Luis Diaz says that gang life in LA was worse than experiencing a stroke. His leg is in so much pain because of the neurological deficits that stroke caused, that he is seriously considering having his leg amputated.
06:05 Waking Up In a Pandemic
10:21 Nerve Pain After Stroke
20:05 Foot Infection
26:19 Short-term Memory Issues
30:56 The Gang Life
40:01 Settling Down
52:45 Acquired Mindset
1:01:24 We All Want The Same Thing
1:07:23 Stroke In The Middle of a Pandemic
1:14:15 Taking Responsibility For Your Own Recovery
My left side is my bad side. Yeah, that side is my leg is constantly on fire it’s like a match. Like, you don’t turn it off. You had a podcast where there was a lady that had her leg cut off.
And it was very interesting. Because, I’m to the point where I would rather them take my leg, then give me a fake one. That’s how much pain that is, you know, I’m up in age, I really don’t want to be struggling. But I’m only out of the hospital six months. So you know I’ve got to give it some time to work at it and see where it’s at.
This is the recovery after stroke podcast, with Bill Gasiamis, helping you navigate recovery after stroke.
Hello, and welcome to Recovery After Stroke a podcast full of answers, advice and practical tools for stroke survivors to help you take back your life after a stroke and build a stronger future. I’m your host three times stroke survivor, Bill Gasiamis.
After my life was turned upside down and I went from being an active father to being stuck in hospital, I knew if I wanted to get back to the life I loved before My recovery was up to me.
After years of researching and discovering I learned how to heal my brain and rebuild a healthier and happier life than I ever dreamed possible. And now I’ve made it my mission to empower other stroke survivors like you to recover faster, achieve your goals and take back the freedom you deserve.
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Introduction – Nerve Pain After Stroke
Head to recoveryafterstroke.com To find out more after this podcast episode. But for now, let’s dive right into today’s episode. This is Episode 157 and my guest today is former gang member Luis Diaz.
Stabbed at 13 and living the gang life until his early 20s. Luis is very comfortable saying that stroke is not the worst thing that has happened to him, gang life was. Luis Diaz, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you. Thank Bill.
Thank you for being here. Tell me a little bit about what happened to you Luis?
Well, I had a stroke. I don’t remember when, May of last year. And I woke up in the hospital well, actually, I woke up in daycare but I was a couple of months, I was on life support. So all that happened, I woke up in daycare. Time has just gone by my kids get bigger. Daycare was it wasn’t nice. I didn’t have good experience.
Is it daycare in hospital?
Was it was in a hospital. I’m glad I had another stroke coming to the hospital. Because the hospital really took care of me.
Okay, so how old were you at the time?
So you were 46 at the time?
And you had a stroke. But did they not realize that it was a stroke at the beginning? What happened like how?
No, from my experience, I know they took a lot of blood samples. So they were trying to figure out why I had the stroke or what gave it to me. So a lot of doctors have told me that I was hyper syphilis.
Some doctors think it’s something I ate, others think It was an infection in my brain. So they took a lot of blood samples from me to the point where they couldn’t find a vein anymore stick blood. They were taking it from my head.
So they couldn’t work out what caused the stroke. So they have no idea still to this day that you’ve had a stroke for this reason or that reason?
No, I mean, I have some doctors that right away would tell me it’s hyper syphilis. But to this day, I haven’t been told, this is what caused it.
Okay. On the day of the stroke, what were you doing? Were you just going about your business per normal? And then you started to notice some problems? What was that like?
I was on my ex’s house. But honestly, I don’t remember having it. I don’t remember getting picked up. I don’t remember going to the hospital. I don’t remember nothing till like two months later. I woke up at daycare.
Two months later?
Waking Up In a Pandemic
Wow, man. And when you woke up there, two months later, who’s in the room with you? Is your family there? What happens?
No, actually. The pandemic has just started. So I woke up in this pandemic, they wouldn’t allow family members to visit me. Everything has to be done through FaceTime.
Did you wake up and wonder where am I? What am I doing here? Did anyone give you any information that made you feel better about where you were?
No, It was just waking up. And I was like where am I? In daycare I could talk, when I got to the hospital I couldn’t talk. Yeah, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk. And they were feeding me through my stomach.
First time you know about anything is you wake up at two months later, there’s tubes in your stomach? You don’t know how you got there. Man what was going on in your head at the time? Are you, I don’t know. I’m just trying to understand like, what is that like? It sounds like it would be pretty scary or be crazy.
Yeah, it was pretty crazy. Yeah. I mean, the the hospital was really, really wonderful. I couldn’t say much more about them. But they took real good care of me. Daycare was just like he’s here, they’re paying us and we’ll just take care of him. But Daycare was horrible. At least the one I was at. It was just I’m glad I had another stroke, I’m glad I ended up at the hospital.
So you had another stroke. How soon after the first one?
I think it was almost 14 days, It was two months later, but when I got out of life-support. I was at daycare for almost 14 days when I started getting another one. And then that’s when I woke up in the hospital.
And you still didn’t know. No idea why the second one happened. Also we didn’t know why the first one happened still?
No, the nurses kind of told me a little bit but it had to be done through FaceTime everything. Everything was through computer everything. So I couldn’t see my family can talk to them. Everything was facetime if I wanted to talk to and I’m lucky that my brother’s wife is she just billing so she was very familiar with it. She helped me out a lot. They helped me out tremendously. And I thank them for that.
So when you woke up did you have some things that you couldn’t do anymore? Did you have deficits was there issues with your body physically? What were you dealing with?
I lost a lot of weight. They were feeding me through my stomach. So I was getting real skinny. They were basically give me shakes in my stomach. And then I couldn’t move. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk I had a tube right here.
I think they call it a tracheotomy or something.
I had to get trached. And they put that on there. But, you know, time goes on. I mean, I’ve been on about six months. So, you know, I’m walking now I’m talking. And I thank God for that.
