Operation Stroke Proof by John Kawie

Updated:Oct 29,2013

Excerpted from John Kawie's column "Life At The Curb" in the July/August 2005 issue of Stroke Connection Magazine.

I had my stroke on my honeymoon and lost the use of my left arm and leg. I was in two different hospitals for a total of two months, 47 years old, and facing what seemed to me an eternity of rehab. I couldn’t wait to escape and get back home to my apartment in New York City. Even though I knew I wasn’t magically cured (after all, I was still in a wheelchair), I was learning to walk with a cane. Still, I was no Lance Armstrong.

Before my release date, the hospital, apparently concerned for my well-being, sent a team of therapists to my apartment to make sure it was physically safe for me. Evidently they were going to stroke-proof it, like you child-proof an apartment. I thought these must be the CVA FSST: The Cerebral Vascular Accident Feng Shui Stroke Team.

Here is what I expect the guidelines must be to complete a stroke-proofing procedure. (Insert Mission Impossible music)

9 a.m.: Enter apartment. Immediately notice area rugs just lying there waiting to be tripped over. Instantly spring into action and rip duct tape off the rolls hanging off your toolbelt. Secure the area (rugs, that is) by taping them to the floor. Use as much tape as possible because the hospital is paying for it and this guy’s insurance is paying the hospital. The survivor may complain his apartment looks like it’s being shipped to Anchorage, Alaska. Suggest that he take his name off the door and write “Fragile. This end up.”

11 a.m.: Having run out of tape, hit the bathroom. The priority here is the toilet. Replace the regular toilet seat with the higher stroke survivor regulation seat. Code name: The Matterhorn.

The survivor may complain because he’ll need a ladder to get to the toilet and he probably can’t even go up stairs yet. Ease his mind by telling him once he gets on the toilet his feet will dangle like he is potty training again, allowing him to relive those innocent moments of his youth, though he may need Dramamine to go to the bathroom.

12 p.m: Turn your attention to the shower. Install bars in the shower. No need to concern yourself with where to install the bars, just install them all over. The survivor may feel like he’s showering in a jungle gym. Reassure him that all he needs is a slide coming off the toilet and his whole bathroom would be a playscape. Again, just like when he was a kid.

1 p.m.: Recommend the survivor have a healthcare attendant with him at all times because it’s not safe for him to be alone in his own apartment.

Well, the hospital calls them healthcare attendants. But after meeting my first one, Maurice, I call them babysitters or convicted felons. But that’s a whole other story….


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