Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘seizures’

Weekly Serving of Optimism: Quotes & Thoughts (My Book Is Now Available on Kindle)

You have been waiting, and it is finally here….BrainStorming: Functional Lessons from a Dysfunctional Brain is now available on Kindle!


BrainStorming book Cover

I have great hope you will feel like this when you finish reading my book…..

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


Mr. Onuoha explained my reasons for writing this book perfectly….

“There are two motives for writing a book: one, that you may save what you know, the other, that you may share what you know with the public.”    Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

Surgery & Stroke Recovery

Surgery & Stroke Recovery


Standing again with help

Standing again with help


I hope lessons from my past will offer hope and understanding in your future. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on BrainStorming: Functional Lessons from a Dysfunctional Brain.

Conquering Mountains

Question & Answer Week 1 – a

What has your “disability” (for lack of a better word) taught you about the human race? –Laura Cyrek

          I am sure you have heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.    There is a profound amount of truth to this when you look at other individuals.  It is easy to judge people.  It’s not nearly as easy for us to forego assumptions, and focus on what is inside this person’s heart. When strangers approach you, judgments often leap into your mind:  Their eyes dart too quickly; they are not truthful.  Their misfit clothes have been worn too often and are getting holes; they don’t have much money.

We often don’t take the time or effort required to discover what is inside this person. Have you read Cross in the Closet?  It covers a wonderful, controversial topic.  The underlying message is very powerful.  This book highlights the need to love people for who they are.  This is a challenge we could all work on in our lives.

What have I learned about the human race?  There is a lot of good out there in our world.  A lot of good.  We need to take notice of this good, and try not to get pulled into the negativity stemming from quick judgments we too often apply.

Everyone has a story.  Every person has a pivotal point or experience that helped shape them into who they are today.  Look deeper than what you see at first.  Their story may be outrageously funny or horrifically sad.  Find these stories and you will better understand who these strangers are.  The human race is a beautiful collaboration of people.  Even people who have built walls up to protect themselves and lurk in a world of sadness and anger have a warm spirit under that dark shell.  People are inherently warm and loving.  Be careful not to misjudge what you see in your passing glance.  Find their story, and you will better understand them as individuals.  Everybody has a story.  Every person has a passion and a dream.  What is your dream?



Was there a specific event or moment that gave you the courage to share the story of your condition with the public? – Amanda Feld

          Over the years, I searched extensively for individuals writing and speaking about my four longest lasting conditions: epilepsy, young stroke patients’ recoveries, hemianopsia and prosopagnosia.  Rarely could I find first-hand accounts of what it was like to live with these conditions.  I did not want to linger in the shadows of scientific studies where 28% of patients found this or 68.7% improvement rate was found with this.  I wanted to hear from specific individuals who had faced the world and succeeded in living a full life despite limitations. 

I knew I had a story to share, and I knew other people could learn from it.  It wasn’t until two years ago I met John Riehl that my hope to share this story became a reality.  John is an amazing man.  I am grateful he saw value in my message and helped me take it to a larger population.  John put together a wonderful video that helped tell my story.  Through John, I had great fortune of becoming friends with professor and documentary film maker Dave Gould.  He has helped me connect with even more people.  This summer I will begin speaking with the American Heart Association of San Diego.  My story is slowly spreading to more and more people.  The response of gratitude is overwhelming when I realize everything I have experienced is now helping others find their way through a journey of adversity.

          My willingness to share my story has nothing to do with courage.  This drive to share my experiences stems from being lost and wanting someone to reach out their hand to show me possibilities of a bright future defined by hard work and motivation not medical challenges.  I did not want to be a statistic defined by research found in medical journals and hand-outs in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  It is my privilege to be able to help more and more people see beyond these statistics.  I feel I can now give back and help people realize adversity does not need to take you over and keep you from reaching your full potential.   Regardless of the roadblocks, obstacles can be overcome through our use of optimism.  Every person has the ability to uncover their inner strengths.



Honored To Have Presented

I took a short time off from blogging to prepare for and attend The Examined Life Conference: Writing, Humanities and the Art of Medicine.  I met many wonderful people on this adventure.  My trip was made even more special by an invitation to speak at a Life Design’s Class and a dormitory.  When I take the opportunity to speak to groups, it always leaves me with a lingering awe over how my message is received the same way by various, completely different communities.  All these events were rewarding in this surprisingly similar way: I had eighteen year-old students and doctors alike wipe their eyes and tell me how much they appreciated the lessons I offered.  On the plane ride home, I read the same reaction through thank you notes people went out of their way to write and deliver.

Examined Life Conference program 2013


This was the information provided in programs to offer an understanding of why I was there to speak.

Information regarding my presentation.

Information regarding my presentation.

After the conference registration and welcome, I was in the the first set of presenters.   We went around the room for introductions when, lo-and-behold, I heard a name and recognized the voice of a dear college friend.  She drove four hours to surprise and support me.  Afterwards, we were able to spend a few hours catching up.  What a wonderful surprise!  It was a great gift and a special way to start my three-day conference.