Nerve Pain After Stroke
Is there anything that still bothers you every day because of the stroke things that it caused, like, do you have numbness anywhere or any issues?
Yeah, my left side is my bad side. Yeah, that side is my leg is constantly on fire. It’s like a match. Like, you don’t turn it off. You have a podcast where there was a lady that had their leg cut off and it was very interesting. Because I’m to the point where I would rather them take my leg, then give me a fake one. That’s how much pain it is.
Louis, that’s dramatic. Man, that is really dramatic. Because I never expected to find one person on the planet, that would say, I decided to cut my leg off because it was too painful. And now here’s a second person that seriously considering it. Are you seriously considering it? Or is it just something that is interesting to you? Because you heard it on the previous episode?
It’s interesting to me, because I heard it on your podcast. And you know, I’m up in age, I really don’t want to be struggling. But I’m only out of the hospital. Six months, so you know I’ve got to give us some time to work at it and and see where it’s at does. But I’m definitely considering it.
Does the pain stop you from you living a full life? Does it get in the way of your daily activities?
It does, but I’m used to the pain though, I have a high pain tolerance. It doesn’t mean I like it. But you know, mine is higher than somebody else’s.
Does it mean that you’re struggling to walk with it? Is it bad when people touch it? How does the leg feel?
Yeah, my daughter slaps it once in a while. I call it my dead foot. But sometimes it just doesn’t feel good. You know how when you sit on your leg or your arm and it falls asleep? It’s how it feels 24-7.
Yeah, that’s my leg and my left side, that’s all my left side feels like that. And the burning sensation is not that bad. All the time, sometimes it’s really bad. And, you know, if you drive the car, and I’m next to my wife, and she’s on my left side, and you know how sometimes in the car, you know, you touch your wife’s knee or you touch her hand or whatever.
But if she does that, to me, and she touches my left side, I have to tell her to stop touching me. So I say it because she’s trying to be gentle and nice. But if that’s extremely painful to me, so I have to remind her, that she’s actually causing me pain and she doesn’t like it because she’s trying to be gentle.
But that’s just how it is. All the time. 24 seven, and at night, I sleep on my left side. Because if I slip on my right side, the left side touches the sheets and the sheets because they’re light and they shift a little bit.
They actually interfere with my sleep, they cause pain and they wake me. So if I sleep on my left side on my numb side, what happens is I kind of squash it with my bodyweight. And then it doesn’t send pain signals. For some reason. I can’t understand it. But that’s how it works.
I sleep on the left side. I just being on the left side. It’s mostly numb. So to me, it’s just dead weight.
And when you get out of bed at night, if you go to the toilet, or in the morning, do you have to pay attention and be really careful when you get out of bed to make sure that you don’t fall over?
Oh, I fell on my brother’s once. And ever since that day I promised to myself on so I knew he had to pick me up, heard me. And sure enough, he picked me up. I’m a tall guy. So him picking up dead weight was tremendous.
How tall are you?
I’m six foot and I weigh like 240 so for him to pick me up dead weight, it was not easy for him. I promised myself since that day, I will never fall again. And I never have.
I hope so man, I hope you never fall again. The lady that we were talking about earlier was on episode 136. Sarah Curley, and yeah, she had spasticity in her leg, which was so bad it was causing her so much pain.
I think she did the amputation, I think it was below the knee. I’m not sure I can’t remember exactly. And she said it changed her life for the positive like for the better completely changed our life.
I follow her and, she hikes and she does a lot of the things I like to do. And I definitely don’t want the leg to get in my way. I would rather them take it and me continue in my life than struggle with it. That’s just my opinion.
Yeah that’s a fair enough opinion. Is it getting in your way? Is it stopping you from going on those hikes? And doing those types of things with your family and your friends?
No, I mean, by now I manage myself where I can go, or how far can I walk? What’s going to get me tired? So I go to the gym it takes me about 20 minutes to get there. I do about an hour at the gym, another 20 minutes back.
And I feel fine. So that tells me I could go a little longer. So you know, that’s where I’m at right now. And we’ll see in about a year. I’m taking medication for the leg. If it helps, I’ll continue. If not, then I’m really considering just take the sucker.
If you’ve had a stroke, and are 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, because 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 find yourself in that situation, stop worrying, and head to recoveryafterstroke.com where you can download a guide that will help you.
It’s called 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, you’re considering everything. Okay that’s fair enough, man. To be honest, it’s a bit shocking to hear that but I am not in that situation. So I don’t understand but I have a friend who lost both his legs due to a disease called meningococcal when he was 19.
But before, so he lost one of them above the knee. And then I think it was about five or six years later, he decided to go back and have the other one removed as well because it was so damaged after the disease kicked in when he was 19 that it was stopping him from being able to live a full life and to be really free.
And he had the awareness in his head. He kind of said when they took my my first leg off. That one is not stopping me from doing anything because he had a you had a middle leg and all that kind of stuff that made it perfectly fit fit him and all that type of thing.
And then he realized that it wasn’t the amputated leg that was causing him problems. It was the one that wasn’t amputated that was making his life extremely difficult. And he went back and he got it cut off at the same location. And now he is balanced. Now he can run on his prosthetic legs, he can play golf, which he loves to do.
He can do everything that he couldn’t do before when he had one prosthetic leg and his well, his sick leg because his leg was really sick at the time. Right so I I’ve had this conversation with a few people before.
And it’s I’m starting to understand what’s behind it rather than just get shocked by the conversation and go Yeah, well man that sounds dramatic. You know, it’s serious stuff behind that it’s not just, I’m gonna cut my leg off and that’s crazy.
Foot Infection And Nerve Pain After Stroke
Yeah. I like to be outdoors. I like to be out there and just experience life, and I don’t want my leg bothering me. And the other thing is during the pandemic, they wouldn’t cut your nails.
So my feet got real bad. They just wouldn’t cut them. So I was forced to have, like if I would get an ingrowned toenail, I had let it pop out to the side. It was very painful, and that was because they just weren’t allowed to trim you.
