I had a minor blood occlusion in my brain, and my language use disintegrated. It was a very strange feeling – the structure of my sentences stopped matching my thoughts. I called 911.

I got a fine ride in the ambulance (a new experience) with some very kind and helpful people, then spent a day at Clearfield general sitting, lying, napping… I got CT, I got sonogram (checking for blood clot in my leg), then MRI. The nice doctor came and said there was no sign of anything and there was nothing to be done. He was kind of snappish and suggested I see a psychologist. Naturally, I immediately replied, “I am a psychologist” and he went away. (Ba psych, Johns Hopkins, 1985)

The whole time I felt really weird. Like, I was questioning what “feeling normal” means. There was definitely something wrong; my sentences would trail and ramble and break apart.

I was, and remain, utterly terrified.

I am my hand-work and my words and the possibility I will now have degraded function left me frantically researching where to get a load of benzodiazapenes. But I appear to be recovering, at least doing better, and writing is less of a struggle.

It seems not that I dodged a bullet, but I had a bullet part my hair. And maybe crease my scalp; we’ll see about that anon.

I got a big dose of asprin suppositories, which was delivered with grace and flair by one of the techs.

I have never experienced hospital food, before. I am going to try to avoid it henceforth. If I am on my death-bed I hope I can get someone to bring me dim sum.the source of bombs. Heller’s description is a mental spiral into the madness of war, and there is something so sick, crippled, and sadistic about American culture that – well, what the absolute fucking fuck is going on?! How did the idea of just shooting a bunch of strangers become a thing? A thing so common and pervasive that we are desperately twisting ourselves in ineffective responses. We are not a rational society, that there is even discussion about arming teachers.

There’s a lot of money being spent on responses to mass shooters, and what we really should be spending money on is mental health, abuse counselling, and domestic wellness – supporting people who are suffering domestic violence. All of this bullshit about what such and such gun looks like completely steps past the fact that domestic violence and mass violence are highly co-morbid. Domestic violence and “gun nuts” also go together. I want to write (see what I did there?) about this stuff but it’s so maddening and irrational that I can’t keep a thought-train. In fact, I seem to wander a bit, thought-wise.

I have an appointment with my regular doctor on monday and in the meantime I’ll be taking it easy, i.e: demolding my refractory castings. With a bit of luck I can test-fire the burner in the next couple days. Doing write-ups of the things I make takes longer than you might realize, and the last couple weeks I have just gotten things done, preferring to get stuff done more than to talk about it.

In the meantime, how do you know what you normally feel like?

One more thing: I have figured out a new recipient for any commissions I do (if I do any more) here’s what I want you to do: buy some usb chargers and cables for android/iphone and drop them at the nurse’s desk at a local hospital. They get lots of people who arrive with phones, no chargers, dying batteries. Let’s all share the juice. Fuel Rats forever!


  1. flex says

    I’m sorry to learn of your experience. I hope you will recover soon, and fully. You have brought pleasure into my life through your writing, and I doubt I’m alone in feeling that way.

    In response to your last question, I think that is a very good, and very difficult question. As I see it, there are two ways to approach it, neither of them very satisfactory.

    You either have to rely on your memory of how you normally feel, but since it’s the same system which may be generating difference, it’s hard to know if your memory was impacted by the event. Further, memory itself is notoriously unreliable.

    Or, you can query your spouse, close friends, even acquaintances, and ask if any personality changes are noticed. But in that case, unless there is anything dramatic, it’s unlikely anything would be mentioned. The people who are likely to notice a difference are also those who will be hesitant to say anything, if for no other reason than to avoid causing you worries.

    The only advice I can give you is to accept who you are today rather than try to be whoever you were yesterday. I remember events from my childhood, there is continuity of memory throughout my life. However, I have also changed my opinions and views since then, I could be said to be a different person now than I was forty years ago.

    Your event may not have changed you from who you were yesterday. At our age it’s less likely that brain trauma will do that. (Note: I am not a neurologist. I have enjoyed studying neurology for personal reasons for years, but my understanding of how brains work should be taken with a large grain of salt.) But if it did make a change, if you find that things which interested you before don’t interest you know, and you find interest in other things, that shouldn’t worry you. I suggest you should only be worried if you start believing Tucker Carlson and his ilk.

    On the other hand, if what you were doing for enjoyment in the past is something you wish to continue to do, from what little I know of the plasticity of brains, I recommend getting right back into it. Do things which are reasonably safe until you know your muscle control is not affected, which in my mind means play with wood or acrylic and avoid playing with metal. Even with a reduction in muscle control using a wood lathe, or drill press, or other tools which have guides and tool rests, should be possible. But freehand work or moving heavy objects or beating on hot steel I would suggest is something to avoid until you know that your limits haven’t changed (or until you recover to your previous level of performance), I’m not suggesting that any of your skills are reduced, but it is a possibility, so take it slow.

    I have wondered about your reduced blog output for the last couple of weeks. It’s good to know you are getting things done. I’ve had a number of projects on the back burner which I’m trying to get moving again, now that the weather has finally warmed up and dried out a bit, so I understand.

    Hang in there, we are all in this together, you’ve got a lot of people who will watch your back.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Wow Marcus, sorry you had to go through that.
    One thing I don’t understand though, since all the scans found nothing, do the hospital doctors agree that you had a clot but it seems to be gone now, or did they give you all that aspirin just to get you to shut up and go away? I have never heard of aspirin suppositories, but I assume they deliver a pretty fast dose to your body and I would hesitate to expose my sexagenerian corpus to so much blood thinner just prophylactically.
    In any case, I hope you get better!

  3. Jörg says

    Adding on to the commenters above, I wish you well.

    In the meantime, how do you know what you normally feel like?

    You don’t. There is no normal. There is only now.
    I have sent you an email.

  4. kestrel says

    OMG that’s awful and I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m truly not trying to scare you more, but talk to your doctor about the possibility of a TIA: as measures can be taken that can help to prevent a stroke in the future.

    Once something similar to this happened to me. I was talking on the phone and suddenly could not speak at all, or move, or do anything. This only lasted for a few seconds and the person I was talking to (actually, listening to) never noticed a thing. I do remember thinking that I was dying… but I didn’t or maybe couldn’t care; I was perfectly fine with whatever happened. Also I think “normal” can really change, and of course, I’ve always known that my feelings do not equal reality. Sometimes I get up in the morning convinced I gained 25 pounds overnight, which of course is impossible. But it **feels** like I did. What I usually go by is how I am performing: do my hands still know what to do with horsehair? Can I drink without drooling? etc.

    Sorry to hear about the hospital food. The Partner recently had a surgery done and as his “bland” diet, they served him salmon and rice with a lovely sauce and asparagus! I had to go to the cafeteria and get a taco. Yuck. But the hospital had hired this really great chef, maybe that’s why. Maybe checking out who is responsible for the food could be as important as checking out who the doctors are.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    kestrel beat me to it: sounds very much like the Transient Ischemic Attack I had back in the ’90s (and none since – whew!).

    Getting yourself to the hospital was exactly the right move. If this happens again, do it again!

    Re: hospital food. Last time I experienced that, I’d had neck surgery that made it impossible to open my jaw more than a crack. So they gave me corn on the cob…

  6. says

    I’m back at the hospital. I was walking around my kitchen having my coffee and got the sweats, wobbles, and weak knees. I took some comfort from the floor while I called 911 again.

    It’s starting to look bad but not as bad as it could be.

    I’d say it’s almost certainly a TIA. Dreadful. They’re queuing me for a CT and they’ll be able to see if there is damage between yeaterday and now.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    A little follow-up on the TIA possibility: some self-tests if you feel it might be happening again.

    Try to:



    Lift your arms above your head.

    If you can’t do those, you probably have a mini-stroke situation. Don’t panic, but don’t delay getting help.

  8. says

    I have wondered about your reduced blog output for the last couple of weeks. It’s good to know you are getting things done.

    I’ve had a really tough commission sitting partially done on my bench for almost 3 years (pre pandemic!) and I finally sucked it up and nailed it. It’s a beautiful thing I am very proud of. I’ll post pictures after I get it into its new mommy’s hands. It’s a puuko-style scandi knife of 1095 high carbon sandwiched in 304 stainless. That’s the “playing at the adult table” trick, so I was glad to accomplish it. Then I dressed it in silver and ivory and some remarkably good synthetic amber (including a genuine window-ledge bug from my kitchen) and a semi-tanto handle in baltic birch.

  9. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    TIAs are surprisingly common and can cause a huge variety of symptoms depending on what part of the brain is temporarily starved. My wife had one while looking at a spreadsheet doing our family finances. She suddenly realized that she couldn’t do arithmetic. She had no other problems, could recognize the digits, but they just wouldn’t make sense. 911, off to the emergency room, and it passed off never to return.

  10. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    On the trivial matter of cell phone chargers, I just had the opposite experience. As I was dressing to be discharged after a recent night in the hospital, three different nurses reminded me “Be sure to take your cell phone charger, now.” They said it’s the most common thing people leave behind, and they have a drawer full of them.

  11. moarscienceplz says

    Obviously we can’t tell about your verbal skills, but your writing skills are still in good shape.
    I’ll be praying for you, Marcus. ;-)

  12. says

    Obviously we can’t tell about your verbal skills, but your writing skills are still in good shape.

