Sunday, January 29, 2017

Am I crazy Or Just A Slow Learner?

Phil Bell is retired pastor from the University Baptist church in Macomb. He had a massive ischemic stroke January 4, 2012. He writes articles every couple of months in the local newspaper under the Street & Steeple section. That is a place where local pastors contribute every week in rotation. This article describes how he handled one of the limitations he faces with his stroke.
By Phil Bell Retired pastor University Baptist Church

Yes, that’s what the title says, “Am I crazy Or Just a Slow Learner?” Most of us have asked that question at some point in our lives, maybe more than once!

Two days ago was Groundhog Day. I can’t tell you whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not, because I’m writing this substantially prior to February 2nd. I am hoping he didn’t, for I’m ready for spring and saying good-bye to wearing coats and being cold. When I go out on February 2nd, I purposely, avoid casting a shadow, so Macomb Phil won’t be scared and return to his man cave to wait out six more weeks of winter! 

I would imagine, most of us have seen the movie, “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. In it, Murray’s character, a TV weatherman, is sent to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the groundhog’s emergence. Once there, he keeps living the exact same day over and over again! Every morning he awakens to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” on his radio. As the experience continues, he uses “knowing what will come next” to his benefit. 

Too many of us seldom do that: learn by our experiences. I mean - Albert Einstein once said, “To do the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the meaning of insanity.” If true, some of us and one of the great men of God are, and was a little bit crazy. Some of us battle addictions and/or repeated bad decisions. Even the patriarch of the entire Jewish race, a man chosen and blessed by God, wasn’t exempt from this tendency of human nature! 

Chapter 12 of Genesis tells how there was a grievous famine in the land where Abram and his wife, Sarai were. Abram took them down into Egypt in search of food. In verses 11 – 13, we read, “And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter Egypt, that he said to his wife, ‘Behold now, I know that you are a fair woman to look upon. Therefore, it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see you, that they shall say, “This is his wife; and they will kill me, but save you alive. Say, I pray you, that you are my sister; that it may be well with me for your sake and my soul shall live because of you.” 

Indeed, the Egyptians, including officials of Pharaoh’s court, took note of Sarai’s beauty. They reported her to Pharaoh and recommended he take her into the palace, which he did, adding her to his harem. He, then treated Abram well because of her, giving him much livestock and servants, making Abram a wealthy man. However, God sent plagues upon Pharaoh and his palace because he’d taken a married woman into his harem. 

Without telling us how Pharaoh knew the cause of the plagues, the passage tells us that he called Abram to him, upbraiding him by asking why he hadn’t truthfully named Sarai as his wife. He, then, promptly booted both Abram and Sarai out of his country! 

Almost unbelievably, Abram, now named Abraham, in chapter 20 of Genesis, is reported doing the exact same thing when they entered the land of King Abimelech with the same result, except, rather than plagues, the Lord closed the wombs of the king’s court. The effect of his deception was the same for Abraham, without being gifted by King Abimelech, just kicked out of his land! 

You’ve probably heard it said that experience is the best teacher. One of an extremely few TV pastors I watch is “Your Move With Andy Stanley,” broadcast in Macomb on the Up channel Sundays at 7:00 AM. He, rightly, points out that it is that simple experience that teaches us nothing! It is evaluated experience that teaches us. This is true in small matters, as well as, large ones. 

For me, I applied it to a problem I was having related to my stroke induced paralysis on my left side. Wheelchair bound, I cannot propel my chair with two hands. My MDH occupational therapist taught me to hold my left foot with my right and use them to guide my chair as I propel it with only my right hand. As you would imagine, they don’t work like a ship’s rudder when I’m backing. 

Each morning, I go into my bathroom to brush my teeth, shave, and wash my face. The first thing I do, once in the room, is go to a cabinet to retrieve my razors and shaving lotion. Upon backing away, I was, continually, backing into a closet door, leaving a mark each time. I thought about it and decided if I approached the cabinet at a more severe angle, when backing, I’d move into the open center of the room. It worked like a charm and has ever since! 

The point of this article is not that all repeated behaviors or routines are bad. In fact, some are quite good, and, even, Biblical! For instance, a daily devotional, in which we read God’s Word and pray is necessary for our spiritual health. Also, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, alike, teach a technique and have you practice it over and over again. 

My life is filled with routines! If you have been trying to give up a negative habit with no success, it may be because you’ve been trying to do it alone. Remember the words of Luke 1:37, where we read, “For with God nothing is impossible.” My suggestion is that you consult with your pastor about how to apply this to your situation. If you don’t have a pastor, any Macomb area one would be thrilled to hear from you, as would I! 

