Stroke Life Society

"United In Pursuit Of Living And Helping Others"




Bill McAlvin's Story

(Stroke Survivor)


 At the Stroke of Bill


It was a dark and stormy night………. Well, actually it was around noon on New Year’s Eve, and beautiful weather, but I always wanted to start a story with that phrase.


            I was busy cleaning my apartment in anticipation of a visitor later that evening, to help bring in the New Year.  (I don’t remember if that’s true or not, but I like to think so.)  I was feeling light-headed, but I blamed it on the cleaning supplies, as they did have ammonia in the ingredients.  I stepped out of the apartment to get some air into me, but it didn’t seem to help much.


            “Okay”, I said to myself, “why are you lying down in the middle of the road?”  My landlord Brian then came out of his house and asked the same question!  I told him it was the fumes, but he couldn’t comprehend what I was saying.  (I was talking in the language of Bill).  The fumes were so strong; they even affected my ability to walk.  My right leg and arm just wouldn’t do as I asked them to do.  Maybe they didn’t understand the language of Bill either.  Well, as we didn’t want to damage any cars coming down the road, Brian helped me to the side of the road and got hold of my brother, who lived in the neighborhood.  When Mike saw me, he said I didn’t look like I was having a heart attack (I already had 5 of them, and he saw how I was with a couple of them).  I tried to tell him it was the fumes, but he couldn’t understand me either.  How frustrating!


            An ambulance was called, where the EMT’s checked my signs to determine what was wrong.  They came up with

S-T-R-O-K-E.  I think they spelled it so I wouldn’t get more upset than I was, but I could still spell, even if they couldn’t understand me.  We made it to the hospital, and as it was New Year’s Eve, hardly any staff was in the ER.  It was as quiet as a morgue.  (Whoops, poor word)  It was as quiet as a library.   (Better)  The head nurse didn’t feel I had a stroke, so I didn’t get that medicine they say you should have within 3 hours.  The hospital wasn’t set up to recognize a stroke, so it wasn’t confirmed until the next day (wow, the next year!)


            I still feel bad about putting a damper on my family’s party expectations.  Seven of my brothers and sisters, my three children, and my ex-wife showed up to offer me support.  I wanted someone to bring in some champagne, but they’d probably get in trouble.  The next day, they ran a bunch of tests, and starved me while waiting for the results.  I had my sister go to 7-11 for coffee.  Oh, blessed coffee!  When she handed it to me, I took it in my right hand.  I felt nothing.  I wrote on a pad and asked why she got iced coffee, and she looked at me funny.  She had me change it to my left hand and wow was that hot!   I guess now I could decide at the last second if I wanted a hot or cold meal.  Just touch with the appropriate hand!


            They kept me in the hospital for 3 days, and my speech ability returned in that time.  Then I was shipped over to Southside Hospital.  They asked me a million questions, and I was scared.  None of my family knew where I was!  A nurse making her rounds then told me my family was informed that I was transferred, and they’d be up later.  Whew, breathe bill, breathe.


            Now came the hard part.  I had to learn a lot of old things, like not putting round pegs into square holes, addition and subtraction, memory lessons, and the hardest of all, walking.  I spent the first 2 days getting into and out of bed, and into a wheelchair.  Then, before I could do any walking, I had to learn how to stand up, and remain standing.  The previous 2 words were the hardest part.


            I finally got to the point of not falling, so they stuck a walker in front of me and taught me how to move in a forward direction.  It wasn’t easy, folks!  I kept going to the side, and still do.  Most of the time I was in the hospital, I used the wheelchair to get around, except when I had Physical Therapy.  The muscles on my right side still worked, it was the nerves that decided to give up the ghost, so a lot of my therapy was to keep these muscles active.  I was taught how to go up and down a staircase (started with 3 steps, then 2 full flights), how to get one foot in front of the other without dragging my right foot, and an amazing amount of exercise with weights on my wrist and ankles.


            When the therapist figured I was ready, they walked me up and down (and believe me, I did a lot of falling down) the hallway.  If it weren’t for the walls, I would’ve crashed down to the grounds outside.  It took a lot of work on the therapist’s part to get me up and going, but they did it.  I walk from 3 to 5 miles every day now, and only fall maybe twice a week.  Now that is a major step for me!    


            I still have problems that I would like to surmount, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  One is my reaction time to events happening around me.  If someone or something is approaching, I can’t seem to get out of the way in time.  Another is the crying jags over simple things like sad movies, commercials, or general, everyday things.  One more problem is my memory.  I don’t know if it’s due to old age or the stroke, but I can’t remember the right word to use at times, nor names.  Still another is vision.  My vision deteriorated, and everything I see is doubled.  I used to read 2 to 3 books a week, now I read 2 to 3 chapters a week.  I can’t drive anymore, as I don’t want to run into, or over, anyone.  I love the game of pool, and still play, but it’s difficult with seeing 30 balls to shoot at.  For some reason though, I find I have no problem with slot machines at Atlantic City.  I lose my money just as fast as before my stroke!



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