Wonderful surprise visitor to my Examined Life Conference presentation

Wonderful surprise visitor to my Examined Life Conference presentation


My week ended far too quickly.  While listening to other presenters, I learned more about writing and how it can fit into the medical world to heal and help individuals grow.  I met amazing people who had wonderful hearts and strong spirits.  These are people who are destined to make a positive change in the world.  I heard some beautiful poetry and even received one by email.  Thank you, Susanna, for leaving me awed and speechless with your words that truly struck a chord in my memory.  Abbi shared lessons of challenges and growth she built from an unimaginable heroic story.  You are a strong, wonderful woman Abbi.  Heather left me excited to see what she started writing, inspired by what I shared.


If I met you and we chatted for a while, thank you for sharing a piece of yourself with me.  I hope I left behind lessons others can grow from as their lives evolve.  I know there were many seeds planted within me this past week.  To the students I met, to the individuals I chatted with from planes to hotels and to all those in between who spent time learning and speaking with me, thank you for a week that left my spirit overflowing with ideas, hope and gratitude.




"I'm leaving on a jet plane.  Don't know when I'll be back again. Oh...I hate to go." -John Denver

“I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Oh…I hate to go.” -John Denver

Right Where I Should Be

This morning I left to go to the gym and noticed a white car driving away from our street.  Before it reached the next stop sign, the brakes were applied; a woman jumped out from the driver’s seat and started yelling, “Call 9-1-1!  Someone call 9-1-1 quick!”  She was screaming like a woman who suddenly had no control only an intense filling of fear.  A girl jumped from the back seat and started running knocking on doors.  The lady continued screaming and crying out like an injured person.  I heard her yell at the end of a breath, “My son is having a seizure.”  I reached the car as quickly as I could.  Another adult was already looking into the vehicle.  The boy in the car was twelve and just had a tonic-clonic seizure.  He had never had medical problems before and was now unresponsive which placed tremendous fear into this mother’s heart.  I asked the bystander to help this mom change the boy from a slumped position and have him lie down in the seat.  I explained her son was postictal.  He was in the third phase of a seizure.  I asked the other family member to speak to him with kind and calming words.  I told the little boy an ambulance was coming to check on him, and I knew it probably seemed all really scary and confusing.  I assured him everything was all over now and his body just needed to rest.

I told the mom again and again resting like this after a seizure was normal.  Her son was tired.  This was the path to recovery.  His brain and body were just relaxing now.  The girl who had fled the back seat was his little sister.  She had been the one to identify the onset of the seizure.  She was scared and had no comprehension as to what she had just seen.  I asked if she had ever seen a lightning storm.  We talked about rain when it sprinkles and then when it drops so hard you beg your mom to run outside and splash in the puddles.  The little girl smiled as she heard about puddles.  We said how it isn’t a good idea to play in lightning.  Her brother just had the coolest lightning storm that started just in a little space in his brain and then spread all over.  We talked about how cool it would be to see lightning spread like that.  We talked about how cool it was he had a sister as great as she was.  She hugged me, wiped away tears and hugged me again.

The paramedics came.  I told them this little boy was postictal and the length of time since the movement stopped.  We talked about his response of blinking a few times.  It seemed as though he was coming to.  I told his mom again and again how much harder this was on her than it was on her son.  Before the ambulance drove away, the girl hugged me again and whispered “thank you”.

A few hours later, I drove my daughters to listen to my youngest play in her second band concert.  There is something beautiful, yet painful, about listening to fourth and fifth graders playing a mix of Queen songs.  Leaves me wishing I could not hear if instruments are out of tune.  Yet, I can and I help my daughters each practice their instruments.  I am able to iron clothes and drive them to these performances.  I’ve come a long way from only dreaming I could push down piano keys again.

I returned home to a neighbor waiting to share a glass of red wine and entertaining conversation.  We had tears to clear up first.  She found out today one of her eyes is losing sight and the eye doctor expects all sight to be gone within a short while.  The other eye has macular degeneration and will progressively get worse over time.  I told her about the neat devices I learned about while in a low-vision support group.  I told her ways to cope that had helped me get around.  When I first had my stroke, I was nearly blind.  It was a slow process to get as much as I have back.

I told this neighbor one of the best lessons I learned: You don’t have to see a picture to realize the beauty it holds.  You don’t have to see the sunset to recreate the splendor in your mind.  We grieved the loss she will soon experience.  Yes, there were tears.  It’s healthy to cry for what you are losing and to fear what might come.  Yet, it is also healthy to hold onto hope and rejoice what you still have.  As I told her, when you lose a loved one, there are seven stages of grieving.  When you face a serious illness, these seven stages are usually present and just as important.  We lightened the mood and laughed more at what amusing things it might be good not to have to see.  I left after a big hug.  As I walked home, I was slightly confused whether we still had tears of sadness or these were tears brought on by humor.  Sometimes, as in this evening, they are so beautifully intertwined they are hard to differentiate.

Days like these once again reaffirm my belief that life does not prepare us for the current moment, but prepares us for moments yet to come.  Someday you will find yourself understanding why the hard and trying lessons you learn today are so important for tomorrow.  On this day, today, I found myself remembering this important lesson.  I have no doubt; I am right where I should be.

After the Storm

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: