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Facing the Enemy Within

blood clot

I was telling my wife Cinelli about a Carole King album called Tapestry I had purchased online when I was stopped by the word "album." I couldn't say it. I said "alume" and "abul" and "alome," but not "album." It just wouldn't come out.

It was not only annoying, it was eerie.

"What's going on?" asked Cinelli, studying me.

By then the word had popped back into my head. "I'm trying to say album," I replied. "There, I said it! Album. Album, album, album..." 

"No more martinis for you," she said.

It was a joke the rest of the day. Whenever we came in sight of each other we said, "Album!" and slapped off a high-five.

But it wasn't really funny.

It was probably a "mini-stroke" called a TIA-for Transient Ischemic Attack-a medical term describing a temporary clot that blocks the blood flow to the brain and creates mental confusion. Or it could have been a TGA-for Transient Global Amnesia-that disrupts short-term memory. No one is sure what causes TGA but theories include everything from a migraine to a seizure.

I've had both in the past and either one could precipitate a major stroke. Am I concerned? Of course. Am I afraid? Never.

I'm already burdened by heart problems and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and I don't need anything else, thank you. Not the measles, impetigo, swine flu, the plague or a pimple on the nose. But I don't lie awake wondering what's next or what might, at age 84, strike me down.

Fear is just not a part of my nature.

I was a U.S. Marine fighting in the Korean War, and it is axiomatic that once one has experienced the terror of an enemy army out to kill him, he can never be that afraid again.

War is the ultimate horror, the sudden single bullet or the horrendous blast of an airborne missile that can take a life in mid-conversation, not caring what kind of person you are, how much you are loved or what immense value you might have been to the world's future.

In war, the very air screams in terror. I can never be that afraid again.

So I await with equanimity the results of scans and tests to determine if I suffered a TIA or a TGA and consider what I can do to prevent a full-scale stroke. I will do what I should and I will do what I must but I won't spend days weeping for myself. I'll do what I did In the Marines:

Be aware of the dangers, take what precautions I can and press on, repeating the word "album" to the rhythm of my marching cadence just to prove that I can.


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