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Diff'rent Stroke

"I was born with eyesight,
Blinded by the light."

"If you got the music inside
A miracle is on the way."

So much has happened since my last blog. It's a peaceful Saturday morning, listening to the Jackson 5, and I'm kicking back with a cuppa Harrod's Blend 49 that I picked up on my British tour. Not too posh, really. I'm off of my favorite green stuff (TWG's Polo Club) for a month or two, but more on that later....

In music news: Huckleberry Finn has been submitted in various categories for the upcoming 56th Grammy Awards. It's just the beginning of the entry process; but we can be cheerful simply for that. It was also entered into the UK Music Video Awards whose vetting process has just begun as well. These are just the entry steps, but as EPMD said, "like Lotto, you have to be in it to win it."

To date the video has been viewed 2253 times on YouTube and I thank you one and all for watching it, sharing it and most of all enjoying it. It is gratifying, knowing that Andrew Shuford and I have crafted a piece that you all find entertaining. Please continue to share it.

Listening to the past to look forward, tunes from my album A Talent For Loving make up the song score for a brand new independent feature film directed by Matty Castano, a black comedy called The Death Together.  Click the title for the trailer; parental guidance suggested. The Death Together will be making festival rounds soon. The movie gets its premier in Las Vegas in September; sadly, I won't be able to travel to be there. Why you ask? I thought you never would...

In highly personal news: God is great and provided this fool with a miracle. I am truly humbled by the grace that visited my family this month. The Holy Spirit was with me in a hectic week in which my mind was wracked and wrecked but needed the strength to persevere to serve Him.

I suffered a mild stroke (although, is there anything mild about any stroke?) a few days after my triumphant show and video release on July 30. The sensation was like a javelin of bright yellow light exploding through the right side of my head; as if my eye and the sun became one. A headache of epic proportions. The stroke went undiagnosed and untreated for nearly a fortnight.

For those of you who follow me on social media, you may have thought I was joking about my Dick Clark Getaway. I was actually admitted into the Kari and Dick Clark Neuroscience Unit at Providence St. Joseph's in Burbank where the staff and care was simply topnotch. It was a God-given miracle that I was seen, no pun intended, by ophthalmologist, Dr. Suhas Tuli, on Monday August 12. She was the one who rightly spotted my wonky eye and named names. I exhibited Horner's Syndrome; where one pupil is significantly smaller than the other, kind of David Bowie in reverse, along with a droopy eyelid. Dr. Tuli knew that I was not getting enough blood flow to the right side of my optic nerves and brain and shipped me over to the ER.

So when I was admitted to hospital, the neurosurgeon, the vascular surgeon, the neurologist, the floor doctor, the ER doctor, the charge nurse, the duty nurses... they all wanted to see my pupils and see me do the stroke test exercises, because they almost never see Horner's Syndrome before that person suffers a massive stroke. If that is how I can pay it forward, Lord; if my jacked up David Bowie pupils can be a learning tool for healthcare professionals, let it be. I know how blessed I am in all of this. All of the other patients in the stroke telemetry unit were strapped down and attached to machines and immobile, if they weren't otherwise paralyzed or literally speechless. I was probably the only stroke victim in the ward able to stand up and walk to use the loo on his own. And if you take that for granted you are a double-drag fool.

No surgery was involved. The carotid artery on the right is too delicate; the left side compensated and found other pathways to do enough heavy lifting. So it's the left hand side, meds and my continued healthy living going forward. It was all my cardio workouts and the good Lord that kept me upright.  I got to do several dips in the big, whirling, radiating machines that you see in the movies and on TV. I cannot recommend the experience for anyone. For all you friends who like to live your Hollywood experience vicariously through me, please feel free to live this one through me, too.

"Different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby."

Strokes come in all shapes and sizes, like we do. Learn what the signs are; you really can save a life or the quality of a life for someone post-stroke! I exhibited severe unilateral headache. There have been some major changes to my diet: no kale, spinach, green tea, Brussels sprouts, sigh... All the stuff that kids hate, that I like, I can't eat now. Boo! Boo!

