Brain Food’s first dish

I couldn’t have written this blog five years ago. That’s because a stroke sizzled the back left side of my brain erasing my ability to read and write.

It zapped lots of other important bits, too. I was only 45, married and the father of two teen-aged girls. There were no warning signs. I’d just had a physical and seemed the picture of health. But in the blink of an eye, it looked like I’d never be able to provide – emotionally of financially — for my family again.

And the salt in the wound was that I’d been a newspaper reporter with a dream to write books that I never got around to writing. Use it or lose it, it seemed.

But it turns out that you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Through a blend of science, art, faith and hope I literally relearn my ABCs, how to make change and loads of other simple stuff that I used to take for granted. Thanks to this and some technology, I’m tapping out stuff on the keyboard again.

Today – March 15 – is my five year strokeaversary. To mark it, I’m going to put my rekindled writing to work on regular posts on some of the Brain Food that helped me get my noggin firing again. I’ll also share stories of amazing brain feats and phenomenon and pass on loads of things everybody can do to keep firing on all cylinders. Or maybe even to crank up the engine to become a brain Ferrari.

One important thing became crystal clear to me during my time with a malfunctioning melon. Our brains, our soul, are who we are. The other stuff is important for keeping us alive and physically healthy. But brain and sole is “us.” The longer and most optimally we can keep them at their peak, the better, the happier we’ll be. There are lots of assaults on our noodles – strokes, Alzheimer’s, injury are just a few. But it’s also easy to let ‘em run down though lack of stimulation.

On my road back, I’ve met and connected with loads of scientists, therapists and every day people with phenomenal stories and advice to share that have helped me re-boot. I’ll serve this up to you with Brain Food.  And through this blog I hope to connect with many, many more people with brain wisdom and advice.  Brain Food will be the online cafe where we can all feed on this collective brain bounty.

One last thing, I wrote a feature story for the Edmonton Journal a few months back. I’m going to share some snippets of it over the next few blogs to give you all a sense of where I started back from. Oh, by the way, if any readers are publishers or literary agents, I’ve written a book, too…would love to talk 🙂

Former journalist Tim Seefeldt tells the story of his amazing journey to relearn the basics 3 Rs

By Tim Seefeldt, Edmonton Journal

June 13, 2014

I woke up to madness. I heard noises, but they didn’t make sense. Was I still travelling or was I at home? And where exactly was home?

I figured I better get up and shake the cobwebs out, but they wouldn’t shake.

For starters, I couldn’t see clearly out of my right eye. It was like somebody had smeared Vaseline over it and my left eye was weakened by the extra workload.

And it got worse. You know how your body effortlessly does the routine things you need it to do? Things like sitting up and taking steps?

That wasn’t happening for me.

 

The last minutes of my old life ticked away early Monday morning, March 15, 2010. It was that groggy first work day following the switch to daylight time, when we’re robbed of an hour’s sleep.

It’s a tough day to remember, but an impossible one for me to forget.

The week leading up to my mental meltdown had been a whirl of plane travel and highway driving. It was late Friday evening before I rolled my car into my driveway in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada.

I was still exhausted early Monday when my elder daughter, Kristina, 16 at the time, woke me up at about 6:30. Ignoring her, I put my head back down to catch some more Zs.

My head hitting the pillow was the last conscious moment of my old life.

I started consciously thinking about getting up. I fixed what vision I had on my right arm and tried to will it to lift me. I was rewarded with a slight twitch. It was like somebody else was in control, but they didn’t know what they were doing.

I kept staring and kept willing, harder and harder. Eventually I began to rise. There were two misfires halfway up that sent me crashing down. But finally I was sitting up on the bed.

Swinging my legs to the ground came with another surprise. My right side was numb from the tip of my toes to the top of my head. It was like that feeling you get when you sleep on something the wrong way, but without the tingly reawakening.

I used my left side to support and guide me and felt my way to the stairs dragging my unco-operative right side along. Two flights of stairs later, I felt my way to the shower, crashed in and tried to wash whatever this was away.

No dice. My wife Patricia was there when I stumbled out of the shower. I couldn’t see much, but the fear in her eyes was clear. The girls – Kristina and 13-year-old Anna – must have heard the crash and bang as I stumbled to the shower. I could sense they were scared and then I started to panic.

