Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Graphic from National Stroke Association. Visit them at http://www.stroke.org/

I’ve been catching up on my internet food browsing over the last couple of days, and couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of recipes for peanut butter pie.  Sadly I came to realize that these recipes are a tribute to the life of Mikey Perillo, a man who collapsed and died suddenly of a heart attack last Sunday.  Mr. Perillo left behind his wife, Jennifer, who is a food writer, and two young daughters.  Possessing much more strength and grace in the face of those circumstances than I could ever aspire to, Jennifer shared her grief with people she had never met in a way everyone could relate to – by sharing the recipe for Mikey’s favorite peanut butter pieHer advice is moving and sobering – “make a peanut butter pie … and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.”  Indeed. 

As you probably read between the lines on our blog or our facebook page, we have been though our own ordeal over the last week – and are ever so thankful that it has turned out okay. This even may have been one of the most fortuitous things that could have happened.  In the early morning hours of August 2, James suffered a stroke.  In an instant, every aspect of our world was changed.  Without going into too much detail, I can happily report that after a week in the hospital, with intensive medical care and support by so many good people (including our dear friends), he is doing exceptionally well and is expected to fully recover.  I said this was fortuitous, because we must think of this event as a “warning shot over the bow”.  It could have been much, much worse.  James could easily have had a massive stroke, or could have died from other factors, including the treatment.  We will heed the warning!

I contemplated whether or not to post anything about this; we generally regard news about our personal life as a private matter.  However, as my friend Debi put it, I have learned a powerful “life lesson” that I can pass on to others.  Who knows, maybe that lesson will impact someone else’s life for the better, or even save someone from the same mistakes we made.

What we learned:

  • If you have high blood pressure, keep it under control!  If you are taking blood pressure medication, don’t get careless with it even though you feel great and know you are eating healthier.  There are other things that influence your blood pressure besides diet.  Uncontrolled blood pressure has serious, life-threatening consequences.
  • Know the symptoms of a stroke and act on them immediately!  The first 3 hours are critical, because there are “clot-busting” treatments the ER can use in that 3 hour window following the initial symptoms, which will help restore blood flow to the affected part of the brain and minimize the effects of the stroke.  Don’t make the same mistake I made  – I thought maybe James was dehydrated and confused, then waited to see if it would get better.  DON’T do this, just get the person to the ER as quickly as possible.  You’d rather be safe than sorry!
  • Symptoms of a stroke:
  1. SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
  2. SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  3. SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  4. SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  5. SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

        (James’s only symptom was trouble speaking – he could not complete a sentence.  We were very lucky that he was able to recover without the clot-buster treatment.)

  • You don’t have to be old or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol to have a stroke (although those things help).  You could also have a stroke resulting from an injury to your neck/carotid artery – caused by a blow, whiplash, etc.  Also strokes may happen with no obvious risk factors.  Don’t think you are exempt!
  • Hospital food totally sucks!  The “food plan” James was put on was the American Heart Association (AHA) plan.  I asked them to add “gluten-free” so he would not be bombarded with grains, but other than that there are not many choices.  Some of the things I saw on his food tray:  margarine, lots of mashed potatoes (and not from real potatoes even), corn, sugar packets, salad dressing with unpronounceable ingredients and trans fats….then the worst dinner ever, a big plate of fruit with a side of fruit.  Boy, were we glad to get home to fresh, organic food again!

Thank all of you that called, visited, and sent us messages or comments of support.  We really appreciate each and every one of you!  Now, remember to live well, stay healthy, and be happy for every day!

James and Nancy


6 thoughts on “Lessons Learned the Hard Way

  1. Thank you for taking the time to write this
    It could change someone’s life
    Really glad James is better and I hope you never have to go through this again

    1. This is most definitely something we never want to go through again! It was a very scary week! I hope someone else can benefit from this experience and avoid it altogether.
      Thank you!

  2. I knew something was going on, but had no idea it was this serious. I’m glad James is doing well, all things considered. I hope this post helps someone else. I hope you’re doing well too, sometimes caretakers forget to take care of themselves.

    1. Thank you – I appreciate these comments because this was difficult to write. Trying to take care of myself also – I was getting a little frayed around the edges at times! Being home really does help.

  3. Wow, glad James is going to be okay but so sorry you had to go through this. I know it’s tough, but thanks for sharing the experience and the tips. Hang in there!

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