Adela Crandell Durkee

The Black Tortoise, A Noun Blog: Writing about People, Places, & Things

Catastrophic Stroke: Two Tales, Similar Outcomes

Randy with his son, Kent

Randy with their  son, Kent

My brother-in-law Randy suffered a catastrophic stroke about a month ago.  Steve Sebby had his stroke in January 2015.  Randy is about my age, Steve is in his thirties.  What strikes me most about their stories is the similarities. What amazes me is the differences.

Both men woke up feeling off.  Steve felt “completely dizzy.” Randy felt disoriented and like he laid on his arm wrong, because it felt like it was asleep.  Brittany, Steve’s wife, and Vickie, Randy’s wife, were ready for work and about to leave the house. Brittany called an ambulance, Vickie took Randy to the hospital; getting an ambulance to their home would take longer than driving him to the hospital.

Both men suffered a severe, or catastrophic stroke.  Strokes kill almost 130,000 Americans each yer.  More than 795,00 people in the U.S. have a stroke every year. Strokes can be treated if caught in the right amount of time.

Steve had been taking aspirin for what he thought was muscle pain in his neck from cross-fit training.  Vickie gave Randy aspirin, just before they left the house.

“You’re going the wrong way,” Randy said. “You’re lost.”

Vickie, who, like me, can get lost in a paper bag, had traverse this stretch of road hundreds of times.  She knew the way; but Randy’s disorientation unsettled her.  He was the family navigator.

Arriving at the hospital, Steve moved to the front of the MRI line after a CT scan showed nothing, but his condition worsened.

Once admitted, the floor nurse asked why he was there. “Your blood sugar is a little high, but not worthy of a hospital stay,” she commented to Vickie.

Vickie replied.  By now, the left side of Randy’s face drooped; he could no longer see; he couldn’t lift his arm;and he could no longer walk.  Vickie gave him another aspirin. She stepped outside the room to call her daughters. There, as if guided by a guardian angel, she saw a door labeled “Stroke Management.”  She marched in.  “My husband is having a stroke, and no one is doing a thing for him,” she proclaimed.

Randy had a CT scan, which, like Steve’s, was inconclusive.  However, in Randy’s case, the MRI was busy until 11:00 p.m., so he had to wait at the back of the line.

Steve was flown to Rush University Medical Center, for a mechanical thrombectomy. Almost immediately, the blood flow returned to his brain and he was able to move his fingers slightly. Randy’s doctor told him to get ready for a long stay at a rehabilitation center.

Vickie asked for prayers from her very large family. In a broadcast text message she asked that people stop, please stop, texting and calling.  My sister, Julie, became the pivot point for communications.  An uber connected world can be a blessing and a curse.  Imagine yourself in a crisis with friends, siblings, nieces, nephews, and parishioners calling, texting, and messaging their concern.  Vickie wanted to pull a net tight around her daughters as they processed everything.

The procedure Steve got has been around for about 10 years.  His surgeon said that he does them about once a week.  “These are the patients that end up with the highest level of disability or death.  It can really improve stroke care.”

Randy’s doctor prescribed therapy. He explained that, according to the scans, Randy had been experiencing a series of mini-strokes, and that the damage was done during the night, before he woke up.

Within a few days, Steve stood up.  He and his 10 month-old son learned to walk together.  Steve is back to work. He didn’t suffer any cognitive delays, although he remained on pain-killers for 15 months.

Within two days of his stroke, determined to return home, Randy showed Vickie how he could walk up stairs. At home, he continued to be disoriented.  “I feel like I’m in a foreign country,” he told Vickie on their way to physical therapy.  That changed after 3 or 4 trips. Whether it was new memories scored onto his innate navigation abilities, or old memories revitalized, Randy soon began giving Vickie directions.

As a musician, Steve feels like he lost 8 months of practice.  He’s back playing guitar around the Chicago area.  Randy is back playing the organ at church for the simple, repetitive pieces.  He feels like he is learning all over again.  Randy still suffers back pain. Experts disagree whether this is from the stroke.