An ambulance was called.

I kept asking for my shoes even though they were already on my feet. I was soon at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, where the rest of the day was spent in what I guessed was the emergency ward and going back and forth between tests. It was a foggy haze that ended with a doctor whose name I couldn’t seem to remember delivering news that landed like a Mike Tyson shot to the stomach.

“Tim, you’ve had a stroke …” He said a lot more, but he lost me at stroke. I was rolled up to the fifth-floor stroke ward and hooked up to machines where I spent a horrible night worrying about what Patricia would say to the girls.

That’s it for now. I’ll share more in next week’s offering. Until then, keep feeding your brain great food.

Tim

 

 

18 comments

  1. Hi Tim, it’s been a long time roomie!
    I am relieved that you’re recovering and returning to writing. you always were the better wordsmith 🙂
    I wish you the best of luck and hopes to keep in touch.
    Warmest regards,
    Pat Nichol.

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  2. Hi Tim, it’s been a long time, roomie! I just finished reading your blog and it’s compelling. It is a huge relief that you’re bouncing back and on the mend.
    You always were the better wordsmith, old friend 🙂
    I wish you loads of good luck on your journey and a heartfelt welcome back to the world.
    Take care,
    Pat

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  3. Hi Tim – Way to go. I’m privileged to have known you before the stroke and after. The soul of Tim Seefeldt remains the same. Salt of the earth, sincere, kind, and a real friend.

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  4. I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing so well Tim. Shelly told me about the stroke but it was almost impossible to believe. I couldn’t be happier that you’re back to writing. Best health and happiness 🙂

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  5. Tim what a beautifully written story, with the best outcome possible. Thanks for sharing and giving people hope. I sure hope that the activity of painting keeps my brain firing — because every project presents a problem to be solved.
    I love the family picture. You’re household is filled with lovely ladies. Love Aunt Rena

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  6. Hey Tim,
    I lost your contact information in the move to Calgary. Would love to catch up … again. You can find me at Grace in Calgary. I have had my own challenge since turning 50, not quite as involved as yours.
    Doug

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  7. Tim,
    5 years already? What a journey you have been on. Your story is inspirational and I hope you find a publisher for your book as I know many would take great comfort in your story. You are a strong, courageous fighter and you inspire with your words. I cannot wait to follow your blog and learn something new each time.
    Sending you all the best,
    Alyssa

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  8. Hi, Tim. As a retired newspaper writer myself, I much admire your ability to express yourself in writing, even now. As the husband of a great gal who had an acute ischemic stroke 18 months ago, I find inspiration in much of your personal story. I am left hungry for more details about you so that I can relate it to my wife’s situation. I know you had your stroke a little more than five years ago but I don’t know what type it was. A clot? A bleed? I also know that you were left with impaired cognitive abilities, including speaking and writing, but I don’t know if you were otherwise damaged. Finally, I wonder what kind of treatment, aside from speech therapy, has been part of your own recovery. So if you get a chance, please fill me in on some of this. I’m sure I’m not the only person who would be interested.
    I just wrote a story suggestion to Stroke Smart magazine, proposing that they do a comprehensive piece that might serve as a clearinghouse for people seeking treatment for stroke-induced problems. I’ve found a lack of knowledge among even good doctors about cutting-edge stuff that’s out there, especially if it involves advanced technology. So the patient or caregiver is left to mostly fend for himself or herself, wading through a thicket of information good and bad while attempting to recognize and discard the various charlatans out to prey on the desperate. To paraphrase a famous line from an old Paul Newman movie, What we have here is a failure to illuminate.
    Your blog, therefore, serves a useful purpose for many of us. It gives us practical insight into the reality of having a stroke and, in your case, recovering from it. It leaves me craving more specifics, more nuts, more bolts to put it all together. Here’s hoping your draw on your newspaper training to provide it here.
    Best wishes for continued success.
    –ron

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    1. Hi Ron.
      I must admit that due to a variety of issues – some delayed interviews and some personal stuff that’s zonked my mind — I’d hit a bit of a blog block. You’ve inspired me to kick back into high gear. Stay tuned and keep in touch!

      Tim

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