Kent Bragg lived a full paced life when a bleed in the brain caused a stroke that shut down his left side and slowed down the pace of his life
02:23 Before the stroke and anxiety
12:52 How to get home
18:47 Post-stroke deficits
24:48 Expect the best, prepare for the worst
29:29 Dealing with Anxiety after stroke
39:29 Seeking help
44:08 Three elements to recovery
50:48 Helping others after stroke
1:00:00 Being a stroke survivor
But I have a question for you Bill because you had the reoccurrence of the brain bleeding like what’s been told to you what could you give feedback to somebody like me and say this is what they told me this is what to avoid is there anything?
I’m kind of the guy, I love the motto expect the best prepare for the worst and i’m just preparing the whole time for the worst-case scenario so I went through that process of changing my diet, of course, stop smoking stop drinking i wasn’t exercising because i couldn’t exercise and then when it happened again basically I was the fittest healthiest best version of myself when I went into surgery I was able to I said to the doctors be the best patient they’ve ever had.
This is The Recovery After Stroke Podcast with Bill Gasiamis, helping you navigate recovery after stroke.
Bill from recoveryafterstroke.com this is episode 138 and my guest today is Kent Bragg. Kent was chillaxing on his hotel bed naked when he experienced the strange symptoms in his head and when he tried to stand up he collapsed to the floor with his left side paralyzed due to a brain hemorrhage.
You’ve got to listen to this episode to see how it turned out for Kent it’s pretty funny and serious at the same time now if you enjoy the recovery after stroke podcast and you think that others should hear the amazing stories of these excellent stroke survivors please tell others about the podcast and share it on your favorite social media app.
Also leave the recovery after stroke podcast a five star review on itunes or your favorite podcast app and if you’re watching on youtube click the thumbs up button and subscribe to get notified of new episodes thanks so much for listening and now it’s on with the show. Kent Bragg welcome to the podcast.
Excellent thanks Bill.
Hey tell us a little bit about what happened to you Kent.
Before the stroke and anxiety
So 2020 I had a pretty unusual year in addition to the pandemic that everyone else experienced and the lockdowns and shutdowns I was working out in California I’m from Ohio and i had my own I was self-employed at a construction management company and i was working out in california in January i went out to California for a couple months just to get some work in and head back home.
But while i’m there i’m working for a small automotive company maybe you’ve heard of named built electric cars Tesla but I’m out there and yeah so excellent experience my wife flies out for valentine’s weekend you know it’s it’s a great overall experience pandemic hits and so we get through the pandemic I come home and the company called me and said hey Kent you’re one of the few people that’s willing to keep traveling during the pandemic which was already stressful enough and you’re trying to balance whether it’s the right decisions but you still want to make an income for the family and keep everything in balance.
So I took an assignment to go to Hermosillo mexico on a foreign project and I got to Mexico and things went well before we had to go to Mexico we had to get a full physical as part of the package my vitals checked out well I was the kind of guy that like I was 49 I was an ex-military veteran like in shape and no issues like no health issues at all.
So we’re really only worried about COVID nothing else there’s no other like health concerns or reasons to be scared as soon as i get down there we become more isolated from the us border they create some closures across the border they classified us as essential workers i’m not too sure how essential we were we’re automotive trying to keep the economy moving for nothing else right so get down there working hard the motto we developed Bill was let’s work hard and get out of here.
And so we kept the pedal to the metal it was about 115 degrees felt fahrenheit every day 45c all the time and on august 14th normal day i felt fine actually we called it early that day i went to the hotel and I was laying actually, it’s part of the whole story. So kind of my introduction I talked to people is what I’ve learned is stroke is not discriminatory in any way.
It does doesn’t matter what age race, what sex you are. The only thing I think is kind of unique and interesting was my story was kind of unique because here I am in Mexico working. And I had stripped off all my clothes to get ready to lay down and relax for a little while before going.
So I’m laying on my bed naked, reading Google News laying on my back. And I felt this quick it felt like a little dizziness, like a quick twinge, but no pain. And I really had nothing leading up to that moment. And my instincts, for some reason, were to try and stand up.
So I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stood up and instantly, my left side was just paralyzed. And I collapsed Tim to the headboard to my left. And then part of my story, I have like three elements of my story is luck, great people and hard work. The luck part was when I fell back to the right, I hit my cell phone, it was on the edge of the bed.
And it fell beside me to the floor. So that was I didn’t know at the time, I thought is, have you ever seen like YouTube videos and athletes and they’re crossing the finish line and everything’s going kind of haywire and you can’t control your body and your muscles are spasming.
So I thought I was in some sort of dehydration. When I hit the ground. That’s what I thought. Then as I lay there, of course, I think my first instinct, I realized I was naked, and I was in trouble. So that kind of crossed my mind.
Hang on, hang on, you’re in trouble, because you can’t walk or you’re in trouble cuz you’re naked.
Because I was naked.
You can’t walk. Mate you’re not in trouble cuz you’re naked. You can’t walk my friend.
That’s right. So it’s like we’re young. Our mother would say make sure you have clean underwear in case you got in an accident. You didn’t want to have dirty clothes, right? So I’m on the floor.
Quickly deleting your iPhone, Google search history as well.
Yeah, so I haven’t picked up my phone yet. It didn’t really register. So I’m staring at this door across the room. And I thought, I’ll drag myself to the door and kind of yell for help. Well, in Mexico, I knew enough Spanish. I use Google Translate 99% of the time. And I knew just enough Spanish to maybe yell for someone, maybe order some food. So like I knew enough, we had an interpreter there actually, that was helping us.
So I thought, well, if I can get to the door and yell, I can find some help. Bill, my right arm was strong. As everyone knows, it was a right frontal, my left side, nothing was happening. And I couldn’t, process it at first. So I pulled on the bed, which was beside me so hard, it actually pulled off the casters like on those I got this mess now.
And then I just laid my head down and I thought, I’m going to die here. I can’t, something’s wrong, really bad. I thought it made me a heart attack. And I just laid my head on the floor. And as I did that phone was right in my peripheral vision right beside me.
