I am a former academic administrator who had a medical episode in March, 2009 that resembled a stroke. During a meeting, I began sweating profusely and I turned ghostly pale. My speech became slurred. The worst headache I have ever had started right behind my eyes. People in the meeting dialed 911 and I was rushed to hospital and put into ICU immediately.
When my wife got to the hospital, she was told I had a very, very bad stroke and was in very, very bad shape, and if I “got out of the OR, I would never be the same again. The doctor suggested she gather the family. Needless to say, this shook her up quite badly. Our pastor and a number of people from our church were there to be with my wife and pray with her. Since our pastor could see that my wife was in no condition to call our family, he volunteered to call our two daughters who live 10 hours away from us. When he told them what was happening, they made immediate arrangements to come. Our two daughters, one son-in-law, and our oldest granddaughter started driving that night and arrived mid-morning the next day. Our other son-in-law stayed at home to take care of the youngest three grandkids.
During the next two days, the hospitals did a number of tests and determined that it was not a stroke. They found that a blood vessel in a tumor on the right frontal lobe of my brain burst filling my cranial cavity with blood, creating all the symptoms of a stroke. They drained the blood that first morning, and three days after I was taken to the hospital, they removed a benign tumor the size of a golf ball that the doctors believe had been growing for 20 to 30 years. THey called it a soccer tumor because they find it many times in former soccer players. They believe it begins with the head trauma caused by heading the ball so much.
I never played soccer so they asked if I ever had a head injury. The only head injury I really ever had occurred in an automotive accident one week before our youngest daughter was born more than 30 years ago. before airbags came into use. I was stopped waiting to make a left hand turn when a car doing 40 mph ran into the back of my Volvo. I was throw forward with the impact and the seat belt stopped me before I hit the steering wheel or windshield. Physics took over and I was thrown back. My head broke off two steel rods that held the head rest and my back broke the seat hinge that held the seat in place. Later when Volvo engineers looked at the wreckage that said that I was one lucky guy. They had only seen five other accidents in which both the head rest and seat hinge were broken, and no one had survived those accidents. My neck and back were strong from many years of strenuous athletic activity, but my survival was not only from that earlier work. God was not done with me yet, and had more work for me. Since that accident, I have served as an administrator at four different Christian colleges or universities.
The week before the blood vessel burst, I had verbally accepted an administrative post as a Senior VP at a fifth Christian university, which is another story that I will tell on my higher education blog. I had the contract in my brief case ready to sign. When I woke up in the hospital several days after the surgery to remove the tumor, I had all the aftermath symptoms of a stroke. I was very weak on my left side and slow processing language either written or oral. In the beginning stages of therapy, it became apparent that I was suffering from a mild case of aphasia. I had lost words. I described the feeling as thinking that words were acting more like cats than dogs. Dogs come to you when you call them; cats come to you when they want to come. More than 100,000 adults a year are attacked by aphasia after a traumatic head episode, such as a stroke, a tumor, or an injury. This is more than are afflicted with Parkinson Disease. I called the school to which I had given a verbal commitment and asked to be released from that committment.
After months of physical and speech therapy, I was described as functioning at slightly above the 50th%-tile level physical and around the 75%-tile speech level of a normal male adult. However, I knew that the 50%-tile and 75%-tile levels would not do for a senior academic affairs officer at a college or university. I started thinking about a medical retirement. At 62 years of age, schools are not beating down your door to hire you, especially one who hesitantly searched for words and walked with a cane.
For nine months, I was making strides learning to live with the aphasia when the second punch hit me. On December 30, 2008, I had four grand-mal seizures within a 30 minute time span. I never regained consciousness between the seizures. I was taken to hospital and it was January 3rd when I finally woke up. I was told that I had the second common aftermath of a traumatic head episode, epilepsy. I was put on anti-seizure medication that I will have to take for the remainder of my life. This second punch did not really have any effect on my aphasia. I had much more impact on my ability to move around. After months of physical therapy, I am back to a better place than before the seizures, but I am on the anti-seizure medication. Anti-seizure medication is no guarantee against future seizures. It is at best a pledge of assistance in preventing seizures.
With the double conditions of aphasia and epilepsy, I am resigned to the fact that I am medically retired. I sit at home in front of my computer writing about the three things that I know a great deal about either theoretically, but mostly through experience: higher education, aphasia and epilepsy. As an outlet for my writing, I have started three blogs, one on each of these topics.
WELCOME to my aphasia blog. Some of my future blogs will be light; others will be more serious. I welcome your comments.
‘By’ Baylis β2
PS: On a later blog, I will tell the stories behind my nickname ‘By’ and initials β2