This February my wife and I did something that we have wanted to do for a long time, but since my stroke we did not know how I would handle it. No, we did not go sky-diving or jet-skiing. We went on our first cruise! Now, admittedly, that seems very peaceful, reflective, and, for lack of a better word, fun...and it was, but there was always a sense of worry since my stroke: how will I handle the flight there, how will I do being in an area with so many people, how will I do on the ocean if the ship starts to sway, what if there are areas with a lot of sensory input like strobe lights, what if there is loud music? Those are all questions that stroke survivors have to ask themselves on, nearly, a daily basis. I think sometimes a lot of people, even our closest cargivers, forget that our brain has suffere a severe trauma and many, like myself, have actually had part of their brain removed because of the dead tissue. Because of that we have to assess every interaction, every potential outing. But I am severely digressing from my initial thought! My wife and I have been married for almost 31 years, and for our 30th anniversary I bought us tickets to go on the Disney Dream 4 night cruise to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay. Unfortunately COVID made travel last year impossible, so we went this year. It was FANTASTIC. I told my wife that I have never been in the presence of absoute perfection, but I'm pretty sure the Disney Dream came pretty close! There were decks that were reserved for people aged 18+, so there were no kids around, not that I have a problem with kids, I mean, let's face it, my kids were kids once! But, I was afraid that there would be kids everywhere that would make my stroke problems worse; but, with the only exception of dinner and when we walked through the children's area to get ice cream, we really did not know there were a lot of kids. The dining experience was fantastic. There were about 2500 people on the cruise, but there were 3 different dining rooms, and 2 different dinner times, with 2 additional "special dinners" you paid for. What that meant is that there were 2500 people, with 10 possible dining times each day, so you never felt like there were too many people! Our waiters on Monday were also our waiters on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so they go to know us. The rooms were not huge, but were very adequate. There were elevators on every deck, so it was easy for a person, like me, who has problems walking at times to go from deck-to-deck easily. I don't have time to write about everything that I loved about the Disney Dream, but all I can say is that if you have had some sort of brain injurty and feel that you are not able to do a cruise, the Disney Dream might just be your answer!
On December 8, 2008, my life changed forever. I had a double sided cerebellar stroke with 2 brain stem compressions. It was not until December 10, 40 hours after my stroke, that surgery was finally done to relieve the pressure. Dr. Piper, the neuro-surgeon from Iowa Methodist hospital in Des Moines, told my wife that surgery was nothing more than an attempt to save my life, but that it would not erase the deficiencies as a result of the stroke. Although she admits that she did not really understand what Dr. Piper had just said, my wife, Laura, agreed to the surgery and the care team performed a decrompessive craniotomy, to hopefully relieve the pressure and allow my brain to function somewhat normally. For those who have followed my blog for the last 14+ years, the surgery was successful, I returned to the church and I now live a relatively normal life, although I do have some pretty severe, though not always visible, defieciencies. I really thought that life could not get any worse th