And so I got my phone and I dialed I had one other co-worker in the same hotel. And normally I think this is the other part of the story. He never answers the phone after when we’re out of work because he doesn’t wanna be bothered, right? He’s one of those guys, which is okay, I respect that.
And this time, Bill, I heard Hey, Ken, what’s up? I was like oh I said, Steve, I’m in trouble. Something’s wrong. I don’t know what can you get the hotel manager and come to my room. And with the COVID situation, everyone was kind of leery about how you interact with people in Mexico, they were very cautious about who could go to rooms.
So it seemed like forever and I’m still laying there naked thinking about Okay, now these people are coming to my room I have no clothes on. So they come to the room. I mean, I asked my friend Hey, buddy, can you pick me up, put some shorts on because I don’t want to be like encountered by some Mexican paramedics or go to the hospital naked to the lobby.
So anyway, the hotel manager calls 911 the paramedics show up and the English the translation was a big issue right? I couldn’t communicate. They couldn’t understand what I was experiencing. I think I didn’t really know how to communicate what I was experiencing.
I just kept drinking water over and over and over I was dehydrated. So we got a hold of the translator they were going to take me to the public hospital she said absolutely not please do not take this gringo from Ohio to the public hospital we’ll take them to their to the hospitals sponsored by the university.
And so I get to the hospital and the doctor walks in and so luckily, from my neck down, I was okay. And I didn’t have any facial paralysis, but from my shoulder down, couldn’t move hands fingers. And the doctor looks at me and he says it’s probably a vascular problem.
And I was like, what’s a vascular problem? I had no idea. Um, and he explained to me something’s probably ruptured in my brain or maybe an aneurysm. And so they right away took me in for a CAT scan, I had a hemorrhage about one centimeter in, and it was about a half-centimeter in diameter, hemorrhage.
He, was very optimistic we could get this under control, we just needed to relax. So at this point, I call my wife in the US. And all I said to her, because I didn’t know actually, it was right before they told me was I didn’t know what was wrong. And I’m like, Hey, I’m in the hospital. I don’t know what’s wrong, I’ll call you back. And, geez, I got a million questions. And at the end the morning like, I don’t have any answers, I’ll call you back. And I kind of hung up then you reflect on all those things you’d like.
Yeah. So then I ended up in the ICU for the rest of the night. They got me on medication and got me up to a room. Yeah, so that got me in the room. I sort of just allowed myself to relax, I wasn’t scared and got into the moment of it too much. Because I don’t even think I really understood what it meant to have cerebral hemorrhage.
I didn’t, I didn’t contemplate it, I don’t think and my wife is behind the scenes at home. She was she’s, you know, googling and talking to people. She realizes, you know, the high percentage of mortalities and long term effects. So they allowed me to rest on Saturday, Sunday, the nurses came in, we’re using Google Translate talking to each other.
I said, I would like somebody to put me on a handicap chair, I would like to shower, I want to try somehow, the only way I can get out of here and get home is to start moving and try to get out of this. And they’re like, No, you know, try to stay calm. You have an MRI on Monday.
But then my physical therapist, Alberto, he started big, very big man came in, young guy, but he had a very gentle touch. And he was very good with me. And not just teaching me some static exercises, but breathing and cemetry. And the things I needed to do that he knew I needed to be able to get out of the hospital and attempt to get back to the USA. So at that, like at that moment, Bill, my mission wasn’t like the stroke like this paralysis. And that kind of fear gripping me it was how do I get to the USA? Like how do I get to that point where I can go home?
Wow that’s the first thing in your mind is how do you get home?
How To Get Home
How to get home. Because I’m five hours south of the border. There’s no air, there’s no flights. I can’t move. And people started calling me. You know, I’m getting messages from friends in the US. They’re like, why doesn’t someone just throw you in an ambulance and drive you across America, I was like no.
First of all, I don’t want that because I wasn’t comfortable with the ability to try and get into something like that again, if you know something. So I call my wife and I pretty much concluded, I have to get to the point where I can become at least mobile enough to get into a vehicle and be able to manage myself to the US and get on an airplane and fly to Ohio. Right?
That’s delusional, though. Like, how could you possibly be in that state where all you’re trying to do is work out how to get home, you got a brain hemorrhage. You shouldn’t be going anywhere doing anything, because it could get worse very dramatically. And very quickly. Did anyone explain that? Or was it lost in translation?
So it was explained to me. I had some excellent I had two neurologists, and they were excellent. And they did explain to me the dangers and it even came down to the very last so in the end Bill, I ended up a week in the hospital and a week in a hotel was way how I ended up two weeks of like this trying to get well enough to like travel, right.
So I ended up there, for two weeks. And, every day, the neurologists they would come and sit and talk to me and they were excellent doctors. And the very last day, before I left, I had to go see the neurologist and he explained to me the risks of flying but he what we’re all trying to balance is the recovery, what we should be afraid of, I mean, we got COVID going on, we got border shutdowns. We got like, how do we balance all these facts?
So it was pretty crazy. But during the day, while I was in the hospital night, my therapist would come for an hour in the morning, an hour an evening and all day I would sit on my bed lifting my dead arm and my dead leg and the nurses would look in there say, Kent, do you stop? I said, I got to figure this out somehow, right? I just, you know, I was just trying to figure out some way to be able to recover.
So what caused the hemorrhage? What caused the blood vessel to burst?
So I never did get a real good answer. Initially, everyone says blood pressure, but then even when I was in the hospital, everyone’s taken by, they’re like, your blood pressure’s good, you’re healthy. You know, I was a runner. So I naturally had a pretty mild 117 over 65 ish, 52 heart rate, resting.
They think maybe it was environmental, too much of heat too much of like the work like working that much in the heat. When I came to the US, they asked me about any bacterias because that can contribute to something to happen. I was checked in MRI and three CAT scans for any deformations in the vessels.
Bill to this day, nobody can firmly tell me this is why it happened. Hmm. And part of my longer story is I think that and I’m sure for lots of stroke victims. And you know, from Facebook being parts of different groups and blogs. It’s a big, it’s a part of the fear for people is how did it happen? Right? Why did it happen?