And yeah, so when I would go on walks, like my feet will bleed and I would have to wait a day or two for them to heal and my left side is my bad side. So that foot got really infected.
So I was just like, I mean, I get them trimmed professionally, you know, my daughter takes me, but in the hospital they wouldn’t do that. That was about four to five months of just you’re nails growing. So if you had an ingrown you just let it pop out to get some kind of relief.
That’s so bad, because I’ve had ingrained before exactly what you’re saying. And trying to let it do anything is really hard and you can’t sleep at night. You can’t put the covers over you because it stings.
And if it’s on the left side, my left side that makes it worse. 10 times worse. And I’ve got to get a trim those nails. You can’t You can’t do that. I’ve never heard somebody tell me that because of the pandemic. They couldn’t get the nails cut, man.
Yeah. They wouldn’t even allow nail clippers in there at all. No nail clippers. I would ask to have my nails I remember the first time I asked if I can have them trimmed. Nope, we don’t allow them in here.
That’s so weird.That is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. But I’m continuously being surprised by new things I hear about this pandemic.
Yeah. And you know, I woke up in it. So I guess to them, it was new, to me, to my daughter’s right now. It’s all new to them, You know I have a shunt in my head, I have a big bump in my head.
Oh, that’s a nice one.
Yeah. There’s a machine in my head it drains into my stomach, keeps me alive.
So that was one of the results of whatever happened to you, whatever caused the stroke, you therefore needed a shunt to keep the the cerebral fluid, not creating pressure in your head and expand and causing more problems.
Yeah, so the extra fluid just drains to my bladder.
Does that mean you have to go to the toilet more often?
Exactly the kids always telling me drink more water but I don’t want to go to the bathroom. It takes some issue to go to the bathroom. You know, I just haven’t got it all down yet. You know? Like when I take a shower to rely on the wall, when I change, you know, you know, putting my shorts on. So I have to rely on all that.
You may have got a lot of things in common because when I take a shower, it’s really dangerous. It can be really dangerous. Yeah. Because you know, in the shower before you know you lift one foot and you wash between your toes and you’re standing on the other foot, right?
Well, I can’t do that anymore, either. And I have to lean on the tiles on the cold tiles. And make sure that when I lift my foot to wash underneath it with the soap that I’m not going to fall over like it really it’s very scary actually. I never feel comfortable in the shower.
You know what I don’t either. And my left foot I hate cleaning it, that’s the most painful part is my foot. So having to wash it and clean it. It’s annoying. It’s just it’s painful. So I definitely don’t enjoy that at all.
I agree with you
And it’s not like more frequent, before I used to take a shower, like three times a day, if I would sweat, I would be in the shower. But now you know, I go to the gym and you know before I go to bed, I go to shower. So that’s two showers a day. It’s just, I try to avoid the foot as much as possible.
Yeah, I understand. Do you ever walk barefoot?
Is that good for you? Or is it weird because I can’t walk barefoot. It’s really strange.
No, I mean, I’ve kind of learned to deal with it. You know, but being barefoot doesn’t bother me. You know, if it goes away the pain later on mostly. But right now it’s fairly new. But I don’t want to be in pain. You know, for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be like that.
And are they giving you pain medication for that?
They’re giving me they say I have nerve damage. So they’re giving me something for it. But if that doesn’t help, you know, I have to make a decision down the roadr?
Man, that’s a pretty full on decision. Tell me how old were the kids when you had the stroke?
Short-term Memory Issues From Cryptogenic stroke
I think my oldest is 22, 20. She’s 19 when it happened. My little one was 14, and I just had Newborn and he was three months old. So it was all new to me. I mean, I remember the kids. I can’t remember short.
I mean, I remember you, but I could forget.
Short-term memory issues?
Yeah, exactly. I need to take notes now. My daughter has put my email, phone number, and code in my notes. So I’ll forget that. I’ll be like oh, damn, I forgot that. I’ll come back later.
Do you remember your home address?
Yeah, I remember that.
Yeah. But the kids that was one of the first things they asked me was about my kids. And how old were they. And so I go on old rolls. It’s always the oldest to the youngest. And then, you know, it goes from one, two, the three. And then the nurses looking at me and I’m like, shit that’s right I have the son.
And it really wasn’t that I forgot. It’s just he was so young when it happened. You know, when it when it when I woke up in the hospital? I mean, we’re learning to walk together. Me and him are no, ha ha. He just slept. Yeah. So me and him are like, like, he knows who I am. And I’m grateful for that. But for a while, I didn’t want anything. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. I didn’t want the mother to see me that way. I didn’t want my son to have a father way. So that was very difficult. But for me, it was just like, I don’t want I don’t want my son assuming like this. My kids are working. When my son was three, four months old. I just didn’t want to have him around me. Yeah, me being like that. But the mother’s real good about telling them who I am and always reminding them that that’s your dad and that she drops him off every week. So tomorrow will be our first tip over tomorrow. So okay,
that is awesome. Man. That’s so good to hear. So, who’s walking better? Is he better at walking at the venue? Or are you better than him? Well, I had back surgery. So yeah, I have to keep up with a good Yes, all this energy hasn’t had that so good. It’s a good motivation, isn’t it? It’s something to really motivate you to get better.
It’s really good motivation. Yeah. Like I know, I’ve got the Zilla take off. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s all over the house is here. They’re up and over. Yep. He keeps me on my toes.
The other kids live with you.
My daughter’s daughter take care of me. My middle daughter lives up the street. So she’s always
over here. So if you need a babysitter, everyone’s close. You can get them to yeah
Yeah. Well maybe not my son, my son don’t really like my daughter’s only like one of them. But he has his reasons.
Yeah for sure they probably don’t let him do whatever he wants. And he gets upset with him. They give him a hard time.
Something like that. You know, he doesn’t like to be told no. We tell him no, it’s drops his bottle or whatever he has in his hand he drops and starts crying. He just doesn’t wanna hear it.