My point of this article is to say to all of us, “Never again is it necessary to ask ourselves, ‘Am I crazy or just a slow learner?!”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Must Read - What Happens if the Caregiver Disappears

The following article is from the Stroke Network Newsletter web site: and is a followup to last weeks post, "A Survival Guide for Stroke Groups". If, after reading this, you think of anything else that might be important but got left out, please let us know and we'll make sure it gets included.
By David Wasielewski

The importance of a personal backup plan

As we can all attest, strokes take folks by surprise. Survivors and their caregivers are caught off guard by the trauma and it’s often devastating after effects. Survivors and caregivers are tasked with accommodating the survivor’s acquired disabilities. Together they must quickly create new life routine based on the survivor’s needs. In many cases there is little time to plan this new life.

New daily routines are cobbled together on the fly and adjusted on the spot as required. Often, a family member or friend negotiates a new life routine with the survivor based on the survivor’s pre stroke personality. Many times the caregiver already has a good idea of what the survivor’s preferences might be. Food choices and mealtime routines are established along with new procedures for bathing and other personal care arrangements.

These can include the use of specific eating utensils and place settings, placement in particularly comfortable chairs in the house, the placement and storage of any aids such as canes and walkers so they are easily accessible. For survivors who can communicate effectively and retain cognitive functions these routines can be explained to anyone new.

However, for survivors with communication or cognitive difficulties this becomes a major challenge when the primary caregiver is forced from the picture. What happens if the primary caregiver gets sick and can no longer support the daily routines the team has established? A caregiver in my stroke group described just such a dilemma.

The woman and her husband, a severely aphasic stroke survivor with mobility issues, had managed to get along fairly well for the better part of a year after her husband’s stroke. Many years of marriage had left her knowing her husband’s preferred daily routines, food preferences and general likes and dislikes. Through their post stroke adventure they had also managed to establish a subtle but effective means of communication.

All was well until the wife suffered a fall on the frozen sidewalk this past winter. The injury left her with blood clots and required a five day stay for treatment in the hospital. Bad enough for her but how would her husband fare, being taken care of by a stranger? He had no way to effectively communicate with a stranger. How could he make his routines known to someone new?

Did the wife’s brief stay in the hospital jeopardize her husband’s ability to stay home? The situation alerted the wife and her husband to how fragile their living situation really was. Even a temporary stay in the hospital for treatment put the couple’s long term living situation at risk. The wife’s experiences led her to caution the group that we all need to have a Plan B for when things go awry.

We expect the stroke survivor might continue to have ongoing problems and make plans to deal with them (Plan A). But most of the members of the group reluctantly admitted that they had not seriously considered a plan B should anything happen to the primary caregiver.

A discussion among the group brought up the following possibilities. The primary caregiver needs to prepare for an emergency backup who would be available to care for the survivor in a crisis. That individual should be familiar with the survivor’s routines. These should include dressing, bathing, eating , personal care as well medication needs and schedules. The backup individual should spend time with the survivor / caregiver team to understand how to communicate with the survivor.

That individual needs to clearly understand what might be required if they are needed. An organized notebook with important care information should be readily available to the backup caregiver for reference purposes. It’s not easy to contemplate yet another crisis in an already complicated life but survivors and caregivers would be smart to prepare for such an event while they are able.

David had a stroke in 2005 ending his career as a logistics consultant. Since the stroke he returned to college for a Sociology degree. He is a peer counselor, facilitates a local stroke support group, volunteers at the local United Way and writes for The Stroke Network.

Copyright @May 2015
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Survival Guide for Support Groups

The following article is from the Stroke Network Newsletter web site:

by David Wasielewski
Contact David at

David had a stroke in 2005 ending his career as a logistics consultant. Since the stroke he returned to college for a Sociology degree. He is a peer counselor, facilitates a local stroke support group, volunteers at the local United Way and writes for The Stroke Network.
What options are available if you lose your leader either temporarily or permanently? What if your support group losses its space? David explores these issues.

I’ve written the past about having a personal backup plan for the survivor / caregiver in case the situation changes. For example: What plan is in place to care for the survivor if the caregiver gets sick? Who takes over the caregiver duties? How fast can the backup be in place in case of emergency? Each individual is responsible for creating a personal backup plan.

(Blog Editor Note: next week I will post an article written by David describing the circumstances and importance of a personal backup plan for the caregiver.)