Yeah. So with your blood vessel, a burst, and then did it stop bleeding? Is it confirmed to have stopped bleeding? And did I need to open your head operate any of that stuff?
So they did not have to open my head. So it went until Monday. So I happen on Friday night. On Monday night, I had to go for a second MRI. I had one on Sunday. And then Monday night, they had to make the decision whether they had to go in. And at that point through medication it had slowed down enough, they decided they did not have to go in into my head. So it did stop on its own.
You’re being monitored now for potential further bleeds or anything like that. Are you still going to MRI?
Yeah, so now it’s down to CAT scans, they monitor the size of the area. And so yeah, so now it’s down to about four months of monitoring the beginning it was every month for two months. And then now it’s kind of like a quarterly, you know, check. CAT scan.
So there’s still blood in your brain, there’s still a clot of blood that has leaked out of the blood vessel that’s still sitting in your brain?
That’s right, it’s about the size of a walnut about one inch in?
Yeah, well, that’s quite big. So mine was about the size of a golf ball at its peak. And it was there for about a year, and then finally got better and then went away, and then it bled again. And then there was another surgery and then there was surgery in 2014. So almost three years after the first bleed. I had a third bleed, and then I had to have surgery.
So at the moment, you’ve got away with it. And it’s a good outcome. And I remember feeling amazing and really, really well. Before the third bleed. And then not understanding exactly what stroke was because I kind of I had a very mild version of it. And I didn’t even experience any left side issues, no numbness, no loss of mobility, none of that until after my surgery.
So up until there for three years, I was a little bit naive about what stroke really was. And then when I woke from surgery, I had to learn how to walk again and use my left arm and all that kind of thing. So it sounds like you, got a really big shock. You couldn’t walk you had the massive impact from the bleed in the head. And then this seems to have slowly gotten better. And you’re walking, you’re moving around I’m seeing are you left with any other residual issues. Do you feel any numbness or altered sensation or memory problems? Anything at all?
So I actually so now I’m actually like. I am jogging now like I do some physical running. But I still have and it’s funny bill when I first when I first went to the hospital, I’ve had nerve pain right here in my left shoulder and my upper bicep. And when I was in the hospital, they would ask me what my pain levels were. And it was always just this nerve that was a high pain.
And to this day, I have real limited rotation in this left arm and the left shoulder. It’s funny I can move in a linear motion no pain but in a rotation or extension it like to put a coat on it’s like a tremendous amount of pain so that’s kind of and then when i was trying when i was learning to walk again from the drop foot i got a hyper extended left knee and i almost because that foot just kept hitting in odd positions and hyperextending and then i was real close to a stress fracture on my left foot because the drop foot in my foot constantly impacting incorrectly.
So i ended up going i had a different orthotic shoe with a higher arch that would kind of try and force my foot to land flatter i did i was in that for for about a month and that resolved itself but yeah the residual is in the left but but i have a question for you Bill because you had the reoccurrence of the brain bleeding is like what what do you think what’s your advice what’s been told to you what could you give feedback to somebody like me and say this is what they told me this is what to avoid is there anything?
If you’ve had a stroke, and you’re in recovery, you’ll know what a scary and confusing time it can be? You’re likely to have a lot of questions going through your mind. Like how long will it take to recover? Will I actually recover? What things should I avoid? In case I make matters worse, doctors will explain things.
But obviously, you’ve never had a stroke before, you probably don’t know what questions to ask. If this is you, you may be missing out on doing things that could help speed up your recovery. If you’re finding yourself in that situation, stop worrying, and head to recoveryafterstroke.com where you can download a guide that will help you it’s called the seven questions to ask your doctor about your stroke.
These seven questions are the ones Bill wished he’d asked when he was recovering from a stroke, they’ll not only help you better understand your condition, they’ll help you take a more active role in your recovery. head to the website now, recoveryafterstroke.com and download the guide. It’s free.
Yeah, there is so my feedback would be, we didn’t know what caused the bleed in my brain for about I reckon about two and a half years. And then as the blood in my head started to decrease in size, and the MRI was able to see behind the blood because the blood creates a magnetic effect because there’s iron in blood so you can’t see MRI is not effective in diagnosing the actual cause.
What happened was when it got small enough the bleed in the head, they were able to see the blood vessel was actually faulty or, or it was an arteriovenous malformation, which is a malformed blood vessel. And under high blood pressure episodes, and I didn’t have high blood pressure either. But there could be a bit of dehydration running stress, whatever.
The thinnest, most weak blood vessel basically just gives way. So we learned that at about two and a half years in that that was the issue. And what I was told was that most of the times that these bleed once in a blue moon, and then sometimes they never bleed again, they heal and they never bleed, it’s very rare for them to bleed a second time, extremely rare for them to bleed a third time.
But their advice was let’s monitor it and then let’s see what happens. So we used I used to get a monthly MRIs, and then bi-monthly and then quarterly and then every six months and then by the time we got to two and a half years, everything started to look really good.
And then by about just about by about 24, 25 months some of the I’m not sure exactly what it was maybe beyond the actually just approaching the three year mark. I wake up in the morning and I felt numbness in my left side. When I was going to work I was in the car and I felt like it was also burning like there was sunburn on one side of my body only.
And I went to a hospital and they said it bled again and then my surgeon said we’re probably in a situation where we need to remove it now because leaving it is riskier than operating. So what they said to me was you need to pay attention to body your changes anything you notice that you’re not comfortable with a headache, whatever, take evasive action you know go to the hospital get it checked out immediately.
Expect the best prepare for the worst
And then from there it was me just kind of sitting not waiting for another bleed. I’m kind of the guy. I love the motto. expect the best prepare for the worst. And I’m just preparing the whole time for the worst-case scenario. So I went through that process of changing my diet, of course, stop smoking, stop drinking, I wasn’t exercising, because I couldn’t exercise, because I was told not to exercise.
But I was walking, and I was being active, and I was back at work. So I was doing a lot of those things. And then when it happened again, basically, I was the fittest, healthiest, best version of myself. When I went into surgery, I was able to, I said to the doctors be the best patient they’ve ever had, you know, delivered them a really good person or body or whatever you want to call it for them to operate on. And there wasn’t going to be a lot of complications with a guy like me is basically what I was saying to them.