You know what’s interesting Luis? Is you sound like stroke sounds like it’s been pretty bad to you, right? In the beginning especially it always is most people don’t really have a good thing to say about stroke. And I completely except that there’s always the same, right.
The Gang Life
But on my Instagram. A couple of weeks ago, I asked a question, which was “Is stroke, the worst thing that ever happened to you?” And you said, No, it’s not the worst thing that ever happened to me. You said the worst thing that ever happened to you was being involved in gang life.
Yeah, that was much worse.
Man, stroke is pretty bad. That’s one of the worst things that I’ve ever experienced in my life. But you reckon it’s not as bad as gang life? Can you give me a bit of an insight into how old you were when you got involved with gang life?
Well, I was always around. It was just, that was the way I was brought up. My dad was murdered when I was young. My neighbors, that was like the drug house, the gang house. So I grew up watching him. So it was normal for me. But if I was gonna walk to your house, I’m gonna get shot going to your house. And that was the way life was then. It was just that was much harder than this.
So you’re constantly looking over your shoulder making sure that you’re not being tailed?
Oh, yeah, most definitely. I’ll take the stroke any day compared to that.
What’s the point of gang life? Is there a point to it? What’s the reason that people get involved and do it? I know, it’s more complicated than me asking a silly question like this, right? But what do you feel like is what is the point of it? Why does it even exist?
A lot of the kids are, either they don’t have parents or just grew up that way. For me it was just they were there. They treat you more like family. But my brother never wanted it for me. My brother has always looked the way my brother was always cautious.
But, you know, you get into it, then it just, it consumes you. Because when you get old, because when you’re young, you don’t think of it but when you get older, you become a father. You really don’t want those problems.
You know, the problems that come with gang, if you’re where I’m in now, there’s gangs everywhere. You got different Mexican gangs, black gangs, whatever. I mean, they don’t bother me, but it’s definitely when I walk into the store. You know, be prepared. So, I’m always prepared. I always have a knife on me or I’m not going without a fight.
So even now, you’re not in gang life anymore. But even now, it’s still an issue for you and you’re still prepared.
Where ever I go It’s gonna be an issue. Yeah.
Is that because of who you are? Or is that because of the area you live in? Or is it a combination of both?
It’s a combination of both.
I tell my girls, my girls know, I don’t lie to my kids. But yeah, it’s been a rough one.
So with the gangs, they get together because they are lacking family members of parents, whatever it is, they find each other. They create a community. They belong somewhere. They don’t necessarily have anyone guiding them in a different direction is that it? Is it also very difficult to be guided out. Your brother didn’t get in. But at that young age, could anyone convince you to get out of that?
No, it was just, it was there. It was easy for me. You know, when you’re that young It was. It was kind of what I wanted. It’s okay yeah. You know, I was stabbed at a very young age I wa like, 13 or 12 when I got stabbed, but then I looked at it more like, this is a badge of honor. You know, the homies are gonna talk about it. But I look at it now and it’s totally different. But yeah, that was much harder than this. You know, I’ll take the stroke any day compared to that.
When you’re not in gang life, you got no idea. We’ve got no idea what that could be like. And it’s, it would be very difficult. It’d be very stressful all the time. You’re always more than likely looking to prove yourself and make sure that people didn’t think there was weakness.
Make sure that people didn’t think that they could, you know, get one over you in any way, shape or form. You probably could never back down. You could never be vulnerable. You could never show emotion. Is that accurate? Are you never able to really be anything other than this gang member? And also between your own gang members can you be emotional? Vulnerable? Any of those things?
Maybe to your close friends, they know you the longest but showing your weakness? No. It’s it’s not acceptable. That’s something you can’t do. Yeah, you’ll be looked at different. You have to have this Darth Vader shield on all the time. And it just had to go with you. Because you will be looked at different. You don’t want to be that guy.
When I hear about gang life in America, the only things I’ve ever heard of are what they show on TV on movies, that kind of thing. Is it involved? Do you guys get involved in colors? Is that how you identify each other is a different particular type of color or patch or something that you wear to identify who is from which gang?
Well, definitely in the neighborhood I was in. Everybody had their colors. So my neighborhood would be like considered the four corners. So it would be brown, black, blue, and red. So they definitely knew. Okay, that guy’s wearing that color so it would go that way. For sure. Like my friend is a browns fan and I tell him you’re not a Browns fan. You only like the Browns because it’s your gang color.
The Cleveland Browns?
Yeah, the Cleveland Browns. You don’t like them? You like them because of the gang. Yeah, I’ll make fun of him. But, you know, I’m already defensive. And that’s my worst enemy’s colors. So for me, it’s okay.
Is there any older guys like you 46 years old still involved in gangs? Or is that a young man’s game?
It’s mostly a young man’s game, but there’s a lot of older homes that the owners Aiko still wanting? And, you know, they want to live their life. That’s their life. I don’t want to live that life. You know, but, you know, more power to them if that’s what they want to do.
Yeah, fair enough. And is it easy to step away from it? Can you just say one day, I’m done with this. I’m out of here. Is that possible?
Yeah, it definitely is. If you want to start a family or something. They’re not gonna bug you. At least where I’m from I know, some places, you can’t. You know, they want you to choose this or everything. And, you know, my family to me was very important and I caused so much damage to my youth that, by my 20s I want to settle down and have kids which I did. Thank God for that.
Yeah, man, thank God true. So by 20 you you were that wild. You’re such a wild kid that by 20 you felt like you had done everything you needed to do and you needed to settle down that is interesting in itself.
I needed to settle down. I was just like, start your family and becaus at that age I was bored. I was like, I’m just doing the same stuff every day. I don’t want to do that. Work do a family, that was more for me.
How old were you when you lost your dad?
I was one.
So you didn’t know him at all really?
Yeah. So not a lot of guidance. It was you your brother. Who else?
My sister I have a stepbrother now I don’t like saying stepbrother, but I have a little brother. And my family. My brother has a family. And I have a big family. I come from a big big family.
