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It's tough to describe, but I'm a writer, so I'll try



Column_headshot_JOHN_HA
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August 12, 2014 | 11:53 AM
Everyone’s been so nice to me.

Friend and foe — all friends. At least for a moment.

It’s great how a stroke – or any similar misfortune — can make differences evaporate.

Grant you, I’m still a little foggy. Or maybe I’ve always been a little foggy only now I can’t always find the words to speak. So I listen.

Sometimes I catch myself saying something stupid and walk away shaking my head.

A stroke is a tough thing to describe — but of course I’m a writer, so I’ll try.

I told my girlfriend, who is going through a personal challenge herself, that I had lost my personality.

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She agreed.

Or maybe I felt unable to comfort her, and couldn’t find the words.

I was told by the doctor to take it easy on running, so I bought a new pair of running shoes and ran. At least I had that.

It started … well, I’m not sure when.

But tests showed it was within 36 hours of me entering the hospital.

Sometime between forgetting my apartment keys and having trouble with the computer keyboard.

My fingers wouldn’t go to the right keys. I had forgotten how illogical a keyboard was. How it didn’t go alphabetically. After almost 60 years of typing without effort it was like starting all over again.

I wanted my finger to go to the backspace key, and it kept landing a key to the left. I put letters in the wrong order. I’d start a word with the right letter — after great concentration — but the remaining letters were a jumble.

At first, I thought I was tired so I went home for a nap. Another offshoot of a stroke — you lose your judgment.

I came back unable to complete a sentence.

I was embarrassed.

So I hid in my office preparing myself. When I wanted to remember a name I’d repeat it in my head over and over again.

But when I repeated the sentence to another person, it would end prematurely. After one such occasion, I simply waved my hand as through it were an appropriate response and went home.

Next morning I woke up afraid to talk to anyone.

Instructions that usually came out in seconds came out in a series of half sentences often ending with “well, you know.”

I found out that my handwriting got smaller, too. I remembered how that had happened to my mother when she was older and depleted by a series of strokes. It was like she was disappearing.

People were kind — maybe too kind because no matter what they thought they went along with it.

It wasn’t until Managing Editor Rob Ireland asked very kindly, “how are you doing?” that I felt someone had actually caught my charade.

Finally, when it took me several tries, and several minutes to compose a very simple headline, did I realize I couldn’t do it anymore.

“I can’t …” and dropped the page on Ireland’s desk not caring that my explanation was open-ended. I left without saying goodbye and drove myself to the doctor’s office.

When I checked in, the woman at the desk bypassed the usual questions about address, phone numbers and insurance.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

I was ushered quickly into a waiting room. My doctor, who usually gives me a few minutes to catch up on my magazines, arrived with a pained look on his face.

I tried explaining …

“I think you’re having a stroke,” he said, and began making plans to get me to a hospital.

I’m better now.

I still get tired easily and can only work limited hours at a job I love.

But at least know I can still navigate a keyboard … except I still hit a key just to the left of the backspace key.

“It’s a wake-up call,” my doctor declared.

Waking up to what, I still don’t know.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.

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