What Happens When You Have A Stroke?

Posted on August 9, 2017


Strokes, or blood clots that damage the brain, can be disastrous for individuals who hope to lead a normal life. They can also be partially overcome by the miracle of the brain’s plasticity. Two sources for you to look at on stroke are here in this post; both of them are first hand accounts of what they feel like and what happens as you are going through one, as well as what life is like afterward.

The first is a longform essay posted on Buzzfeed back in September by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee, who suffered a stroke on New Year’s Eve of 2007. From her essay:

“Hi, I’m having a brain drain,” I said. I watched myself struggle. Underneath what felt like 100 down blankets, what was left of the pre-stroke self said, “That is not what I meant to say. Something is wrong.” But no one, not even I, could hear or understand.

I tried to join my friends’ conversation, but the words were too fast, the subject matter switching all the time. I opened my mouth to add something, but I couldn’t form the words. We went out for fondue. I don’t remember if I ate the fondue.

This was what I blogged that evening in an attempt to communicate what I was experiencing:

I am feeling strange. My brain is in a weird state right now — a combination of short brain games and lack of memory. While taking on the concept of a brain game earlier today, I suffered a memory overhaul. Now I can’t say what I want to say or remember what I want to remember. It’s just a weird situation.

Just 17 hours earlier, pre-stroke, I’d written the following in my journal:

So this is how it feels to hole up somewhere: the snow has come on and off this week, the chilly air outside has the snap of a crisp spring peapod, and all is peaceful. There is no external stimulation; my life has turned inward this week. Reading books.

When I checked my blog much later, there were comments from 12 of my friends urging me to go to the hospital. “Something is very wrong,” they said. “We are worried.”

The second is a TED Talk by neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, who treated her stroke as a research opportunity.