However, God is great. I have no speech loss, no vision loss, my motor skills are intact. I can play my guitar. I can walk, although my pace is slower. It's like I'm living in my music video. Life imitating art. I do have my fine oak cane to help with moments of balance dips and to keep from being knocked over by unwitting strangers and errant kids - I bruise like a grape; and for style points. There is the wheel chair for long hauls, when I'm going for distance. You were wondering how we staged those photos at the Huntington!

When I am outdoors, I'm quite photo sensitive and a little depth deficient. Indoors, the computer screen is a bit much. I have a thick headache and the stroke hit my memory bank. And the stroke hit my memory bank. Being mindful of the alternatives, these are manageable challenges.

I saved enough boxtops and got my Medalert necklace. It's very stylish. For someone who doesn't wear a lot of bling, it's cool to show the world my list of pharmaceuticals. Strictly OG. This along with my very strict timing of meals and meds makes me feel (a little) geriatric. Just a little.

"Can I get a witness?
Said, can I get a witness?"

In Good news: I have been lifted up in so many prayers, I could never thank you all enough. I pray for your good health and many blessings right back at you. God has blessed me and my wife so much. My Missus has been my rock through all of this; and I cannot imagine what kind of stress this has been for her. I am so thankful for her (When you see us now, we are truly Beauty and the Beast with her luxurious tresses and my no-shave look). I would not have survived the week without her.

Had my stroke remained undiagnosed, who knows how much more calamitous this month would have been for our family. Our faith and our gratitude has not been tested, it has been strengthened by this and we are encouraged by all of the faithful people and angels surrounding us. I wake up each morning thankful for the Lord and his encouragement to face each day with grace and gratitude. Every moment is a gift and word is bond.

I received wonderful cards, bouquets, brain games, a vegan casserole (!), and good books for reading and restoration. I had some great visits while I was in hospital and now at home, too. Thank you, all. I do have to shout out to Phillip M. for a really unique get-well gift: a vintage 12" vinyl of Radio Clash. Mind blowing, even if my mind hadn't already been blown. This is one of my 20 favorite recordings of all time and I'd been crate digging for it for years.

As you may surmise, there is a longer version of this tale to tell, so I won't bore you with it here. When you have time for tea, put a quarter in the jukebox and I'll give you the 411. Strokes are no joke, but I can laugh about mine. I used to think I was invincible; then I lived ten days beyond a stroke, because God said so. I led worship, I spoke in public, I learned a song on guitar in 30 minutes and sang it before the congregation, I went to work, I walked the dog, I did my chores. But I needed to slow... the.. @#$% ... down. I needed to ... chill ... the ... @#$% ... out. Hallelujah. Jesus is just alright with me. As my friend James would say, #PTL

So what's the prognosis? God only knows. My right eye still looks and feels like I've been punched. My status is day-to-day. But as they say on ESPN, aren't we all? I'm going to keep on singing, keep on living, keep on talking, keep on loving God and my family and my friends and my crazy dog. I will return to the stage eventually. The vocal approach may change, but that will be part of our adventure, wont it?



hisownwrite said…
Got nothing but love for you, brother. You guys are in our prayers every day. Miss you!
JustJo said…
Norm, I am amazed by your grace under unfathomable pressure. I am awed by your strength, your gratitude and your positive outlook. We all hope we would react well in extreme circumstances, but not everyone can. I am so very glad you are doing as well as you are and that we still have you here with us. Know that I am thinking of you, sending strength and healing thoughts your way. Please let me know if there is anything I can do, I'm just two blocks away and would be thrilled to ease the burden of the day to day for you and Patty if at all possible. Love and strength and laughter (always laughter) Jo
Unknown said…
Wow! Amazing story! A great message for everyone that they should not ignore the signs the body is sending because strokes are so different for each person. Knowing your story, I went right to urgent care when the left side of my face went numb a week ago. Although I didn't have a stroke, they did an MRI and found that I have chronic mastoiditis which can have fatal consequences if left untreated. I'm so happy that you were in good hands at the hospital! I'm praying that you have a quick recovery!! God is great!
ConnieJ said…
Hallelujah you are here to write this with such humor and clarity! Sending lots of prayers and love! Peace.
-connie jackson
Unknown said…
I was reading this to Michael, and we are both amazed by your experience. I have two other friends who were not so lucky. You have made many of us aware of getting to a hospital asap, when something out of the ordinary happens to us.

Glad you're recovering and adjusting.

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