So we had a really successful surgery, except when I woke up, I couldn’t feel my left side. And it had nothing to do with anything, it had to do with just the location of the faulty blood vessel that I had to remove. Right. So my suggestion would be, I think you’re doing the right thing you’re on the right track, always consult with your doctors and neurologists.
And if you feel uncomfortable or uncertain, get them involved more often make more appointments, even if you have to pay for them, even if they’re not covered by insurance, even if whatever just find a way to make it happen. So that you can have peace of mind and your wife can have peace of mind.
Because when we had peace of mind, we went about life differently more calmly, and we did a few things, particularly few things off the bucket list. And I because I did consider my mortality, I did think that this thing might kill me. So I started to just be as informed as possible by the medical world. And then with that information, I made decisions about how I’m going to approach my life, my day, my year, whatever.
And it worked really well for us. It was my decision to have the surgery. In the end, my surgeon still gave me the option to not have the surgery. But I decided to go for it. And then what’s happened now is that blood vessel is no longer there. And it can no longer bleed, there is no way that it can bleed again.
So I’ve resolved the matter once and for all, even though I live with residual side effects fatigue, left side tingling, numbness, balance issues. The whole kit and caboodle the left side, you know, is tensor more tight, more cold. Although nobody can tell, no one else can tell. So it’s a bit of a strange situation to have this experience and not be able to express it in a way to other people. How does that resonate for you?
I like that, and I appreciate you giving me that guidance. Because I think in my mind, I think you’re exactly right. I need to shift a little bit more into my regular follow ups and make sure that’s a priority. I think that’s an excellent advice. I did right away just out of fear. I cut out alcohol. I haven’t had any alcohol or caffeine. I never smoked. But we’ve my wife was already on a good path I got on her path.
And it’s like, I’ll try anything to not have that happen again. The paralysis was so debilitating. Every time I read a story or I see what’s happening to somebody or someone is on Facebook expressing how they feel. It’s a it’s a it’s it’s unimaginable and to avoid that alone to do anything, right. So exactly what you said that advice that even if it cost you money, if it costs you time if it cost you to sacrifice, I appreciate what you said because I definitely want to hold on to that as much as my internal grits of jogging and changing lifestyle.
So I really appreciate I did change. So I ended up stop. I worked for myself, I ended up in October. I was okay, so I only like 10 weeks and I was already like my doctor said hey, you know you’re clear, you can do things. So I already got like back into traveling and going. I went out to Phoenix for a project.
Dealing with Anxiety after stroke
And Bill the anxiety became overwhelming. And I couldn’t explain it. I had emotions that I never had before. Like I felt impatient. I felt anxious. When I was in a hotel. I wouldn’t go anywhere, even the bathroom or the shower without a phone in my hand because of that fear. It took me down so fast. It wasn’t like a sprain and you know firsthand. I don’t need to explain to anybody.
It’s a stroke victim listeners. It wasn’t. I’ve tried to tell people this wasn’t like a sprained back, or a sprained leg or a twinge in your neck paralysis took me down. And then I started replaying only scenarios in my head what if I like you said what if I was driving? What if I was by myself somewhere? What if I was in the shower? What if I didn’t have an all this started to grip me?
And I gave it all up in my wife’s even like just stop, stay home find a job close to the house. Come home every day for lunch and take a nap. I never used to be one of those. I don’t need a nap guy. You know, I don’t need a nap. I don’t need this. I don’t need water. If people that take naps are wimps and they don’t work hard enough. Now I come home with every day. And I take like a 15, 20 minute nap. Because that I’ve learned it. That’s what when we go to heart, even me now, I feel it very directly right here, right in right where it happened. And that’s when I know to slowed down.
And you know you’re not supposed to have any nerve endings in your brain. You’re not supposed to actually have any feelings in your brain. So don’t ask me how but I also feel my brain hurt when stuff is happening. And I can’t process it. I feel it hurt. But it’s not supposed to be possible. You don’t have any nerve sensations there any nerve endings. So I don’t know what it is.
But what you said about coming home and napping, napping is the best way to heal the brain like it is what the brain needs to recover. And there’s an amazing book by Matthew Walker called why we sleep. And that talks about all the reasons why we must sleep and his fascinating 20 year life story. You know, he’s been researching it for 20 years.
So he’s got an amazing insight. And sleep is your best friend. So if you can squeeze in naps, it’s going to recharge your batteries. But be it’s going to actually recharge your brain cells and how they operate and how they move. Right ration obviously, makes sense, you know, you need to read your hydrate. So that’s really important because that’s going to impact on fatigue and driving short distances and traveling less, I think it’s a great move, you guys did really the right thing.
And if it helps at the same time to reduce your anxiety, that’s a bonus. My, my wife decided that in 2013. So the first bleed happened in March 2012. And then in beg your pardon in fed 2012. And then in March 2012, the second bleed, and in 2013. And in 2013 The New Year’s my wife decided to leave Melbourne, Australia and fly all the way to New York to have new year’s in New York.
And I’m losing my shit can I’m going I didn’t say no, but internally, I was losing my shit. Or how am I going to be in the US, all I ever hear about the US is how bad the medical system is. The flight is 20 hours if I have another bleed in the airplane, that’s all over. You know, what the hell am I gonna do? Why am I leaving my comfort zone? Why am I leaving being five minutes from hospital to being? Probably a half a day from hospital? Why am I doing that? And if that happens in the US, it’s gonna cost me my house, my car, my everything, I’m stuck.
Nonetheless, you know, I didn’t let the fear control the decision. So I just let her I said to her, you organize everything. And I’ll turn up if you can do that. I’ll turn up. And that’s what she did. And we’re in the US. I paid for the most expensive insurance. I made sure that it covered for previous medical history issues. I made sure that it was going to cover for hospitalizations, all that kind of stuff.
