s possible your problem may have already been solved. Nevertheless, I still feel it’s my responsibility to respond.

I am sorry to hear (yet not surprised) that your insurance won’t cover the expense for a motorized wheelchair. While I have never priced one, I understand some can cost as much as a Toyota Corolla. However, I think your idea of swiping a motorized shopping cart from your local Anchorage Costco is a brilliant solution! Your cognitive therapist must be very proud of you.

Now, to your question of what to buy as cover. Personally, I would keep your purchases as light as possible to ensure a speedy getaway — popcorn, chips, marshmallows. I’d steer clear from Spam or canned caribou of any kind. These will slow you down for sure.

I hope my advice will aid your quest for mobility. But remember, if something goes wrong, this communication never happened

Keep-on-truckin’, JK

And then there’s this …

Dear “Gotta Go in Idaho”:

Thank you for expressing your concern that there are too many non-disabled people using handicap stalls in public restrooms. Although I should warn you that some in the disabled community feel the word “handicap” is not only passé, but politically incorrect. Once I was called out for using the phrase “handicap accessible” to describe a venue where I was performing. I suppose I could have gone with something like “invalid-handy,” however I never cared for that word because if you put the accent on the wrong syllable, it’s actually the word in-valid, meaning “not valid.”

Anyway, I was intrigued by your idea that these offenders can be ticketed and fined with the proceeds being donated to a favorite charity. Hiring police, per your suggestion, is a possibility, but it could end up being an expensive proposition.

Here’s a thought… how about deputizing retired hotel bathroom attendants? This would be a cheaper alternative while providing part-time employment. Matt Dillon deputized Festus on “Gunsmoke,” and it was a win-win for both.

Now, about the fine. Let me suggest four easy payments of only $9.99. This way the charity of your choice will make money, and it will also minimize the offenders anguish so they just might do it again — in which case said charity will make even more money!

Your out-of the-box fundraising ideas are impressive, and I look forward to working with you on more of them.

Make-My-Day, JK

So if you have an awkward stroke situation — and what stroke situation isn’t — drop me a line, email or tweet and I’ll be glad to impart my 20 years of survivor wisdom.

Editor’s Note: All of John’s “advice” is his own, the information and opinions presented here do not represent the views of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. However, we do agree that serving as an advice columnist may not be his forte.

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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