    I’m struggling and making a lot of mistakes. It’s maddening and terrifying.

    She suddenly realized that she couldn’t do arithmetic. She had no other problems, could recognize the digits, but they just wouldn’t make sense.

    YES! Exactly.

    I have to guess that docs actually see these often, so the description is familiar to them and they probably have a good idea of the outcome but of course they won’t tell me that.

  13. moarscienceplz says

    It’s maddening and terrifying.
    Yes, it certainly is. Keep on telling us what’s happening, we all care for you, Marcus.

  14. lochaber says

    I’m sorry, and I hope you have a quick and complete recovery.

    I am looking forward to your post on your recently completed commission, whenever you are well rested and recovered enough to feel like posting again.

  15. johnson catman says

    I hope that you recover completely, Marcus. I enjoy reading your blog. You write intelligently about such a diverse collection of topics, and you make the topics interesting with your style of writing. Your blog is one of the first places I check daily. Get well soon!!

  16. crivitz says

    Don’t know what to say other than please do take care of yourself and get better. Not for your readership’s sake, but…well yeah who am I kidding, for our sake, but mostly for your own well-being.

    I’ll concur with what Joerg says above, “There is no normal. There is only now.”

    Had my own health scares and hospital experiences, but not as scary as what you’re dealing with.

    I’ll sign off with the pithy phrase of an infamous Minnesotan, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

  17. Tethys says

    I am so happy that you are getting medical treatment for this right now.

    It is terrifying when you are aware that something is very wrong, but suddenly cannot express yourself because your brain is having a malfunction. You are doing fine if you can write coherent sentences while waiting for your scans.

    Best wishes, and I look forward to seeing your latest completed commission. It sounds quite fabulous!

  18. StevoR says


    Best wishes from me & hoping you are okay and recover as speedily and smoothly and fully as possible.

  19. says

    See the whargarbl in my OP? That was a partially formed thought I decided to edit out – but only partially did that. My thing in my brain that arranges my words is damaged. That fucking sucks.

    But since I mentioned it: I recently listened to Catch-22 audiobook and it had this brilliant description of Yossarian, the bombardier who was trying to drop bombs on people he didn’t know. Why was he doing this? They were shooting at him. Why were they shooting at him? Because he was dropping bombs on them. It’s brilliantly weird and I suspect the author was on LSD when he wrote it.

  20. moarscienceplz says

    Yep, I did see that, but my posts only ever makes half-sense to myself 15 minutes later at the best of times.

  21. flex says

    I probably shouldn’t interrupt with comments about Catch-22, but it is one of my favorite books both thematically and structurally.

    Thematically it’s all about the absurdity of war, including many very spot-on observations about nationalism, patriotism, innocence (and loss of), bureaucracy, government ineptitude, military arrogance (by people not being shot at), privilege, irrational behavior from stress, and various forms of rebellion. Yossarian is depicted as the one sane man, but tries to operate within the system to escape it. Milo embraces the system, twisting it to his own advantage. And at the end we find another sane man, who realized that working within the system is likely to get him killed, so he finds a way to escape it. Although his actions convince others that he is just as crazy as everyone else.

    Structurally, the novel is brilliant. The trauma which defines Yossarian, the death of Snowden, occurs when Yossarian had only flown a few missions. But since Heller knows that Snowden’s death scene is is really the apex of the book, which defines everything else in the story, it had to be near the end. So Heller juggles with time, showing the effects of Snowden’s death on Yossarian before he reveals Snowden’s death scene.

    The novel would be a nightmare without Orr.

  22. moarscienceplz says

    re the “logic” of war: Putin is invading Ukraine b/c he wants to make a bigger Russian empire, but b/c the Ukranians are defying him, he is commiting genocide on the people he wants to join with him.

  23. Jazzlet says

    Marcus I am so sorry, I am not surprised you are terrified, I think being terrified is the rational response to the potential loss of something so important. I hope it is just a TIA and a one off at that.

    On the subject of brain plasticity this may be of comfort for all it is just an anecdote. My third cousin (I don’t have many relatives!) tripped and ‘fell’ around four foot into a chimney breast. Initially she couldn’t speak, couldn’t understand what was being said to her, couldn’t read or write, and had some muscle weakness. Over a few days she started to understand what people were saying again, started to be able to speak again, it took far longer to be able to read again – months – and longer still to be able to write, the first time she tried she thought she was writing study notes for a course she’d been on before the accident, but when she tried to read it back it was gibberish. She did get the writing back, no longer has muscle weakness and really has made an incredible recovery. She isn’t back to normal, she can’t juggle different things anymore, she used to be a ward sister (head nurse) for a busy breast cancer ward and simply couldn’t do it any more, but she was able to be a nurse specialist until she retired. She would say that she isn’t what she used to be, and if you know her well there is a little difference, mainly having difficulty following what’s going on in larger groups of people, but most people didn’t notice any change. The point is she had a pretty severe whack to her head, she lost a lot of function, but she got nearly all of it back in the space of about a year. So you have a very good chance of returning to near normal if not normal itself (whatever that is) in a faily short period of time, your brain may be wired a little differently, but it will do the job.

