On Motivation and Medication by John Kawie

Updated:Mar 21,2012
Excerpted from John Kawie's column "Life at the Curb" in the November/December 2005 issue of  Stroke Connection Magazine.

When I was recovering in a certain New York hospital, I would be awakened every morning at 4AM to a needle drawing blood (Note: medical vampires) or to someone yelling from the door “GOT ANY URINE?” (Note: medical weirdo). I know there are some people that actually wake up at that hour, but for me waking up at 4 AM like this after having a stroke would make the rack feel like a tanning salon.

I never had any urine to give because fortunately my room was right across the hall from the bathroom. (Note: old inner city hospitals don’t have private bathrooms.) I could just “hop” in my wheelchair and use a real toilet. No matter how good you think you feel, if you can’t get out of bed to go, you’re sick. Nothing says normal like using a toilet. Of course, I never wanted to use the urine bottle, but in my first week in ICU I had no choice, for two good reasons. One, at that time, I couldn’t get out of bed to go to the bathroom. And two, Nurse Ratchet threatened me by holding up what looked like a large garden hose and said it would be inserted if I didn’t start using that bottle NOW! Nothing like a little motivation.

One advantage of getting up that early is that I had time to prepare for physical therapy. I learned a few simple rules. Most important, never wear a hospital gown to physical therapy. As soon as I saw an 80-year-old guy down on his hands and knees in his hospital gown, I knew this was not a good wardrobe choice. I’m sure he was enjoying the breeze, but I just didn’t want to see that, so I made up my mind. Garment bag? Maybe, but never a hospital gown. Never! I wore sweats, sneakers and a T-shirt. I showered and shaved every day. This was my way of saying, “Up yours” to the stroke and “Bite me” to the hospital – I may be here, but I’m not one of you!

The PT room was the epicenter of physical therapy in the hospital. This was a very strange place. There were ramps and stairs for patients to practice on. They didn’t actually lead anywhere – a cruel metaphor for my life at the time. Everyone was walking around with a glazed look in their eyes not sure where they were. There were these big red, yellow and orange exercise balls, the kind those Russian bears used to balance on. The room was a cross between “The Night of the Living Dead” and “The Big Apple Circus.”

All the therapists were young girls, and as they led me up and down those ramps and stairs I pretended I was Gunta the Good Bear. I imagined I was wearing a diamond-studded collar, a chain leash, and of course, in my mind they were naked. Nothing like a little more motivation.

I did all the therapy they threw at me. I figured it was my ticket out. The only time I didn’t do PT was when I had an MRI. Apparently I moved my head a lot, so the radiologist gave me five (yes five) Adivans to relax me. I not only fell out of my wheelchair, which is not easy to do, I began to dig that 80-year-old guy’s outfit. Nothing like a little medication.

Editor's Note: For information on booking John Kawie's one-man show about stroke recovery "Life at the Curb", contact him at jkawie@aol.com.

John Kawie's Life At The Curb Archive

More about John Kawie

Happy Trails To You
January/February 2009 Stroke Connection Magazine

"Up, Up and Away"
November/December 2006 Stroke Connection Magazine

"Only The Lonely"
September/October 2006 Stroke Connection Magazine

"Baby I Can Drive My Car"
July/August 2006 Stroke Connection Magazine

"Thanks For The Memories"
May/June 2006 Stroke Connection Magazine

"Jeans, The Impossible Jeans" 
March/April 2006 Stroke Connection Magazine

"I Get Around"
January/February 2006 Stroke Connection Magazine

"On Motivation and Medication" 
November/December 2005 Stroke Connection Magazine

"Operation Stroke Proof" 
July/August 2005 Stroke Connection Magazine

Editor's note:
For information on booking John Kawie's one-man show about stroke recovery, "Brain Freeze," contact him at