So there was a lot of support. Was there a lot of support still in the family when you were growing up? Or wasn’t that support there? Did they distance themselves from you? What happens there?
No, we lived in a separate area. So I mean, that was the style I chose. You know, I remember I got sick one time and my mom wanted to put rubbing alcohol on me. And I wouldn’t let her do it. Because I had a big tattoo on my stomach.
And like let me rub it on you and I’m like no no no I’m all good. But I had the big tattoo in my stomach. And I didn’t want them to see it. And yeah, they eventually, see me now. And you have tattoos everywhere? I’m like, yeah, you know.
What is it with that man? And you’re in a gang, you’re real tough, you’re fighting people all the time. Who knows what else you’re getting up to? And you’re afraid to let your mom see your tattoo? What’s all that about?
Mom don’t mess around. That’s one woman right there that will mess you up for sure.
That’s the funniest thing you just ever said to me. I’m thinking we’re gonna be talking about you know, all the tough stuff you did. And then you tell me you couldn’t show your mom your tattoo? Because she’s one mean lady.
My grandma, saw my tattoo once on my arm and she told my mom right away. Mom got the kitchen knife and was trying to cut it off. She doesn’t play around. I have so many now that she just gives up. But back then they meant something, back then you get a tattoo they kind of represent your status.
But now everyone would just get some to get them. Back then it was more of he got this because he did something or he was in jail or I mean, I never been but those what that meant back then.
So today a lot of kids just get them on the face on their hands. And for me and it kind of defeats the purpose. Cause your tattoos to someone at my age would understand what that mean. Yeah the youth today. They don’t understand.
My sons have got tattoos everywhere. My sons are 25 and 21. At the moment, They’ve got heaps of tattoos. And they didn’t care, there was nothing, you know, we’re fortunate we don’t live in an area where there was gangs and we didn’t have those types of issues.
But as soon as they were allowed to legally when they turned 18 and go to a tattoo parlor and get to tattoo, they were covered in tattoos. It was just what you do, right? And my mum, was like their grandmother was like that. And they didn’t want their grandmother to see their tattoos.
Because she was gonna give them a hard time. And even now, now that they’re 21 and 25. If they walk past her without their top on, she does the head shake, you know, she whats this stuff and why have you got this stuff on your body? Your body was beautiful and she just goes on and on and does not let them get away with it.
I bet but you know, back then you didn’t think like that. Back then that my friends had to hold batteries together. Hey’d get tattooed with a guitar string. Or one needle sharpened down. One needle will do everything.
And it was very painful. Compared to now you’re getting tattooed with a machine that has 16 needles. So it goes by much quicker. But back then it was your friend holding a battery set getting a tattoo. Yeah, it was not fun.
And if you’re getting it for a reason if you’re getting it because it says a story about your gang life. Can you back out of it? If it’s too painful? Can you show that it’s too painful? Or you just have to cup it.
Oh, well. Yeah, I actually did. My stomach was just way too painful. It was to the point where I told him to just do half of it. So like when I was 14 I already have this tattoo in my stomach. But I told them no it was just too painful.
Were you lucky that you did end up in jail?
Yeah. It probably would have been good for me, but I’m glad I didn’t. I went to jail once for like, two days. And I regretted it, it wasn’t for me. I’m like, Nah, I don’t want to live like that.
Some guys like that lifestyle, or they’re in the cell you know, in general. It’s like being outdoors. You know, you get high in there. You can you know, you sit in your cell then you get loaded. Some guys like that lifestyle.
I didn’t want the lifestyle. So for me, it was either work, family. That was it for me.
Isn’t an interesting what you just said? You know, the supposedly the justice system puts people in jail to punish them. But what you’re telling me is some people don’t see it as a punishment?
No, some people actually prefer to be in jail, because you get fed. Some people prefer to be in there. Because they’re troublemakers. They constantly get in trouble. They’re in there with other people they’re in trouble. It’s basically a college to learn more criminal activity.
Thats what it is, you don’t go there to rehab. It’s a big waste of money. You go there to be a better criminal. And that’s what they teach you. It’s no life, if you like being indoors all day long, eating out of stove, a makeup stove? Yeah. that’s your life, but if you don’t wanna go back there, don’t go back there.
So when you were in your 20s, you wanted to settle down? It sounds like you had kids pretty young like me as well. I was 22 when my first son was born. I’m 47 as well. Now. I was born in 1974. Sounds like you’re born in 1974.
Yeah, same here.
So were you still involved in the gang life when the kids were very little? Or had you moved out of it?
No I mean, you kind of always going to be involved with it. It kind of sticks with you. As you get older for me anyways, it’s, you see what’s real, what’s not. So that’s kind of what you got to take from it. There’s good friends and there’s bad friends. You know, there’s friends today, they won’t say nothing. When I was growing up, a friend would do your time. And we’re not seeing that. today it’s the opposite. There’s the guy facing football numbers and they’re quick to tell. So I seen it all. I’ve been around it all.
You reckon that is what has made you be able to manage with something as serious as a stroke and did it make you that tough, that stroke is difficult, but in your mind, it’s like whatever. I’ll get over it like did it prepare you for stroke? What did it do? Like it sounds strange.
In a way did you know I’ve been through a lot worse. You know, I don’t like the stroke. But it definitely it’s a reminder that I’ve been through a lot worse than this. And it’s new to me, but I can definitely get to a point in my life where I can enjoy life and my kids, and go hiking maybe later on next year.
But, yeah, it prepares you definitely. Because I’ve been in that, you know, position when I was young. And it kind of prepares you for it, because right now it’s more like whatever but I’ve been through a lot worse.
This is gonna be an interesting question. Would you change your upbringing? Would you change your life in the gangs? If you could go back would you erase it? Would you make it that you never did it and took a different path? Like your brother or not?