So it became when we got to New York, and we were in there and we were experiencing, you know, December 26 in Manhattan. And then we were working our way up to the first of January 2013. All that stuff went away because I was there. And I was I knew there was a hospital nearby and our house was covered and all that type of thing. Every time we’ve traveled since then, it’s been the same for me. I can’t seem to get myself over that part of the why am I leaving my safety net? Why am I leaving my cave?
Now, it makes sense. And it’s logical. your body is going to you you they’d be stupid mate. Like you’ve got to stay home to you’re near help. I mean, that’s logical. So it’s a conversation that you’ve got to have with your head, your heart and your gut and your whole body and you got to go Okay, what are you telling me? Why is that important? Okay, what’s really important to me right now, where do I need to really be?
Okay, what action do I need to take and what do I not need to take? And you have to have this kind of internal dialogue and negotiation which is and make sure that it’s not just in your head. And also, you have to be completely comfortable with the fact that you’re anxious about this shit. Because you know what? It’s something to be anxious about.
Yeah. That’s all excellent points it when I first was traveling to Phoenix, as soon as I were getting a hotel bill, I was I felt like I needed that, like my blood pressure was I went bought one of those blood pressure risk things, I was so nervous about it. I’m like, reading my blood pressure every 10 minutes.
And it was always normal. And I think it was some attachment, right, some connection to being alone when that happening. And and since I’ve been home, in fact, it was funny when I was out there working. When I would get stressed, my left leg would feel heavy again. It scared the hell out of me.
And that’s when I told my wife, so I’ve been home now for about four months straight. And I’ve had no issues like that none. And it’s the environment and in, like you said in your head right in my head, something’s going to happen. I’m not home, all these factors, right? My doctor is not here. My family’s not here. It’s COVID. There’s restrictions. And separating myself from that helped tremendously.
My coaching clients often go through this, and they often work themselves up and then notice the symptoms are worse than they work themselves out more than the symptoms get worse, and so on and so on. So what’s happening is, when you’re stressing, you’re tensing your muscles, you’re decreasing blood flow, you’re decreasing, oxygenation of your body and you’re on your cells, you’re increasing perhaps your heart rates, your bloods pumping faster.
And of course, under those circumstances, you might as well be running a marathon, and fatigue is going to kick in. And then you’re going to notice your deficits more. And the best way to reduce your deficits is to breathe, calm down your breathing, that will open your blood vessels and increase blood flow that will increase oxygenation, and it will start to put you in an autonomic balanced state rather than a autonomic stressed state.
And that’s basically what you’re doing is a lot of people don’t realize that their head is in control of the process that’s occurring in their body because they’re overthinking something. And their body’s going, I better do what my head is telling me to do. Because my head is telling me that shit’s going wrong, I need a ramp up, I need to jump into fight and flight because my head’s telling me that stuff’s going wrong.
So you can intervene at that level by becoming aware of that, and then breathing, and then kind of circumventing the head and just getting into your body? Because then the head has to follow the body.
Right? Yeah that’s true. I think the other so the other part of all is Bill, so my 50th birthday was Christmas Eve last year, right, so all of a sudden, you feel like, I just had it, I’m getting ready to enter those years where I feel like now we’re gonna, like, we’re just gonna take off and you’re kind of at the end of the workings and then boom, you have this cerebral hemorrhage that is, like shook up our world.
And I think that was another big element of, you know, like, in my case, you stop feeling like a man, like a man of the house, like a man that’s there to take care of his family and like a leader in your industry, like, all of a sudden, you just feel like something else, right?
And I’m sure it’s not just stroke victims as people that have cancers or anything else that occurs to them that it got a lot better for me, but to be honest, at first, like five months, I probably had more I was dealing with psychologically. Then my physical part, I was real proud of myself.
But psychologically, I was dealing with a lot of different fears. I think, a lot of fears. I never really had fears in my life. And all of a sudden had these fears, right?
Did you seek out anyone to help you?
Not professionally, um, it was hard. When I came back from Mexico I no one would see me because I had been in Mexico, right? So even just to get into the neurologist took me three weeks. And my first neurologist was only going to see me via video six weeks later, and I said no, I’ve already been instructed by the neurologist I need to have another CAT scan at that four week mark.
So that was going to be mid September. They weren’t gonna see me till October. video I can’t do this on my wife kept calling, calling, calling and finally found somebody in a different city that was willing to see me and, and physical therapists wouldn’t see me. It was five weeks from the time I got home before I could get into physical therapy.
So if I wouldn’t have had like my guys in Mexico. So in Mexico when you talk about cost, when I stayed in the house, they were going to discharge me, like on a theater on Thursday, on Friday and industry, I asked him, I begged him, I said, Please, can I stay till Friday because I’m scared. I told the doctor straight off. I said, I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. I have some friends here. But, you know, I said, I don’t really know what to do.
So I arranged to go to a hotel and get a handicap room. And I arranged with the hospital to send nurses to the room in the morning. And a physical therapist, the same physical therapist would come visit me at the hotel. Bill, the nursing was $6 us an hour to come to the hotel to help me. And the physical therapist was $30 I come back to the US my first visit with a copay for physical therapy and occupational therapy when I finally got to was over $500 right.
So luckily, when I was in Mexico, I could keep paying for the people to come every day, every day, every day, like we were just playing screwball stuff being the nurse guys would play catch with a ball a little bit, you know, we would do little agility things. The physical therapists he knew I was trying to get enough agility, strength, whatever. It wasn’t much strength, but more balanced control.
So he was pushing me hard. Like he’s got me in a hotel room doing swimming moves I want I couldn’t even move my arm, I can’t do it. He’s going stronger, stronger in Spanish. go go. So I come home. And I told my wife I said, I read a book I was calling it up. When I was talking to you The Brain’s Way of Healing by by Dr. Dodge its was the as a good book, I read that when I was on Google Books, while I was in the hospital, I called my wife I said, buy me a 10s machine off Amazon the best we can get off Amazon obviously not medical grade, but still.
And one of those under desk bicycle things because Alberto in Mexico was teaching me a lot about symmetry everything I had to do with him with some with symmetry. It’s all symmetrical every single exercise, right? And nothing was without symmetry. So my theory was if I could stimulate these muscles, they weren’t doing anything on their own. And I could get on this symmetrical bike and keep doing the static exercises. At least till I got the physical therapy, I would be at a good foundational base.