    I hope you get properly better soon, get appropriate long term treatment to prevemt any future incidents, and that the refractory castings turned out well!

  24. moarscienceplz says

    Marcus, I have to go to work now, so I am going to be pretty much offline for the next 10 hours or so, but I am sure the rest of the FTB mob will keep you company, if you need it.

  25. anothernonniemouse says

    I’ve very rarely commented on FTB, but read pretty much daily. I wanted to add my best wishes along with your other regular readers.

  26. says

    Damn Marcus.
    I have nothing useful to say, except “get well soon”. I hope the docs will figure out how to help you.

  27. springa73 says

    I can’t think of much to add except for my best wishes for you to recover quickly and thoroughly!

  28. says

    Putin is invading Ukraine b/c he wants to make a bigger Russian empire, but b/c the Ukranians are defying him, he is commiting genocide on the people he wants to join with him.

    He also spent any profit that might have been extracted, on blown up tanks and dead people. The Ukrainians now hate the Russians. Russia will probably spend 100rb for every rb of Ukrainian stuff they grab. E.g.: Russian soldiers are losing limbs to try to grab flat panels worth $75. Jeeze bro if you want it so bad you can probably have it. But once you shoot up my store I hate you, and I have no flat panels. So you never get a flat panel, you get land mine. Bad economics.

  29. avalus says

    Marcus, I hope you get better soon, as useless, as saying this is but I do mean it from heart.
    /Flashback to my great-granddad, clots got him at 94 but he got 2 years more thanks to a competent doctor. Double Whammy: Shortly before he lost the ability to do so, he told me some things he saw in Kharkiv and Kiev and on the way to Stalingrad, when the little austrian told him, he was a staff driver in the army now.
    Fuck War, War never seems to change …

  30. nomdeplume says

    Losing the ability to speak after a lifetime communicating is terrifying. It does come good though. And medication stops a re-occurence – I am 18 months now since my stroke and back to normal. All the best to you.

  31. passngrin says

    if you’ve had two strokes in 24 hours you probably need follow-up care from a vascular specialist asap; much earlier than Monday

  32. Badland says

    Terrifying is right. In the end, all I am is my mind, and without that I cease to be ‘me.’

    The very best of wishes to you Marcus, I’ll be thinking of you.

  33. rrutis1 says

    Marcus, I hope you continue to advocate for yourself…we all know the system is kinda/sorta working against us. Be well!

  34. invivoMark says

    I also wish you a speedy and complete recovery.

    Without going into detail, I’m just going to say that I’ve had experience with losing language abilities (like losing the ability to complete a sentence). It IS terrifying.

  35. says

    You had me worried when you weren’t blogging, and you’ve got me only a little less worried now.
    This is the first place I check in each day, before even the news, and I’m very glad you’re back talking to your online community.
    There’s feck-all I can do from Scotland, other than to offer you my sincere best wishes for your recovery and this being no more then a rich source of future anecdotes.

  36. tuatara says

    Marcus. I hope it is transient and fucks off quickly, letting you get back to your daily life in peace.

  37. says

    God damn that is encouraging to hear.

    Right now my shit’s all apart – but I have given myself zero time to recover.

    I have had several emails with suggestions I am going to be working. I don’t know if I should post about this stuff or not. But everything I read says that writing – lots of speaking and writing – helps. So I guess I’ll be talking about my stuff, here.

    Jörg suggested a mile walk every day, which is a great plan. What else is the point of living on a beautiful farm?

    Razorfist has suggested I look into having an at-home assist come check up on me every day, etc. I will investigate that tomorrow.

  38. says

    Question for the commentariat, here: do I post about my medical issues, or is that too self-referential? I could just stick to build notes from my last couple years.

    I’m terrified and miserable, and I can turn this into “Marcus whines and snuffles blog” but I don’t want to. I don’t want to.

    Writing lots is probably good for me; maybe not so much for you.

  39. cartomancer says

    Perhaps a discreet “whines and snuffles” corner somewhere out the way of the main blog might be just the ticket.

    But, you know, terrified and miserable is the norm these days. I think people take a lot of comfort from having others acknowledge it in themselves. And, more to the point, if it is helpful and cathartic for you then go for it. I’ve certainly found that the written equivalent of shouting into the void can have its benefits.