No, I wouldn’t do it. I’m happy with my life. You know, I got to experience something at a young age, you know, there’s something when I had the stroke, I was in a coma, then I got to live a real rich life when I was on life support whenever I want. So I have that experience of living both lives, rich, poor whatever. So no, I wouldn’t change it.
So what you’re saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, is are you saying that the spectrum of life that you’ve lived is very extreme one to the other, you’ve seen rich poor, you’ve seen coma, you’ve seen being awake and alert, you’ve been stabbed, you’ve seen all these things, and it’s a big spectrum and you feel like you’ve lived a very big part of life or a lot of life is that?
Yeah, I definitely kind of see a lot as a young kid. Stuff that you wouldn’t want to see you know, you don’t want to go to school and you being shot at, or you’re being chased, you don’t want that. But there’s things that you have to do you know, to survive.
Always pay attention always be alert. And I had shortcuts, I had shortcuts everywhere, everywhere I went I had a shortcut if I had to hop to your house I’ll hop to your house, but I always had that. shortcuts shortcuts saved my life is I was aware. I’m not gonna walk down the street and get shot at.
It gave you tools that you could use? Did it give you tools that you could use for this next big challenge? Did it give you stuff that you can take from that old life and maybe a mindset or determination? Or did it give you stuff that you’re using now?
It’s definitely your mindset. You know, that if I can overcome my youth, I can somewhat overcome this as best as possible. It’s still new to me, I haven’t been out that long. But I’ve been in worse positions.
That it’s really fascinating. I asked that question. And I thought everyone was going to say stroke was the worst thing that happened to them, but very few people, well, it was about 5050. And most people thought that it wasn’t the worst thing that happened to them.
Some people weren’t grateful that it happened to them. All sorts of strange things came back and I was just stunned about it. I was stunned. Personally, I didn’t expect that. But it makes sense. We’re all different. We all have different life experience. We all have different challenges that we have to face.
And all the stroke is everyone has a different stroke. No one has the same stroke all the time, because we’re all different. It happens in a different part of our brain. It affects different parts of our body. So I was really stunned. But your comment, really, your comment of the gang life was worse.
That makes sense to me. Now that we’ve spoken, but I’ve never experienced gang life and it was a very interesting concept to hear you say that and it felt like even from You’re, even from your comment, it felt like you were the kind of guy because you had a stroke because you had this gang life.
But stroke was just another challenge, and you were going to find a way through it. Even though it’s early days, I actually believe that you will, and most people do. And I feel like you’ve got a really good baseline, a really good skill set of things because of your life that are going to be really helpful and useful to make your recovery as best as possible.
Yep, you’re going to have to deal with the shunt in your head. For the rest of your life, you’re going to have to deal with the numbness and all that kind of stuff. But me being in my position now for nearly 10 years, I don’t think about all the things that bother me on a daily basis.
I don’t think about them all day, every day, I only think about them when it’s being annoying. It feels to me like I didn’t think about the stroke all the time and what it’s done to me, I only think about it when it bothers me when it annoys me when I’m in the shower and account balance.
Or when I get out of bed in the morning to put my foot down. You know, with gang life, you said that you’re switched on, you’re thinking about it all the time. You’re watching your back all the time, or you’re doing the same thing with stroke, or are there moments where you forget about it and you’re not paying attention? And you’re just being present in the moment like when your child is over or when you’re doing something you enjoy.
Now you have to be on your toes, especially when my child was here, I know I had to be 100%. The mom asked me, I told her if I could have him, one day I told her if can have him an extra day and she was all can you handle it? And I was very grateful for that. Because she’s watching over me.
She’s saying well I don’t mind you having him but him but. How are you gonna feel? So that made me feel good? Because it is hard. It is hard to you know, I’m dealing with this. And it’s new to me. But experiences, but when the kids are here, I definitely have to be on my toes.
My two oldests are here, they’ve got boyfriends, but they just run all over me. You know, I’m not allowed to go outside. Well I could go outside, but they want me to have a stroke when I’m at the store or something? Because I take a lot of medication. They just they prefer it to happen here. But it’s new to them, it’s new to me. So I don’t say nothing.
Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s new to them. They’re dealing with it as well. They’re trying to work out what’s going on with their dad.
Cuz I went from being the Hulk to being Mickey Mouse. it’s like, yeah, I remember they used to call me the Hulk. But I feel more like Mickey Mouse now. And it is what it is, you know, I have to they’re here. They take care of me. And I used to tell them before, who’s going to take care of me when I’m old.
But, you know, they take care of me now. And it’s funny, I think about it, sometime. But I’m glad that they said you know, we’ll take him in and they work hard. And I’m thankful for that. They’re here and they’re watching me and they’re make sure I take medications, I have a mask.
They’re always watching me. When I go to the gym it’s like, be careful. Get out your phone. They always make sure that I’m 100%. My brother always checked up on me my niece’s tell my mom, of course, my mom is she’s constantly here bringing me my mail or food. But my mom is huge. You know, she’s a big, big anchor in this. Even though our feud when we were younger. I wouldn’t change it mom is an amazing woman, you know, she can raise a knife to me anytime.
You keep finding ways to give her a hard time. You know, when you were a kid you in gangs, then you had a stroke and she’s like.
Oh, yeah, I kept her on her toes for sure.
I see what you’re saying, man. I know what you’re saying is that the stroke recovery right now is Front of mind for you. And it’s front of mind for everybody, everyone wants to make sure you’re, well, everyone’s checking in with you, and then make sense. It’s very early days, I wish you a speedy recovery, I want to, I want to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing.
And consider all options, whichever ones work for you, hopefully they can manage the pain and things will settle down and be better. And I really appreciate you responding to my question. And then being kind enough to come on the podcast and have this conversation with me about a topic that I’ve only ever seen in the movies that I’ve only ever, you know, seen on TV shows from America.
And I’ve got no idea what it’s like. So I’m constantly learning about stroke. And one of the things I’m trying to do is just create as much awareness as possible and use as many stories as possible from different backgrounds as possible. Because not everyone had the same background, upbringing, stroke, life as me like nobody had that.