And then Luckily, the weather was good enough, it wasn’t winter here. My wife would take me to our local college, I would do steps getting the wheel, I would step with my cane. But again, to seek help, it was hard because I couldn’t get him license. And yeah, luckily and I think it’s you know, a lot of caregivers, I read about that you’re on different Facebook sites. Luckily, my wife, like she bought into it wholeheartedly. Like this is a mission of ours, not just mine to try and rehabilitate, and food and rest and you know, I blow my stack and we went for a walk and in time and I got upset threw my cane across the park.
And you know, things all happen, right? Sometimes we have a little wacky about I couldn’t walk I was frustrated and I you know, would fall down and but but luckily, I think a huge part of it. In my ability that learn to grip with it was I had someone on my side that was going through with me. And the fact that we decided together like look, this professional stuff going on broad is going all over is not going to work. So to answer your question, no, I didn’t get professional help. I don’t wanna make any excuses for it, because I think there is value in it.
There’s value in it but you had a stroke at the worst time. And you can’t really do anything about that. I know, lots of people had stroke during COVID. And unfortunately, they all went through the same kind of terrible time trying to access support help anything.
And it’s one of the big issues about strike at the moment. It’s that it’s delaying people getting support and getting help and getting therapy. And therefore it’s making the recovery more challenging. So, you know, it’s a real issue. And look, it’s not something that you can’t do. It’s something that you can do any at any time. And why I’m saying that is because stroke recovery is not just about the physical part.
It’s an emotional recovery. It’s a mental recovery. And it’s a physical recovery. There’s three elements to it. And if you’re just doing one of them, they’re not paying attention to the rest of the recovery. It’s really important that you’re not just doing one of them and not paying attention to the others emotionally.
Three elements to stroke and anxiety recovery
My biggest recovery I think was the emotional one. And it still is and I spoke about it on Instagram blog posts I did the other day you know, which was about about emotions that just come out of nowhere. And I started crying, I’m at a party. And I’m with people. And they ask a lovely question, or they’re curious to know about me. And I started telling him a little bit of a story.
And then before I know it, I’m, you know, crying all over the place, and it still happens, and it’s nine years out. So that’s kind of where my, the majority of my ongoing recovery is sort of focused. Mentally, I did the counseling, psychology, all that kind of stuff, and I still do, I still get counseling and coaching. Because I don’t believe that I’m going to do all these things in my life on my own.
You know, I’m trying to have a podcast, and run a podcast and run my life and run my family and run my work and all that kind of stuff. Imagine trying to do that all on your own, and not knowing how to do any of it, and really learning how to do it. I mean, it’s just not something that everyone should take on their own alone, it’s something that you should reach out for support with and the support doesn’t need to be dramatic.
But somebody taught me how to record an audio in an interview, and then how to put that on a podcast page. If I had tried to work it out myself would have taken forever, and I don’t have forever to try and solve every problem on my own. You know, when you’re working with Tesla, they’ve got people to help with everything. And there’s a reason for that is because Kent Bragg, he cannot work out how to make a Tesla car work on his own.
Yeah. That’s right. And I think I think that’s why when I was going through recovering, I started like jogging and running again, get replaced, like some some of my profession like, well, how I used to be 100 miles an hour in my profession. I think it’s replacing that because psychologically, it’s a way for me to measure progress. I’m that kind of person, right? I have, it’s a way for me to fill that void.
And for a while, my wife thought I was getting wacky, because like, two, three times a day, I’m getting on my treadmill doing a mile or two. And she’s like, I think you’re getting addicted to this. But I think kind of like what you were saying, it was a way for me to feel like I was making progress and measured, right? Because I changed gears in my professional life.
And another thing back up, and I’m sure people can relate with this. I go back in the professional world. And all of a sudden, there was like some simple things I couldn’t figure out, like some simple math things. And that was my thing before. And like somebody asked me something in a meeting, and I said something like crazy, it wasn’t even accurate.
I’m thinking after the meeting, as it were like it wouldn’t, I couldn’t like process it immediately. And so, like the exercising and the fitness became a way for me to measure some progress. What’s kind of scary is what happens if you don’t want to do that anymore? Like where do you keep finding the way to know you’re okay, like after the stroke?
Curiosity? That’s it, just get curious and notice little things. I asked the other day, you know, on the Instagram page, what are some of the little things that people have had a wind in recently? So in order to try and get people focusing on the little wins? So not the big ones? Not I can run a marathon again. That’s kind of what the question was about.
And I have a listen to what some of the people said, my mom woke up and cooked a meal for me. Better balanced to ride my bicycle. My five year anniversary is coming up. Since my stroke two years ago, I lost my appetite. And now I have my appetite back. I was able to wiggle my toes in my left foot haven’t been able to do that since the stroke and put flip flops on.
Went back to where I was two months ago. With my family. I was snowboarding, I can tie up my running shoe laces. We are tied over those, you know. So that’s how you measure it, you measure it by the little wins. Of course, you measure the big wins, I’m walking again, or I’m moving again or I’m working again.
But you measure all those little things as well. And when you haven’t got anything that’s obvious, just become grateful for what you’ve got. And gratitude means he’s going to take you to the next level, even though you’re not really noticing changes or anything like that.
But just noticing that you’re grateful about stuff is a really good thing. I just started to become grateful about things that I could do. After I wasn’t walking or couldn’t walk. I was just grateful that I had opportunity to be in a hospital where they could teach me how to walk again. Oh, my God.
Yeah. So I developed a, I think for the future, I want to study like some physical therapy kind of education, like try to get into more that have a deep empathy. A lot of people I read on different sites, they all of a sudden you have an empathy for people to go through this.
Because in the US, and maybe other places I can’t expect, speak for everywhere, but if you don’t have access to the medical care, or the or the father, there’s a huge gap between where people can, what you can get. And for some people that may not have been naturally athletic or naturally want to work out or, you know, they may not be able to get that same sort of traction, I think that I had.