This article urges each support group to have a backup plan for their group in case circumstances change as well. Who takes the group lead if the current leader is unable to continue? Where does the group meet if their current space suddenly becomes unavailable? How are the group members to be contacted if changes occur? How do the members contact one another?

Our group recently worked through these challenges which arose in quick succession. The changes could easily have threatened to continuation of the group. The following are some suggestions that might help other groups.

Where does the group meet if their regular space becomes unavailable? The hospital we normally meet at announced they were to start renovations and our space would be unusable for several months. We had to find a new space in short order. Several of us began a search. Fortunately, we found a space at a nearby long term care facility. The director noted our plight and volunteered their newly built chapel as a space to meet for several hours each month.

It turned out to be an opportunity for the group to explore the facility. The director arranged for a tour and we had their head therapist join us to discuss long term care options and therapeutic options and the process of choosing a long term care facility. The visit provided an opportunity for the care facility to market its care and therapy services to the community. A win- win for both parties. A discussion of options in your community might be helpful in case a new space is required for your group.

What happens when the group leader needs to step away for a time or step down permanently? Our leader recently had to step away from the group in order to deal with pressing family obligations.

While each group normally has a leader the leadership duties should at least occasionally be shared among other members. The normal facilitator should be willing to step back at times while others take the leadership role. Perhaps leading a discussion or making a presentation on a topic of interest. Test the situation occasionally in order to assure that the group and the individual are comfortable with the possible transition if called upon.

Designating an unpopular leader or one unwilling to take over leadership can make it difficult for the group to remain intact through the transition. If the leadership transition had not been considered and tried out our group could have been left leaderless and in jeopardy. Fortunately, we were prepared, and the transition has so far been successful.

How is the group to be notified as the changes occur? Several folks in the group should have a complete list of contact information for all members. This should include emails and phone numbers for all members as well as a central contact for members to call for information. Our change of location would not have been successful if the members could not be notified of where to meet. Our group has a designated a ‘communication officer’ who is responsible for sending out meeting reminders and event notifications and maintaining up to date contact lists as members come and go.

Back-up plans are important as we all know in case situations change. Planning for these emergencies and changes is important so that individual survivors are taken care of and for support groups in order to assure that they continue to meet the needs of the survivor community. Imagine these changes for your group and if your group would survive. Planning will help insure that your group survives.

Copyright ©September 2016

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Year. New Start. Start Right.

There's probably nothing new here that you haven't already heard many times. Consider this a refresher, a reminder of what could be the best way to improve your and your family's health. It has always been stressed that what we eat and how we exercise affects our health significantly, yet, it seems to be the the most difficult thing to get right. There are so many other tempting options, so many easier options that it makes it hard to get it right. But for the sake of our health we've got to try. Click on the red words in this article, too, for some more interesting tips and guides.
Suggestions from the American Heart Association News:

It’s always good idea to take charge of your health, but there’s no time like the New Year.

To help you get started in 2017, several dietitians and health experts are offering up fresh approaches to keeping those resolutions.

“You’ve had time to think about who you want to be or what you want to accomplish and to plan for that change,” said Claudia Zapata, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author of the blog Claudia Zapata Celebrating Health. “The first days of the year serves as the ideal springboard for putting your plan into action.”

Advice from Zapata and numerous other experts are distilled into the following tips for healthier eating habits and getting active:

Start with a clean slate: Clean and organize your pantry and fridge by chucking the overly processed junk foods. Replace those sugary cereals, cookies and crackers with hydrogenated oils, bottled salad dressings and refined grains like white rice and pasta. Instead, stock up on healthy granolas and unsalted nuts and seeds; a good olive and avocado oil; a variety of vinegars; and whole grains such as quinoa, farro, bulgur, millet and brown rice. Evidence of your clean slate will help: Post “before” and “after” photos on social media to inspire yourself and your friends.

Be truthful: It can be easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy. Sure, there are carrots in that cake and peaches in that pie. But these foods don’t count toward the fruits and veggies you should eat every day.

Cook more: Develop seven to 10 go-to healthy recipes and the shopping lists you need for them. Print them out or take photos of them with your phone. Let family members pick favorites. Aim to try a new recipe once a week or once a month. Try tweaking favorites with different ingredients.

Reduce sodium: Experiment by seasoning food with herbs and spices such as basil, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, nutmeg, and ginger instead of salt.

Include more seeds. Many seeds offer heart-healthy fats, fiber, protein and important nutrients such as magnesium and potassium. Keep a shaker with unsalted sunflower seeds, flax seeds, in your refrigerator to sprinkle over soups, salads, yogurt and oatmeal.