And I find it fascinating when people connect with me, from a completely different part of the world, completely different cultural background and upbringing. And we have so much in common, you know, that just, that just drives me. So it makes me so happy to connect with people that we have a lot in common with.
We All Want The Same Thing
Now what I’m realizing, after nearly 160 episodes, I think this is going to be 157 or something like that is doesn’t matter where you’re from, doesn’t matter what your upbringing is, whether you’re rich or poor, or whatever. Everyone wants the same thing. They just want to be safe, and they just want to be healthy. That’s all they want
Exactly. I wanna be able to walk with my son go hiking with him, everybody, you know, my nieces, my daughter’s, but you know I have to work with it. And it’s still early you know I got time to work at it and mess with it. And okay, this is working for me, this is not working for me. And kind of just go from there. But, you know, I’m thankful. It happened. I can’t cry about it. It happened and I just got to make the best of it. I can’t sit around and mope around.
How good is it to be around obviously, for your entire family. But for your baby.
It is really good, it is really good. He was here awhile ago causing trouble. And yeah. But when he’s here, I gotta be on my toes. 100% because he’s all over the place he’s a handful.
And it’s the simple things in life, isn’t it that life doesn’t need to be more complicated than that really, does it?
No, it doesn’t. It’s simple things in life that people take for granted. You know, like, when I was in a coma. I experienced that life experience being very wealthy. I experienced being very poor. I experienced it both that it just makes me more grateful. Because I experience a lot of life and I was in a coma. So yeah, it makes me feel I lived that life. Even though I wasn’t awake, fully. I kind of experienced it. And no one can ever take that from me.
Were you working before the stroke?
Yeah, I was. I was going to school actually. I was going to school to be a bus driver. And that’s when it happened. You know, I actually call my teacher. His number was just on my phone and I decided to call him and just to say thank you.
But he wasn’t there no more. But I told him, thank you. He’s someone who remembers me. You know, but he was telling me if I want to go back to go. I’m not allowed to drive right now. I have a brand new car and I can’t even drive it.
And therefore it’s not looking likely that you’re going to get back to work, at least in the near future. You’re not going to be working for a little while?
I would do so. I mean, right now. They’re talking about going back to work. Well, I’m just trying to survive. I don’t know about you wanting me in such a hurry to put back to work? I’m just trying to learn to walk talk, function. You know, it’s all new to me. And I don’t see it either. But here where I’m at in California, it’s different. There’s just like, a year you’ll be okay. You’ll be back to normal. I don’t see it. I don’t see a one bit.
They look at you wearing your hat. If they can’t say your shunting your head. Do you look normal.
Yeah I think so.
They look at you and they go, Luis looks good, man. You know, he’s okay. So they assume that because you look okay. You must be okay.
Yeah, but you know, getting brain surgery. You just, yeah, you have to stop when they come and stuff. You know, it should this guy just got to think about it a little bit. This guy needs help, you know, not, not rushing back to work, this top discard that too many people are in there, too.
Just started back in the woods. I’m just trying to get better and walk and talk better my speeches is not that great. You know, I had a machine that spoke for me. But you know, I had to learn, you know, have these things have to learn to get up and in, you know, and I and I’m grateful for that.
When my brothers took me home, and my sister in law, I was so thankful I was the cat out. I can’t wait, leave this hospital. But then when I got to his house, I realized what the hell I can walk. You know, I barely talk. And he was just like, yeah, I’m such in a hurry to leave when I can barely walk. And staff for me at those kind of quick.
So would have been a little better to have more time in rehabilitation, more time in recovery at hospital, so that you don’t come home with such difficulties.
Cryptogenic Stroke In The Middle of a Pandemic
Well, I don’t know about the recovering this pandemic because they had everything shut down. So I was stuck in a room, most of the time. You know, I was really allowed other people. They only have one or two nurses at a time on Fridays the Doctor would come. But they get everything really shut down. I really just wanted to eat. I was getting fed to my stomach and all this food would come by and I was like just let me eat. I just want to eat.
And then when you eat when you did eat for the first time. It was a risk of choking yeah?
Exactly, they had to X ray need to make sure I could swallow or what my swallowing was like. So they did that and they decided well you know he could eat this type of food, but whatever man they gave it to me I eat it I couldn’t wait. breakfast lunch and dinner.
What was the food that you’re really dying to get your hands on?
Oh, man. I could have gone for good good burger. Yeah, burger pizza. Something. The hospital food was not great, but I haven’t needed in three, four months. So it was great to me. It said the mashed potatoes mashed potatoes were horrible. But everything else was I just take it down. There you go. Boom, boom.
Is the tube in your stomach still or have they taken the tube out at that point?
No, they actually took the tube out the day I was gonna leave. It was hanging but they weren’t using it. They weren’t feeding me but it was still in me. So it had a rubber piece on the end. And the doctor put it in was like it’s gonna be painful. And sure enough, it was oh it’s only gonna hurt for like 10 seconds but he pulled it out and oh my god. It was so painful. 10 seconds my ass that’s hurting forever. It was horrible.
So you know, when the tube is in your stomach and you’re not eating, are you allowed to drink through your mouth or no drinking either?
No, everything got fed through tubes. Everything.
Are you thirsty? What’s happening in your mouth?
They’re giving you ice chips. Yeah. So when they came in sort of for the first time, I was like, Yes. I’ll take it. There was this there was this orderly that always gave me my neighbor’s food was extra. Or he had extra food. And he would give to it. Can you eat this? And I’ll be like, yeah, it says here that you can’t, but he would give it to me anyways. sandwiches. I’d be like yes I was happy. Yeah, eating was yeah, getting fed to the stomach was no it was horrible.
Sounds like you really missed it. And, again, I’ve never been in that situation. So I can’t understand it. But it sounds like you’re passionate to eat again.