Helping others after stroke
So, you know, part of my passion as I get older now, and as I move forward in my life is I want to be able to work with people and possibly help their physical kind of coaching level, it’s one of my passions now.
Beautiful passion, mate and it’s for a great cause. And guess what’s going to happen as you’re helping other people get physically more active and better, it’s gonna help you get physically more active and better. And it’s just a matter of time. And that’s kind of what happens to me, you know, when I’m coaching people, of course, I’ve got to practice what I preach, otherwise, I can’t really take them through.
And I can’t be the guy who, you know, says, do this and do what I say not what I do, you know, I can’t be that guy. So it helps you stay grounded to your core values, your core beliefs. And really, it’s like, all these people listening to my podcast and keeping me accountable. There’s 4000 downloads a month, nearly. So you know, I’ve got to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Because what’s the point of doing it if I’m not, and that’s what you’ll find? You’ll find that when you support somebody, and you see somebody overcome something or achieve something, you’re gonna feel so good about that. So I really encourage you to do that. Now, I realize also that you’re only about a year out. You’re not that far out from stroke.
Yeah, no. It’d be eight months in April.
Just give yourself time, mate. Allow yourself the time to just get you right first, do you first and then worry about everyone else. So I didn’t start my podcast until 2015. And that was a full year after my brain surgery. But it was almost three and a bit years after my initial experience.
And even then, I wasn’t really into it fully. I was interviewing people haphazardly, and not too much and not with too much focus. So I was just doing it just to meet people all over the world. And it was great. Give yourself heaps of time to just get Kent right. And then start focusing on everybody else. But if that brings you joy, if it brings you joy, helping other people when you can, when you feel up to it, then do that as well.
Yeah, yeah. As I’ve been so my new jobs and is it a university that’s real close to our home. So that’s been a real rewarding change coming out of primarily, I was an automotive my entire life. So now it’s a real nice transition into a different way of thinking a different way of prioritizing. Like my efforts and where they’re going and, and that larger perspective of, you know, why do I get up every single morning and go do something?
So it’s been pretty neat and and you know, I think that’s a again the beginning of my story is luck great people on hard work is kind of how I structure my story. And I you know, I think kind of luck at the end there is also still because I still have great people and things have worked out well.
And but I really it’s funny, I never knew anything about a stroke ever. I didn’t know anything about anything really medical to be honest with you. I was kind of like nuts and bolts like I said, industrial entrepreneur dude. And now I’m like learning about sites like yours.
And talking to people online. And you know, the experience. People have lots of different types of stroke, obviously, you know, some that you know, what affects the speech and memory and it’s, there’s so many elements of it. And there’s so many parts of it that are really scary, right?
There’s so many different ways and in in types of strokes that can happen. But going through I definitely developed a strong sense of empathy for people going through it people. You know, I never really thought a lot about ADA, American Disabilities Act until I was 18. in a wheelchair, and I’m in this hotel in Phoenix before my the night before my flight fans like a Radisson hotel real fancy, well, the carpets too long, I can’t wheel, I can’t get in the door.
I couldn’t, you know, it’s like, all sudden you start to think about these things that are important to people that are that are handicapped in that situation. And so that it definitely changed my life. And, and it’s I don’t feel that gripping fear is starting to not be the gripping fear, but it’s still a respectful feeling of like you said, walk the walk and talk the talk.
Because you know, I now even people in other conditions that I work with or encounter, they have things that have nothing to do with a stroke. But I say, Hey, you know what, what’s going on with your diet? More? Hey, you know, how’s your hydration Look, I used to be that guy. I only got coffee from water and beer. That’s it. That’s where I got my water from, right?
So but now, all I drink is water all day. And I find it refreshing. It took about six months and for about the first five months after the stroke. And every night, I would dream about having a beer with guys and hanging out. Right. It was like this psychological thing.
But now, you know, like, I’m reminded of it and I, you know, remind people like, Hey, you know, what’s your diet look like? You’re having some blood pressure issues, what’s your diet look like? You know, you’re having strains in your knees, like, you know, what can you do from a physical standpoint to help with that? So those were some of the things that beyond the physical part.
You know, the thing you mentioned with the beer with the mates, you know, it’s also an emotional thing. Because if you think about it, you know, having a beer with your mates, talking junk, and just having a laugh and relaxing, it’s got a lot to do with the emotional aspect of that, you know, that’s how we connect with people. And I don’t know about your mates, but my mates struggled when I stopped drinking alcohol and going out with them to bars or clubs or wherever.
And then drinking water or asking for an ice to water to make it look in the same glasses of vodka to make it look like I was having a vodka, you know? Yeah, they really struggled with that, you know, it was a bit of an issue for them. More so than it was for me, because for me, it was a no brainer was no chance I was having alcohol, especially in that critical period where things could go seriously wrong, you know.
I’ve even had some people challenge me and say, they told you you can’t have alcohol and no one. Bill they like flat out told me. Nobody said you can’t have coffee. No one said you can’t. And I still have decaf coffee sometimes. Right? Just for the flavor. Yeah, so no doctor specifically said it. But the more I read, like number one thing was keep blood pressure down. Right? So anything that was a blood pressure increaser became a priority.
And, my response to them always is somewhere along the lines. Not exactly, but no one told me. But that paralysis was my scared straight program that fast. No, hey, I mean, if you wanna scare someone straight? Yeah, that was it. Because to be in that situation, again, I’ll do whatever I have to do to avoid it. No matter what it is.
I hear you and I also say to them, you don’t want me to be sick again. Do you? I do a little bit of the emotional blackmail on them? You know? Because they they mean well. And I know why they’re saying what they’re saying. It’s just, you know, we can’t i can’t be the same like I was because I’m not the same anymore.
Things changed that day. And I’m not willing to go back to that. And I tell them now that, you know, when I drink I feel like I’m having another stroke. I mean, that’s not fun anymore. Like it doesn’t feel nice. I know, I’m not having another stroke, but that’s what it feels like. I’m not interested.
Yeah, that’s what I told my wife, and she supports me 100% In fact, I joke with her all the time. I mean, we get modelos tonight, right? So it’s our kind of the joke because we know we’re not going to but that feeling of not having control again. I don’t want to deal with it. It’s scary to me. And as I as I’m talking to Bill, you notice I touch right at that spot. It’s still psychologically that like, it’s still an impact.