    Good luck overcoming the present embuggerance by the way.

  40. says

    You can be as personal as you want on your blog – it’s your space. People felt uncomfortable about somebody being very liberal about the organization of their sex life at some point in the past, but nothing like that’s come up for a minute. Iris was pretty frank about the sorrows of her crispy innards that one time. Probably, like, fire at will.

  41. enkidu says

    Sorry to hear about your TIA, Marcus. I hope you improve quickly with treatment.
    I had some TIA’s about a year ago, the only symptom being dissyness, but since it first occurred while on a hike, it was a bit scary. Hospital couldn’t find anything neurologically wrong, so prescribed blood thinners. I now take 100mg aspirin a day and no further symptoms.
    Be extra careful when you get back to your shop, as you’ll bleed more easily.

  42. outis says

    Well, shit. Sorry to hear about this, it’s the exact opposite of fun. What can one say except, get yourself medically checked as well as possible and try to avoid too-demanding tasks for a while, especially those involving sharp objects.
    I know, not an easy thing for a knife maker. Maybe spend some time writing,and sprucing/reorganizing your workspace? So you can work some time at half-capacity, before coming back with a roar.

  43. flexilis says

    Oooh! Take care of yourself.

    As far as writing about your personal experiences, by doing so you are educating the rest of us. I wouldn’t call it whining. A teacher of neuroanatomy, Jill Bolte Taylor, suffered a severe stroke and wrote about her trials and recovery in her book “My Stroke of Insight”. She was uniquely placed to understand what was happening to herself as it happened.

  44. says

    There’s another book by a neurologist who dropped into dementia and managed to pull herself out and write about what it was like. Excuse me, have to go scream now. We tend to dementia in my clan. Just generally in our late 70s.

  45. anothernonniemouse says

    As Great American Satan says, it’s your blog—fire at will. If writing helps you, that is more than reason enough. But on our side, it will also be good. Very few of us can actually *do* anything to help you. Keeping us updated will let us be involved with your recovery.

  46. says

    You’ve probably got strong opinions about the security of Discord servers, but you know we’ve got one, and it would be a good place for you to post short updates so your online friends can keep an eye on you.

    Freethoughtblogs Discord server

    If nothing else, we could see when you were online.

    You need some kind of lifeline to let others know when you’re OK!

  47. wzrd1 says

    Glad to hear that you’re on the road to recovery! Just excuse the potholes, recovery road is much like the road of life and is rife with them.
    I get scintillating scotomas on a fairly regular basis. Apparently, they’re migraine related, although if I’m still getting migraines, they’re acephalic, thankfully. A scintillating spot, which spreads into a ring and not a damned thing in the center makes sense until the event had passed, which is typically a half hour or so.
    The consensus is a spreading cortical depression, secondary to a vasospasm triggering significant vasodilation. Knowing that is about as comforting as knowing that that chest and arm pain is only a heart attack… But, not linked to stroke, per every study.
    I am concerned that doctors couldn’t find a cause, as many TIA events are triggered by areas obviously narrowed, such as a fairly common carotid stenosis triggering TIA’s, which is easily addressed surgically today.
    I strongly suggest a second opinion once you’re on your feet or therebouts.

    I can’t agree more about the need for actually having a mental health care system again! We dismantled what pretended to be one under Carter, promised community based mental health care, dropped in patient patients literally onto the streets after Saint Reagan decided not to fund that community based care.
    Or maybe dropping on the streets is the GOP definition of community care, which does sound quite on target…
    But, realistically, we need to put the entire nation under care. We, as a society embrace violence as a means of resolving, well, everything. One action movie proves the point. The hero murders someone, has some glib catchline and everyone laughs.
    Sorry folks, while that may be the societal norm, it’s decidedly unbalanced!
    Had we a functioning mental health care system, the last two spree shootings and murders would’ve been impossible, as family and friends report the potentially threatening behavior, the individual could be examined, diagnosed and as appropriate, flagged from possessing firearms.

  48. bodach says

    Marcus, I just got back from two weeks in the hospital so only just found about your experience/travails. (I lost my mind for a bit and scared the shit out of me when I could remember what happened.)
    Take good care of your self and have your friends check up on you frequently. Be careful around fire, sharp things and fast machinery.

  49. Tethys says

    I am happy to read lots of updates on any subject you want to write about, because this means you are able to brain well enough to write and post.

    Your health is crucial to being able to do anything, so you are entitled to talk about your terrifying experience as much as you wish.
    Aging is such bullshit!!

    Thanks for adding the knife photo, and explaining the fight club reference. It seemed so random without knowing it was your soap and your photo. :)

  50. says

    Oh. I was wondering why your blogging stopped but I just assumed you just have a shit ton of work to do like me. This is terrifying.
    I do hope you get well soon, fingers crossed for a full recovery.
    You will probably need to take blood thinners from now on.