Randy continues emotional, mental and physical struggles. However, he’s got two strong daughters who  rose to the occasion.  They are busy stacking wood, tilling the garden, and pretty much stepping in wherever Randy needs them.  Randy and Vickie have a son, too.  He’s in the armed services and is stationed to far away to offer much more than moral support.

I want to be angry with the staff at Randy’s hospital.  How could they not recognize he was having a stroke? How could they make him wait more than 12 hours for the MRI? How could they not have access to the same network of expertise and care as Steve? But then, Randy is a whole generation older than Steve, and his recovery is at least as remarkable.

Vickie with their daughters, Daria and Dannette

Vickie with their daughters, Daria and Dannette

Was it Randy’s sheer determination and will-power that amazed not only his family, but the medical staff? Was it a strong genetic make-up that allowed Randy to heal? Was it a miracle? Was it a multitude of prayer and support? I don’t know. But I can tell you two things for certain.




Gratitude Monday:

stay-ice cream

Miss S at Mellie’s

Okay, I procrastinated enough this morning: week planned, tweets set, garden weeded,, breakfast eaten, first meditation of the day settled,

Writing.  Do you ever put off what gives you the most pleasure?  Let’s warm up with a little gratitude.

Monday morning is Mom’s time.  I so look forward to our visits by phone.  I tried to FaceTime her, because I haven’t seen her face in two months.  Alas, the message, “unavailable,” came up, so I had to settle for the old-fashioned, land line.  I settled in for a cup of coffee on the balcony, while we visited.  She gave me my first laugh-out loud moment of the day.  I laughed so hard, I inhaled a gnat.  I swear, three hours later, it’s still trying to make it’s way out my windpipe.  I envision my immune system in an Extreme Wrestling match with a tiny something with tinsy legs flailing relentlessly against a growing glob of mucous.

Facebook for crowd-sourcing. I put it out there, I need someone who can design the cover to my novel, A Ship of Pearl.  I do believe I found someone in Chad Green. He’s as excited as I am out A Ship of Pearl, asking all the right questions.  He sent me some examples of theatre posters he created, and now, I’m even more pumped.  And guess what?  Chad is my cousin’s son.  Is that my second cousin, or my cousin once removed.  Anyways, the inspiration behind one of the main characters is Chad’s grandpa.  Chad’s going to help me with the cover and the early purchase postcards.  Thank you Facebook. Thank you Chad. Continue reading

Photo Friday: Astilbe

The gentle, quiet Astilbe, growing almost unnoticed in the shade. Until with no fanfare, a burst of scarlet shouts in the morning sun.

You are so beautiful to me.

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Look a little closer: Like a Mardi Gras garland.

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And next my lovely macro-lens reveals tiny little beads still waiting to unfurl.

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What’s in your lens this week?

When you’re through here, Skedaddle on over to Pierced Wondering and take a peak at all the wonderful photography she shares.


Pierced Wonderings

Outfit of the week: Golf Outing

This past Thursday I had a professional organization meeting to attend. My local ASQ meeting, coupled with a golf outing, well make that a putting contest.  The weather had been hot, hot, but Thursday cooled, and the evening promised to be cooler.  Plus, I knew that air-conditioning would be blasting out frosty air, once the dinner and meeting part of the evening began. What to do?


Although I really wanted a skort—cuz I just hate the feel of my bare legs against a conference room table—I got a skirt instead.  The note inside explained that StitchFix doesn’t have skorts this summer. (Shhh… Jockey to the rescue under there.)

The pencil skirt is from Margaret M (in a petite) and the sweater from Hawthorn (a Large.)  A little bit too deep of a vee-neck for a professional meeting, even if it was casual, so I wore my own white cami underneath. The shoes are from DSW on the sale rack a couple of years ago.  I don’t know why, but putting them on makes me feel like a kid again.

I put my StitchFix on hold until October.  With some mixing and matching, I have enough of an update to my summer wardrobe.

I bet you’re wondering what I’m carrying?  I’m off to mail THE STRANGER IN MY RECLINER by Doreen McGettigan to the two lucky winners of the book drawing:  Carolann at Sassy Townhouse Living and Lois at Midlife at the Oasis.  You might want to stumble on over and see what they’re up to.