So it is your I know I know because I do that with my side You know, I always do this, you know, like I always tried to, I don’t know massage it or calm it down or something. I don’t know what it is, but I find my hand going there. Especially when I’m having that you know head stress moment, you know, that stressful moment or whatever, you know, my head’s over doing some story and I need to bring things down and I’ve got to go there and touch it and stop it and you know, do all these things and massage my own head and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but it works yeah.
People would think that I’m bizarre and weird, which I am. But even more so, one of the things I wanted to give you is a bit of a gift. And this gift is a gift of a particular word to shift you from being a stroke victim to being a stroke survivor, the community talks about us as being survivors.
A Stroke Survivor
And I like that, because what it does, it will shift your perhaps it’ll shift your, your state of victimhood and it will turn it into survivor. And the difference is massive a victim is somebody who is at the whim of this thing that happens to them, a survivor is somebody that’s going to become better because of it. So I’m going to give you that gift of you have earned the right to call yourself a stroke survivor.
Excellent. That’s great. Thank you. Yeah, well, I really appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. And when I put my story on the American Heart Association, I redid it when I want to do my podcast with you just like it kind of reframe like, the whole sort of story a little bit. But really, the and I, you know, when I talk to people on that work on the streets or out running, or whatever we do.
I want to encourage them to, I want to encourage them to to, you know, look at their life and if they are having health issues to to do a self assessment, right? Maybe, maybe, because I gotta be honest with myself, sometimes maybe it wasn’t just some crazy fluke of too hot to this, too. Maybe it was a part of us because of what I was doing. Right? My life.
And, and now, the ability to take a self-assessment is very valuable to me. And that’s what kind of what I like to share on my story is take a self-assessment. If people in your life or you need to talk to them, maybe you’ll give them a little bit of that take away from your assessment. And so so it was pretty crazy. But now I think I have a different way of looking at life for sure.
The years the days you count out seem to be more like you put it in perspective, right? Yeah, you put it there. And I I’ve had a lot of good positive things that have happened because of this, that there since this happened, that it’s hard to quantify, right? It wasn’t all bad. I there’s been a lot of good my life. Now. That’s a result of what happened.
Yeah, absolutely. And if you can focus on that, that will help. But also when the the terrible difficult things come up, deal with them as well. I did what you just said as well, I also took responsibility for my own part, the role that I played in making that blood vessel bleed, there’s no doubt about it. I was born with that. So it wasn’t technically not, you know, my fault that it happened.
And if I wasn’t born with it, maybe I would have gone through life without a stroke, but perhaps a heart attack. You know, because I was smoking, I was drinking, I was working too much. I wasn’t taking care of my body. I was stressed. I was yelling and screaming. And I was a mess. Like, there was so much shit that was going on.
That it makes sense that the weakest part of my body said, I’ve had enough I’m giving up on this guy, I’m not taking it. I’m going to bleed or lake or whatever it was doing. And then. And then if I wasn’t born with that thing, like how many years because I was 37? Kent. So how many years longer? Would it have taken for something else more dramatic to happen?
If that did happen, could it have been catastrophic, and then we’re not around to talk about it. And how much more time was going to go and live my life in that stressed-out crazy way. Because there was no enjoyment there. What was the point of living that kind of life, I was making everyone around me miserable.
So a lot of good has come from it. I’m the kind of guy I’ve managed to get to the point where I can reflect back on as many people that can say the stroke was one of the best things that ever happened to them. Lots of people can’t and I accept that as well. And I’m okay with that.
But I don’t know maybe there is a way for everybody to move towards that path regardless of the wheelchair that you’re in, regardless of the hand you can’t move or the job that you’ve lost and all that kind of thing. What are the gifts and what are the lessons that we can take out of it because we are not just our job and we are not just the kind of people that we when we walk or when we can use our we are most much more than that, and we have to find new ways to identify.
And that is our responsibility to do that. It’s no one else is going to help you find a way to be in the world with the deficits that you have. You’ve got to find a way that you know, you know, I’ll say this and I’m gonna say the only way I know how to be crass or be crude, is that you know what shits me is that the guy that wins a gold medal in the Paralympics, perhaps waited until he was a paraplegic before he decided to put it out there and be the best in the world at the sport that he chose. But I’m glad that he did that after that.
That shits me that he waited that long, but I’m glad he did it eventually. You know, I don’t know why we do it. Because I’m that guy. Like, I know who I am. Like, I’m not talking about other people here. I’m talking about me. So I waited that long to do a podcast. I waited that long to go to New York. I waited that long to do all this stuff. Yeah. And really, if it wasn’t for my wife making me do those things, so that I can brag that I’ve been to New York. New Year’s Eve. Yeah, I wouldn’t have gone I wouldn’t have done it. I would have gone back into my shell. Yep.
Yeah, I burned up the last decade my 40 and burn it up on the road, car plant you know, all these high profile stuff I’ve you know, I’ve rattled off the people sounds incredible. I’ve worked in aerospace, I worked in mining, I worked in audit, all these incredible things my entire 40s is burned up by 30s. My 50s would have been burned up exactly the same because I wouldn’t have stopped because it was the it was the lifestyle was the money it was the everything.
Well, now all of a sudden, I’m not gonna die. Now all of a sudden, I’m enjoying life. Now all of a sudden, me and my wife got the garden supplies out last weekend we’re ready to do last year, she did it all by herself because I was off doing car plans for other people, right?
So now, it’s funny when I start changing gears in December and decided to stop going on the road. I told Donna, I said, I’m going to burn up this year 2021, just like last year, and we’re getting going further back as he gets too depressing. But all of a sudden, now we’re living a different life.
And one of the most catastrophic things that maybe not, to me it was you know, lots of things happens, different people that maybe there’s more still happening. I don’t know that it took a catastrophic event to get me to this good spot I’m at. And I’m very thankful for that.
That is a great way to end the podcast. Kent, thank you so much for being my guest.
All right BIll, thank you.
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