  51. GenghisFaun says

    So glad you retained the cognition to dial 911. I hope the medical professionals get to he bottom of this and your health returns to normal quickly.

  52. woodsong says

    I’d also like to wish you a speedy and complete recovery!

    If you want to post about your health issues, feel free. It’s your blog, and at least some of your readers would be happy to read, sympathize, and be supportive. For those who’d rather not read the gory details, you could put things below the fold with a brief note above to say what the post is about. Maybe an Endless Thread for health issues?

    Do you want the rest of us to share our own current (or past) health issues, or family stories? We could all sympathize together.

  53. says

    Do you want the rest of us to share our own current (or past) health issues, or family stories?

    Anyone who wants to is welcome to do so. The more we know, the better we are.

    All of your kind thoughts are comforting, but let’s be frank: the people who read this blog want information and knowledge. I love your hugs, though and it is great comfort.

    Hmmm. Comfort is: “walking a mile a day is a good thing for your future” Thank you, Jörg. Comfort is: “yeah that happened to me, and I got better.”

    That several of you have even said “yeah that happened to me, and I got better” is the best thing I’ve ever heard. But no bullshit, please.

  54. nomdeplume says

    @49 Glad it helps. The key for me was that my wife realised what was happening and got me to hospital in half an hour and the stroke team swung into action. Aafter 2 hours untreated permanent damage results. If you think you have had a stroke go to Emergency – better to be thought an idiot than to open your mouth later and confirm a stroke…

    Immediate rest after tratment is important. Then exercise after a week or two.

    But remember, “Stroke” is a word not a death sentence.

  55. woodsong says

    I haven’t known many people who have had a TIA or stroke, but I did have a former co-worker (he was a temp) who told me that he’d had to leave his former job (as an engineer) when he had a debilitating stroke. That had been a couple of years before he worked with us, and I wouldn’t have guessed that he’d had one if he hadn’t told me. He certainly didn’t have any lingering speech or coordination problems that I could detect, and a fair amount of manual dexterity is needed for building circuit boards. I didn’t notice any forgetfulness on his part either.

    I didn’t ask him what effects the stroke had on him. As far as I could tell, he had a full recovery.

    I hope your recovery goes at least as well as his!

  56. quantumdad says

    I usually just lurk, but I really enjoy your writing.
    I wish you a complete recovery!

  57. Louis says

    Right! You! Ranum! Stop that right now, it’s silly. No one likes getting ill more than me, and perhaps my wife and some of her friends, but that’s besides the point. Frankly, all this becoming unwell malarky and generally having a TIA is bad form. If only you’d asked me first I’d have advised against it. I’m good like that.

    Or, if I *have* to be serious, I’m sorry this happened to you, I hope you are getting good care and that you will get well soon. But if I start being serious and sincere like that things will go wrong. So we’ll all pretend it didn’t happen, right?


  58. djudge says

    @Marcus, have you or the doctors ruled out migraine? Sometimes an attack goes with the symptoms you describe, and it leaves no traces on CT/MRI. It happened to me some months ago, I couldn’t read or write or speak properly for an hour or so.

  59. Kat says

    I’m very much a lurker, but I enjoy your reading your posts and wish you a full recovery like everyone else here.
    Our brains are wild at times. I’ve had the experience of migraine leaving me not being able to speak or write properly for a span of time. Luckily our brains recover from the episodic experiences.
    I’ve found it helpful to write things out to remind myself of what “normal” looks like for me, since “normal” is different for everyone.

  60. says

    I’m late to the well-wishes, but that sounds very scary! I’m glad to see that you are continuing to write, and hope that’s indicative of your ongoing recovery.

  61. jwoodland says

    Another long time lurker saddened by this news. Hopefully you are on the recovery road. As for “feeling normal”, I’ve long wondered why we seem to be able to remember the feeling of being sick while we’re actually feeling well, but not the other way around. Even with a simple cold, I can’t seem to remember what it feels like not to have a cold.

    Best wishes, do everything you’re told to do and take good care of yourself.

  62. wzrd1 says

    djudge makes a good point. I’ve personally saw migraine cases, some acephalic migraines (painless migraines) that came complete with symptoms consistent with a stroke – including a blow pupil in one case.
    I used to get, thankfully rare (as in once a year or so) classic migraines. Later, they became acephalic and entirely visual disturbance type of a half hour’s duration.
    Been getting a minute or two of strabismus, likely due to the remaining cataract finally becoming problematic.
    Just going onto the pile with followup for my Grave’s disease, which gave me an abdominal aortic aneurysm and my blown disc, as transportation is currently problematic for all those followups and testing…

  63. Ice Swimmer says


    I’m wishing you all the best. May your brain recover and reroute the best way it can and may your blood flow without clogging inside the circulation.