Stop throwing away fiber. A good portion of a fruit or vegetable’s fiber content – important for digestive health, heart health and to reduce risk of some cancers – can be found in its peel. So wash the outside but don’t remove the peel from potatoes and apples when cooking. (Only do this with edible peels – not pineapple, orange and avocado peels.)

Read the ingredient list: Many people focus on the package front and the Nutrition Facts label. A quick shortcut if you’re confused: Start by looking for foods with nutritious ingredients listed first, such as whole grains, fruits or vegetables.

Graze, don’t gorge: If you’re at a party with a tempting spread, try a small sample rather than a full portion. Balance these tantalizing snacks with healthier options such as fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, or have a healthy snack before you go so you’re not hungry when you arrive.

Help make healthy food more available: If you have a school-age child, team up with other parents to advocate for healthier cafeteria foods. At home, always have a stock of ready-to-eat healthy snacks on hand so they’re easy to grab and go when hunger strikes.

Stay hydrated. Start the day with a glass of water first thing in the morning. Look for healthier options than sugar-sweetened beverages such as sparkling water. Make water tastier by adding fruit to your ice cubes.

Get moving. While many of us focus on diet with our resolutions, remember the importance of getting active, too. It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to improve your heart health, help lose weight and just feel better. But it can help to keep track of your exercise time. The American Heart Association recommends an hour and a half a week of moderate physical activity for most adults each week (or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week or a mix of both). Kids should get about an hour a day.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association,Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to the American Heart Association News. See full terms of use.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Having a Stroke Wasn’t Her Finish Line


I was 27 when I completed a road race during an ischemic stroke

I am extremely grateful bystanders recognized my symptoms as serious.

Emily Welbourn, stroke survivor and business development director for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Tacoma.


I was certain I’d been stabbed above my right eyebrow.

While running a 3.5-mile race in May 2013, I felt a sudden, piercing pain in my forehead at precisely the one-mile marker. I was 27 years old, in the best shape of my life, and had trained for this race for months. I couldn’t stop now. I squeezed my eyes shut to cope with the pain.

One foot in front of the other. By the time I crossed the finish line, my left hand no longer worked to open a water bottle. I fell while trying to stretch. Bystanders at the finish line noticed that one side of my face was drooping and took me to the medical tent in a wheelchair.

Fortunately, a physician was there to examine me and I’ll never forget his instant diagnosis: “Emily, you are having a stroke.”

At my age, no one ever expects to hear those words. But I barely had a moment to process them. All of a sudden I was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Thanks to American Stroke Association guidelines, the hospital team was ready for me when I arrived.

Immediately a CT scan was performed, which confirmed an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot on the right side of my brain. Already a small portion of my brain tissue had died.

Looking back I am extremely grateful that bystanders at the finish line recognized my symptoms as something serious and that I got to the hospital quickly. When it comes to stroke, time is brain. Nearly two million brain cells die for every second that a stroke goes untreated.

Luckily for my type of stroke, there is a drug called tPA that can eliminate a clot and reverse the effects of a stroke, but it must be administered within a 3- to 4-hour window. I received tPA with one hour to spare.

In Washington, we have the Emergency Cardiac and Stroke System of Care. It is designed to speed up care and save lives. Calling 911 triggers the system – operators are trained to identify stroke and dispatch an ambulance, first responders notify the hospital while the patient is in transport, and the hospital stroke team is ready to diagnose and treat the patient upon arrival.

Washington stroke patients are receiving treatment faster: 48 minutes from the time they arrive at the hospital until the administration of tPA, according to the American Stroke Association, compared to 75 minutes in 2011 when the system went into effect. The goal was 60 minutes or less.

I can tell you that recovering from a stroke is challenging. It took many months of physical and occupational therapy to regain strength on my left side. I had to re-learn how to add and subtract. But today I am running again and even finished the Boston Marathon in April 2015.

I know not all stroke patients are as fortunate, but you can make a big difference. Know the warning signs of a stroke. Think F.A.S.T – F for face drooping; A for arm weakness; S for speech difficulty; and T for time to call 911.

Time is the number one factor in reducing the likelihood of death or disability from stroke. By knowing the warning signs and dialing 911, you can give someone the opportunity to thrive after a stroke and not just survive.

Emily Welbourn works as business development director for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Tacoma. She previously was a volunteer with the organization.
Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association,Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to the American Heart Association News. See full terms of use.