My photographer is none other than my own Loved-One.

I received no compensation from StitchFix for this shout-out.  If you’re interested in other seeing some other items I got from StitchFix, just search StitchFix in the search bar on the right.

Gratitude Monday: Woe is me

Eeyore as depicted by Disney

Eeyore as depicted by Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it happened.  This morning I began feeling sorry for myself.  Why?  I guess I just needed some Tear Water Tea.  CoCo’s transition to independent living hit a speed-bump.  Or was that my transition that hit a speed-bump.  Anyhow, she came home, saw some changes in the homestead, and a downward spiral ensued.  She so wanted Loved-One to have a good Father’s Day.  He did, and then he didn’t.  

(You know where.)

I missed sharing gratitude last week.  I have a boat load of work to do.  I really don’t have time to sit down and share my blessings.  Who cares anyways?  I wrote a meager list.  Then this happened.

One of my first Blogger friends posted after a long-long hiatus.  I “met” her when she lived in Adelaide, Australia.  She’s back in India now.  She’s had some
struggles, including her apartment burning, which resulted in her going blind for several months.  She shared that on her blog, so I free to share that here.  Still, we’ve kept in touch through Facebook and Messenger.  Technology really is so good to me.  Please mosey on over to visit Nikki at Snippits of Me.  Show her some love, and tell her I sent you.

Next, I got my first laugh-out-loud moment of the day from Rubber Shoes in Hell.  What was so funny?  Michelle laughing.  Or is it Randy saying “monkey pant?”  I tried hard to hold on to my Eeyore mood.  But monkey pants or monka pants, or monkeeee pants, just wouldn’t let me.

All the while, I ran outside every 30 minutes to move the sprinkler to water another part of my gardens: flowers and vegetables.  Each time, I tried to master the science of adjusting the sprinkler just right.  Really, I pretty much ran in and out of the spray, like a kid on a hot summer day.  Wheeeee!

The Tigger Movie, a film based on the Disney a...

The Tigger Movie, a film based on the Disney adaptation of Tigger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a few more things on my list:

  • Clown Car Masters Group:  Only one meeting and the support fills me with energy and support.  Yes I Can.
  • Freelance photo-journalist gigs that introduce me to new people, stories, and the joy of writing.
  • Chances to play my flute at church and with people I admire.
  • More love than hate in the world.
  • Thanks yous for doing next to nothing.
  • Opportunities to do good.
  • Sister and fellow writers out there in the universe sending me good vibes and encouragement.
  • My little Prayer Box that invites me to keep things in perspective.

What’s on your gratitude list this week?  What do you do to get yourself out of the dumps?

go do good - 1 (1)


Photo Friday: Printers Row Lit Fest

According to

The Printers Row Lit Fest was founded in 1985 by the Near South Planning Board to attract visitors to the Printers Row neighborhood (once the city’s bookmaking hub). By 2002, it had grown to five city blocks (on Dearborn, from Congress to Polk), attracting more than 200 booksellers from across the country displaying new, used and antiquarian books and featuring more than 200 authors participating in panels, discussions and a variety of other programs.

As part of its ongoing commitment to the written word and its support of literacy and literary endeavor, the Chicago Tribune purchased the Printers Row Book Fair in 2002 from the Near South Planning Board. Recently renamed to be the Printer’s Row Lit Fest, it is considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 150,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.

I went for this first time this year.

 I wanted someone to go along with me and Loved-One declined.  CoCo loves the city, and she loves me, so she agree to go along.  She turned out to be a delightful companion.  And yes, it really was free, And the not too very crowded. On top of that, we went on Sunday. The weather had cooled to a pleasant 75 degrees, from the previous day’s sweltering 90 and humid.

We met Patricia L. Arnold, Chief Communications Strategist at the AARP booth.  She liked some of my ideas for articles, and asked me to keep in touch.