    And as for the hospital food, it’s probably universally bad. My mom is a retired practical nurse (who worked for both hospitals and local health care centers) and she sometimes has talked about the notional flavour removing agent (one might say deflavorizer) the kitchen added to the food to make it tasteless.

  64. says

    Never had a migraine. No strabismus. The very stroke-like language destruction doesn’t seem like a migraine. And it didn’t hurt at all.

  65. djudge says

    Marcus, just FYI, although I have headaches now and then, I was never diagnosed with migraine before the attack, and I felt no pain during the attack (only a slight headache later). Because of the stroke like symptoms, I spent three days on the stroke unit for tests and was finally discharged with a migraine diagnosis.

    I hope you get well soon.

  66. nomdeplume says

    @84 Mine was doubly odd. I could understand the questions I was being asked (where are you, what year is it) and knew the answers, but simply could not make those words come out. Nor could I write the words, which is interesting. My stroke was in Broca’s area of the brain, which controls speech, but I hadn’t realised speech and writing were so strongly linked. My speech began to return the next day, first individual words, them short sentences over the following days.

  67. Sunday Afternoon says

    Another late well-wisher. Hope your recovery is complete and rapid.

  68. Wharrrrrrgarbl says

    Sweet jesus, this comment got out of hand. I suppose I’ll also preface this with the disclaimer that on the internet, of course, no one can tell if you’re a dog with any meaningful credentials. TL;DR: If you had symptoms lasting less than 24 hours I’d assume TIA until proven otherwise. If your symptoms lasted longer than 24 hours then ignore the rest of this, it’s a different kettle of fish.

    Also a late well-wisher. You seem understandably freaked out so while I’ve never been on the receiving end of anything like you’re describing, I do have some expertise on the subject and I’ll make a few comments piggybacking on things mentioned in other comments:

    The disconnection of your ability to think about stuff from your ability to produce language about it is pretty convincing for aphasia, which is a focal neurologic deficit insofar as lesions of the colored areas in this excellent flowchart (from Dr. Hal Blumenfeld’s Neuroanatomy Through Clinical Cases) produce language processing deficits.

    The list of acute processes that can produce a focal neurologic deficit that resolves completely without leaving any detectable structural injury is relatively short, and as far as common causes go is headed up by transient ischemic attack, migraine, and seizure. These are distinguished by clinical history as, by definition, there aren’t going to be findings to investigate after a fully reversible phenomenon without a structural injury.

    TIA, an acronym for transient ischemic attack, is the most common, and is a phenomenon closely related to stroke. Stroke and heart attack are in fact the same disease (occlusion of blood vessels with downstream ischemia and infarction), with varying symptoms/injuries because of the differing locations (heart vs. brain). The loathsomely confusing term “mini-stroke” is sometimes used to communicate the close relation of stroke and TIA, but I think a more apt description is that TIA is the chest pain of the brain: if you know anyone who gets chest pain mowing the lawn or whatever, that’s a phenomenon which is commonly produced by poor blood flow through a crappy vessel to a chunk of heart that’s working hard, and chest pain is the result of nociceptive neurons in the heart reporting the ischemia. In the brain, there are no such nociceptors, so you just get loss of function in whatever territory is ischemic. If the vessel opens up before there is a permanent injury, the symptoms resolve when the blood flow returns, but if the vessel stays closed long enough to cause a permanent injury, you get a stroke. Clinically, TIAs are identical to strokes until the symptoms resolve, which by definition occurs within 24 hours, and they are never accompanied by identifiable brain injuries you could explain the deficits with.

    Migraine is a rather more interesting phenomenon than everyone’s stereotypical idea of severe headaches, and while most people are at least vaguely familiar with visual migraine auras causing bright flashing lights and areas of blurred vision before or during migraine headaches, it turns out that if that phenomenon of spreading cortical depression (if you google and start reading about this, be sure you’re reading about migraine and not about the identically named phenomenon associated with neuronal death in large territory brain injuries) passes through a part of your brain other than your occipital lobes, you can get a variety of symptoms including tingling and outright numbness, hemiparesis, vertigo, or, yes, aphasia. It all boils down to the anatomy of the networks recruited into the migraine. The international classification of headache disorders lays out the criteria here:

    Seizure produces transient focal neurologic deficits as part of what is called a Todd phenomenon (after this guy: , also the father of the Hot Toddy) where after a focal seizure, the part of the brain involved in the seizure is deactivated for usually several minutes but sometimes even up to a few hours. Obviously, a Todd phenomenon is preceded by a seizure of the relevant chunk of brain, so if you didn’t have one you can ignore this possibility.