Oh, my God, I couldn’t do it. In the morning, there was this. It was like the cart that will come by every morning to feed the workers, or the workers get by whatever they want. One day, I was like, stop in my room. I have no money. But I was like, stop in my room.
And yeah, I just wanted to eat some food. And I would tell him all the time, what are you gonna eat? Not sure. But yeah, eating was a huge part let me eat.
Did you put on more weight after you came out of hospital? Are you back at your old way? Are you still a bit lighter than you were before the stroke?
I’m a bit lighter, but I had to put on the way back. And then get down. Because when I came out, I was like a dude. I was just skin. I didn’t want to be that way. So it was just more for me to put the weight back on to what happens. And then this next year on my birthday, see where my dessert will be about six months in the gym. So that will tell me where my legs at.
Was the gym hard at the beginning was difficult to get back into the routine of pushing your body?
Pushing my body was very difficult. Yeah, because you could barely walk. But I always enjoyed working out or playing. So that for me was okay. It was good. So when the recovery just came to my house. It took me for a walk and stuff I didn’t mind. It was like, Okay, we’ll do this. Let’s do it now.
But I learned that the best way to do it is by yourself. If you’re going to do it here is go out by yourself. go the gym by yourself. Because therapy here is a big joke. My insurance only covers a couple of weeks at that. And by then they’re only there to teach you to walk when I’m doing a walk up and down go down the street go up the street. So in my eyes, I could just do that by myself. I want to work out I’ll go to the machine I want to walk out just take a walk.
Taking Responsibility For Your Own Recovery
I think you’re very lucky in what you’re able to do. I think you’re blessed a little bit in that way. A lot of people can’t do any of that stuff by themselves. But yeah, it’s important to take responsibility and do what you can do. And be as independent as you can. So if that works, that works that that’s what I did.
I got annoyed because to go to rehab to get better at walking. I had to do a one hour trip there. By the time we get there and stay there for an hour. I’ve got to come back and it takes an hour to get back. That’s three hours. Three days a week. And it was too much and I just said Look guys, that’s enough.
I’m not coming back again. I’m gonna do this by myself. I said exactly. Do the same thing. I’m going to take responsibility now. You’ve done a great job so far, but I can’t spend three hours every second day. Coming to rehab. I haven’t got a life. I can’t do anything.
So I did it at home, I started to go for a walk. And, and when I was afraid to walk on my own outside, or I didn’t want to walk in the sun because it was too hot. I would go to the shopping mall near our house, and walk in the shopping mall on my own while my wife was at work, and my kids were at school. I would just go to the shopping mall, air conditioning, you know, have something to eat, and walk around for one hour, I felt like it.
And then I just went home because the shopping mall is only five minutes away by car. And by that time I was allowed to drive again. Some days Well, I wasn’t really allowed to drive. They didn’t actually tell me I can drive but I do drive now. I do now. Yeah, I felt better. I felt better after about six or so months to start driving on a drove. But yeah, that’s what I used to do to get exercise instead of trying to waste my time. You know, my other hours of the day getting there and coming back from my head. It was a big issue.
Yeah, same for me. I mean, I had to wait for three caretakers on it worked me out on to work me out. One or two persons should be on the phone all day, or do puzzles. And now I do the puzzle on my phone. But yeah, for me, it’s easier if you do it. You know, do you want to get healthy you want to walk it’s best for you to go get it yourself.
Because they’re not going to give it to you here. There’s too many people here. Trying to get the help or getting the help. It’s just you’re not going to give you’re not going to get it. Go and get it yourself don’t depend on all to somebody’s gonna come. And, you know, my daughter’s my caretaker my daughter cooks for me cleans for me make sure I take my medicine.
The only thing I won’t allow her to do is to ever change me. You know, I’m just like my grandfather. I’m stubborn. You know I don’t need help in the shower. I don’t want help in the shower. Maybe that’s why they had an alarm in my bed. I couldn’t go nowhere at the hospital even though couldn’t walk.
They had an alarm on my bed. I must have been doing something that they didn’t like for them to put on an alarm on my bed. I had to be doing something. I’m like my grandfather, my grandfather was vicious. He liked the hospital. But you know, he didn’t want to because of his age. He had to be there all day. And he didn’t like that. So they were fighting at the elevator in his pajamas. Elevator here. Like, no, you can’t go not yet. He didn’t like that at all. I’m the same way.
Luis, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really, really appreciate it. And I look forward to following you on Instagram and I’m wishing you well and hoping that you have a really good recovery, man.
Likewise. Likewise, thank you for everything you’re doing. I definitely learned a lot. You show me a lot. And I’m grateful. Thank you.
My pleasure. My pleasure. That’s a wrap dude. I will edit this. I will get it up and running. I will send you an email with the finished version. I will put it on Instagram. And you can share it with whoever you want and tell whoever you want about it as well.
All right, thank you very much.
Whose that? Is that your daughter?
My oldest. Hello, hello and my second daughter.
The whole family. Awesome. Beautiful. Thank you guys I appreciate it. Thanks for setting this up for me.
Thanks for talking with him.
My pleasure. Thanks so much for joining me on today’s recovery after stroke podcast. Do you ever wish there was just one place to go for resources, advice and support in your stroke recovery? Whether you’ve been navigating your journey for weeks, months or years, I know firsthand how different It can be to get the answers you need.
The road is both physically and mentally challenging from reclaiming your independence to getting back to work, to rebuilding your confidence and more. Your symptoms don’t follow a rulebook, and as soon as you leave the hospital, you no longer have medical professionals on tap.
I know for me, it felt as if I was teaching myself a new language from scratch with no native speaker insight. If this sounds like you, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. And there is a better way to navigate your recovery and build a fulfilling life that you love.
I’ve created an inclusive, supportive and accessible membership community called recovery after stroke. This only one support and resource program is designed to help you take your health into your own hands.
This is your guidebook through every step in your journey from reducing fatigue, to strengthening your brain health to overcoming anxiety and more. To find out more and to join the community head to recoveryafterstroke.com see you next time.
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