lucid

I’d like to reiterate the mental clarity throughout the stroke even at its beginning — not because I wish to protest my cognitive abilities, but rather because it seems so wonderfully surprising and even delightful that the language faculty can be so completely divorced from cognition. I do not conlcude that there is no Fodor-style language of thought — it is perfectly possible that there are two language faculties, parole (for lack of a better word) or common speech/comprehension, and a second ‘language’, mentalese, so that each are mapped to the other, yet distinct. But it is undoubted, from my experience, that the mind is able to think ideas and manage practicalities without parole/common language speech & comprehension. It is possible, for example, to have complete self-awareness but not know your name, or know a friend but not remember his name. Now, of course, some ideas are lost without language: common words themselves cannot thought, including names. In the first hour of the stroke, I could not recall my name at all, but I knew exactly where to find my name — on the computer e-mail box. So everything besides language can be handled with no deficit whatsoever, or so it seemed to me, as I will describe with a sample of details.

Howewver, there is a suspicion that mental clarity is a chimera or a mere appearance. And I do not deny that it is possible that I might have lost some cognitive capacity, but there is a stark difference between, on the one hand, the evidence of complete loss a of language comprehension in the early first half hour, and remnants of that loss since, and on the other hand, abundance of evidence of cognitive clarity from the start.

At the moment of the stroke when I awoke from a nap at around 6 or 7pm January 3, I went to my computer and opened up my e-mail box. I chose first a close friend’s e-mails, whose writing is often intentionally scattered with corrupted characters in his writing, so his writing is difficult to read. In this case, I found I couldn’t understand his gibberish, although the words didn’t seem particularly more corrupted than usual.

I chose to look at an easier e-mail, from a music contact. Bizarrely, I was able to read and comprehend his e-mail entirely. I began to reply. But [by] the second word, I found that what I typed was not what I intended. I tried at least a couple of times, but realized that something was amiss, much more than just grogginess after a nap.

So I tried to jolt myself awake; tried to do a few sit-ups. After a few, it occurred to me that if I’d had a hemorrhage, exercise might not be wisest. By this moment, I’d recognized the likelihood of a stroke of some kind.

I looked for my associate’s phone number — I have not no cell phone, so I am dependent on written phone numbers. I found his number and began to dial. I recognized his voice and understood [his] “hello.” I said some kind of sentence or clause — I had the distinct impression that I said something grammatical — but I could not understand what I had myself said. [I was tempted to write “what I had myself had said” but corrected. I am still inclined to repeat tenses, but today I seem to have caught it even before typing. I am still not clear whether “what I had myself had said” could be acceptable as a compound — it seems likely as “I had had said,” but these are weak intuitions for now.]

I have described these details in previous posts, and won’t repeat here. I was giddy with excitement throughout the discussion. I was fascinated by the new aphasic effects, which I was were, moment-by-moment learning them: that I couldn’t comprehend speech at all, yet I could identify voice contour, the general excitement and agitation in my associate’s voice and the commotion at his apartment, and even could identify that there was at least three people at his apartment all together.

After trying to focus on single words, at one point I let loose a fluent sentence something like, “This is crazy shit!” with great enthusiasm. I seemed to understand this sentence myself. I may already have improved comprehension. Recovery at the start was rapid.

I was also frustrated with my associate’s respoonse. It didn’t seem to be helpful or appropriate. This is largely my own fault — not only did I give an impression of delight and excitement, but I also tried not to alarm him to too great. I must have appeared, to him, like my having a drug trip rather than a physical calamity. To his credit, he called for EMS.

It might seem odd that I didn’t call first for 911. However, bear in mind that I have no health coverage, there is no treatment for stroke that is already in recovery in any case, and I was perfectly able to walk to the ER on my own. In fact, when I was taken to the hospital, I was not improved by any treatment — an aspirin and a blood thinner — and were not given, after two days of thorough tests, even any cause for the stroke: tests showed that I am perfectly healthy (aside from the minor detail of brain damaged in a large swath of the left cortex). Since it is impossible to sleep in hospital, the two nights may even have delayed my recovery.

I hasten to add that the hospital was an encouraging experience and everyone there did a superb job, for which I am deeply grateful. It was no fault of their’s that little could be done for this stroke and there isn’t always evidence of a cause. But for all I know, the blood thinners saved me from any additional events in the immediate moments.  I am also grateful to my associate who called EMS, since I am, stroke or no stroke, much too stubborn to call for health professionals.

In short, it seems to me that there is overwhelming objective evidence that I was mentally clear and no evidence of any cognitive damage, with the single exception [I had great trouble to find the word “exception” in this word — I seem to have stuck with the wrong part of speech: I had “except” in mind, but felt it wasn’t the right word. As soon as I chose “exception” I recognize that this was the right word.] — to continue, with the single exception of the intent desire to shut the computer down.

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