We met Martha Boyne from Belt Publishing.  She’s the editor of a small publishing company that focuses on non-fiction about the rust-belt.  We agreed to keep in touch, even though my book is a novel.  I picked up a book about Flint, MI. Not exactly my home town, Flint is where my dad and most of my friends fathers worked.  Flint is where parts of A SHIP OF PEARL takes place.

printers row lit fest - 1

CoCo and I also sat in on a panel discussion about science fiction writing.  I doubt I’ll ever write science fiction. Still, I got some great takeaways. Like how fiction can free us to make social commentary in ways that might we might not otherwise be able to.  CoCo liked the part about robots made to be used as slaves with consciousness  and how they eventually started being consumers in shopping malls.

printers row lit fest - 2


The blue sky, the colorful booths, the interesting people: almost as vivid as Pierced Wondering’s New Orleans.  And today she has a castle to show us. So hop on over and take a peak at what’s in her lens this week.


Pierced Wonderings

Outfit of the Week: Another StitchFix

Several weeks ago, I posted an outfit from Stitch-Fix.  You can see that outfit below.  Eight weeks later, I got another shipment, which was a bust.  The only thing I kept was a pair of earrings.  That gave me a chance to see how  Stitch Fix did with feedback.  After all, the big selling point is that I have my own personal stylist who tailors the clothes to what I like and don’t like.

I told my stylist, Sky, that the sleeveless tops were cute, but the armholes were too deep. I told her I like to wear skorts in the summer. I have narrow shoulders and a not-so-narrow bustling, so a fit across the shoulders and chest are a bit of a challenge for me.

Last week I got my next StitchFix.  A super-duper hit for me.

Sky sent me Dark Pink Nine West pointed Toe pumps.  Love these, but I already have terrific pink open-toed pumps from Hotter. If you haven’t tried Hotter, and you like to walk, skip on over to their website.  I like to buy America, but you know, women in London do a lot of walking, and Hotter’s shoe designs are made for walking.

Sky also sent a lovely Maggie London white lace dress.  Beautiful, but a bit short for me.  Plus, white is not a color I want to wear.  I’m a dirt magnet.

Then I tried on Papermoon’s Norris Spilt  Neck Blouse.  

 Look, I can pair it with the jacket in my closet for my business meeting..

ofotw june 15 - 1 ofotw june 15 - 2

I also have a deep orange short which pairs perfectly with this top.

Sky also sent something from 41 Hawthorne and Margaret M, which I kept.  I’ll give you a peek at those next week.

In the meantime, the first two items I got from Stitchfest, all those weeks ago, went to Printer’s Row Lit Fest with me.  The weather was mild, so I needed light layers, just in case it warmed up, which it did.  The sweater is just enough to keep me warm, and light enough not to be bothersome to carry.  I carried the light little Chico bag I got at BAM.  Perfect little pocket for my cards, and enough room to stuff a new book inside. I met some great writers there, and learned some things about social commentary through science fiction.

Stitchfix - 2

Here’s the sweater and top I wore to Printers Row Lit Fest. I had on my dark grey cargo shorts and Keens. Lots of walking that day.

CeCi gave me a couple of “perfect tees” from LulaRoe and now I’m set for the summer.  And I’m set to show you a few more Outfits of the Week. YaY!

Photo Friday: After all these years

More than twenty-eight years ago I left Harbor Beach to come to Chicagoland. A country mouse in the city. Just after the new year dawned.

Before I left, I packed up my mini-van with text books from college and resource books from work.  Someone stole them while I was at midnight mass, Christmas Eve.

“Whoever stole the box, will see those books are of no value to them,” I said to my friend Cindy. “I’m sure they’ll bring them back.”

“Adela, think about it,” she replied. “They’re thieves.”

I was so naïve.

My co-workers sent me off with $100 inside a coffee mug.  I bought a professional looking wool coat, so I could leave my puffy parka in the closet and look like I belonged in the city.

I  have the coat in the closet, hoping some day it will fit again.  It is, after all, retro by now.

On cold mornings, it reminds me of old friends.  On warm mornings it does the same.

coffee mug 2

Click the button below and slide on over to Pierced Wondering to see some beautiful photos of old buildings.  Gorgeous.  I’ll be working on my marketing plan for my book.  Coming out this fall.  Yay!
Pierced Wonderings


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