My Stroke ( part VI)

There’s a nearly complete gap in my memory between the time I spent fishing with Bob Rowley on the Bad Axe River and the time two days later when I contacted Dr. M.’s office to mention that my “diakaesis ” interludes had markedly increased in severity over the previous several days, and did not appear to be abating.

Here’s what I do remember:  I struggled monumentally to cross a plowed-over field  with  rows  of eight-inch furrows I could only surmount by   belly-crawling over them. Upon coming within casting range I have a distinct memory of not even attempting to get up on my feet, but rather of grabbing my rod, which I had been dragging along with me, to present my fly,  from a sitting position. The fly was a size 16 caddis emerger, as recommended by Mat Wagner, owner of the nearby Driftless Angler fly shop.


Mat Wagner, owner of the Driftless Angler  in Viroqua, Wisconsin, is a transplanted Coloradan who set up stakes in the Upper Midwest after succumbing to the irresistible appeal of spring creek brown and brook trout. Mat is a true master of “technical” angling  (translation, the use of ridiculously small flies to tempt trout on a stream’s  “uncastable’ stretches.

A trout had just slurped something off the surface less than ten feet in front of me. As I raised my rod to cast, it did something most peculiar. Instead of propelling my fly line seamlessly behind me, and then, with a flick of my wrist,  shooting my line forward, my rod simply shuddered  as my fly line grew taut. It took a few moments for me to realize my fly had become snagged on some godforsaken clump of chokeweed about 15 feet behind me.

It was the final straw; I had neither the energy nor the will to attempt getting on my feet and backtracking to unsnag my fly.  What happened next was that my guardian angel in the guise of  Bob Rowley came upon me after his exploratory foray upstream, took stock of my predicament, helped me get on my feet and then insisted I use his rig, upon which he had tied the identical fly.

I’m assuming  we then underwent the ritual of insisting the other do the honor, that Bob finally prevailed, and that I managed to cast my fly somewhere in the vicinity of a rising trout, because the next thing I remember is Bob snapping a picture of me holding a decent-sized brownie.

Again, my recollection  becomes foggy. I would assume that at some point we headed back to  Viroqua and had an early dinner somewhere, hopefully at Dave’s Pizza, which offers a daily, inexpensive buffet of damn’ tasty thin-crust pizza.

My next memory is of pulling back the blankets of my bed back at the motel, probably the Midway Motel, owned by Hasmukh Patel, who relocated from West Devon St. in Chicago to Viroqua some years back. Now here’s another distinct memory. I don’t know why this particular memory stands out. All I can say is that my next memory is of Bob shaking me awake the following morning, and of me feeling like I was slowly rejoining the world of the living after having  been put under general anesthesia.



This photo, taken by fishing buddy Bob Rowley, is proof I caught a trout on our ill-fated trip to the Bad Axe  River, even though I don’t remember catching it.

Again. I would assume Bob and I had breakfast, most likely at the Country Kitchen, which offers delectable cinnamon buns, supposedly based on an Amish recipe. Perhaps we stopped by Paul’s place to fish his superb stretch of the Spring Coulee. We wouldn’t have caught anything because, otherwise, Bob would have snapped a picture of it. Then we would have headed home, and I would actually have gone to work the following day. My memory kicks in again when, as I earlier alluded to, I called Dr. M’s office from the JCFS school parking lot.

After listening to my recap of the events of the past five days, Dr. M.’s nurse was blunt: “Go straight to the hospital and get an MRI. Dr. M is putting in the order right now.”

I am going to send this post, my first of 2016, on its way, and then I will start working on “My Stroke, PartVII.” But, I would like to elaborate on two topics that you, gentle reader, may feel have been less than adequately resolved.

First, considering that Bob Rowley was my constant companion from the start of our expedition to the finish, you might wonder why I haven’t called upon him to fill in the gaping holes in my poorly recollected narrative. I have seen Bob several times since our last trip together; indeed, we have been discussing returning to the Driftless Area this coming spring. But Bob has not made a single reference to that ill-fated outing, and for my part, I have yet to raise the subject. Perhaps, as they say, it’s too soon.

And then there’s the issue of my memory gaps. Since my major stroke, I have suffered a degree of short-term memory loss of the “I-left-the-house-without-my-wallet” variety. However, with the exception of those first few days following the onset of my second stroke, I have not experienced the sort of memory loss capable of gobbling up entire days. I do have a theory of sorts, if you will kindly indulge me:

During those several days I was actively “stroking,” so to speak. Blood was leaking out of my torn carotid artery even as my body tried to seal up the tear through its arsenal of clotting factors.

This was not some placid anatomical backwater; this was sheer turbulence. Connective tissue (“scaffolding,” if you will) would start taking form, and then the force of my pumping blood would tear it down. When this happened, blood clots were released, many of which quickly dissolved. However, some remained intact long enough to create mischief. Among these larger clots were a few that remained within my carotid artery, which meant they would continue traveling upstream until they clogged one or several of the networks of fine arteries supplying oxygen to my brain.

My first post-stroke MRI revealed extensive damage to my right parietal lobe, the area of my brain that controls an integrates muscle movement in the left side of the body (among other things). However, small areas of my frontal lobe also were damaged. This damage, as with the damage to my parietal lobe,  occurred without warning, creating  what one radiologist characterized to me as “chaos within the brain.

At the onset of my second, major stroke, which I suffered at the Charleston, S.C. airport the predominant symptom was my total inability to move my left leg. Eventually I regained the ability to manipulate my leg, but at a diminished capacity.

In related fashion, my stroke left me with diminished short-term memory. My layman’s theory is that amidst the chaos and turmoil created by the destruction of multitudes of neurons, including those involved with memory, my brain responded by virtually  shutting down memory functions, just as it responded to parietal lobe damage by virtually  shutting down leg functions.







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