    Now, as mentioned above, what all these have in common is that the symptoms are completely reversible. If, after 24 hours, you still have symptoms, you do not have one of the above conditions (barring status migrainosus, but you said no headache). Also notable is that if, after 24 hours you still have symptoms, and they MRI your brain, and you don’t have detectable injury, you also don’t have stroke. This is one of the rare combinations of events where you can exclude cerebral vascular problems with a reasonable degree of confidence.

    Anyway, assuming that your symptoms resolved within 24 hours, TIA is the most common of these, and unless you are already on some major heart medications the assertion that “there was nothing to be done” is incorrect. Because stroke and TIA are such closely related phenomena, there are two purposes to hospitalization for TIA: close monitoring to ensure that people don’t progress to outright stroke, and stroke risk factor evaluation for secondary stroke prevention. I will summarize features of the secondary prevention:

    1) The standard of care for antithrombotics, based on two large randomized controlled trials, is a combination of aspirin and clopidogrel for a limited period of time. The exact timing in the trials was not identical, but a later pooled analysis by the authors of both studies settled on 21 days as the appropriate length of time based on the frontloading of recurrent stroke risk. Note: other studies in the past showed harm (largely bleeding) from indefinite use of both antithrombotics, so you only want to be on them for a defined period of time. There is another, smaller trial which led to FDA approval of aspirin and ticagrelor for almost the same indication but it’s more expensive and the trial wasn’t as large as either of the clopidogrel trials so I largely view it as a cynical (though also medically justifiable) cash grab.

    2) All TIA patients get put on statin medications unless there’s a reason not to. Some of this can be based on cholesterol management, but there are data from other trials supporting indiscriminate use of statins, probably related to pleiotropic effects beyond direct inhibition of cholesterol synthesis.

    3) Management of hypertension/diabetes/vascular abnormalities/cardiac arrhythmias/structural heart defects/etc/etc/etc. These vary depending on clinical details, but investigation of this stuff (some of which, like hypertension, is better done over time as an outpatient) is almost the entire point of a hospitalization for TIA. You had an MRI of your brain which sounds like it was reassuring, but if you didn’t have at minimum sonography of the great vessels of your neck and echocardiography of your heart, the TIA evaluation isn’t done yet. If those were done and there’s no reason to sic a vascular surgeon, cardiothoracic surgeon or interventional cardiologist, or an electrophysiologist on you, then great.

    I’ve been rambling at great length by this point so I’ll try to wrap up. There are some exotic ideas I can think of but have no evidence for or other serious reasons to believe like toxic exposure to some kind of metal in the course of your smithing, but broadly speaking if you had transient aphasia lasting less than 24 hours and no evidence of structural brain injury, it’s likely prudent to assume TIA until proven otherwise. The implication of a diagnosis of TIA is that you and your doctors should be aggressively trying to prevent future strokes. If you had symptoms lasting longer than 24 hours, then that’s a different kettle of fish. If you like to intellectualize as a coping mechanism, I hope this was helpful. I hope it is not fuel for catastrophizing or other anxious behaviors.

  69. C Sue says

    Oh, no! Just heard about this catching up on my blogroll after BaltiCon. Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery!

  70. seachange says

    Human beings communicate. It’s what we do!

    I like you. I like you even after figuring out that the reason my cardboard hexmap units kept on running forty years ago is because *you* were a beta tester and got them to do those rules, you BASTARD.

    My brother had a brain thing and the surgery left him with aphasia. Talking helps him. Going to group and helping others with varying amounts of aphasia helps him. His grandkids always being around and him being a caregiver also keeps words in his brain.

    My dad had a stroke and we fucking made him talk to us. It helped and once he realized it helped he did his usual stubborn bastard thing and started talking to us and others and this helped him.

    I like Iris and am pleased to hear she is alive every time she posts. You like to create highly crafted posts, because you are a maker. You are a maker even with words. As awful and counter to your instinct it might be, but since you asked: make a few dumb posts every once and awhile so we know you’re still around.

    Me I usually avoid long response threads because they are usually abstruse or single-issue to the point of I-no-longer-care. But I have been checking this post to see you are still around.

  71. says

    Hey dude, I’m sorry it took me so long to see this!

    It definitely sucks that life’s throwing this shit at you, but I’m glad to hear you seem to be on the mend!

    I honestly don’t know how I’d cope with the language destruction thing, other than badly. It sounds like a waking nightmare, and I hate that you had to deal with the doctor being a jerk on top of that.

    Tegan and I are both rooting for you to have a swift and complete recovery, and I’ll be sure to check back here for updates.

    I’ll look into getting chargers for a hospital or two here.

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