By Larry Gossett
On Monday, September 1, 2013, I had difficulty waking up. Finally, I awakened about 11:30 A.M., sleeping later than I had ever slept in my life. Within moments I realized something was wrong with me. My vision was blurry. I grabbed the newspaper I had been reading the night before and I could not make out any of the words! I was getting nervous because I could not fathom what was wrong with me. When I got up to walk I was more unsteady than I had ever felt.
I then heard my wife, Rhonda, say, “Larry, please get up so we can go to IHOP and eat brunch together with Nia (our granddaughter).” I always loved eating at IHOP. I struggled to get up, but I was having serious problems maintaining my balance. Putting on my sweat pants and jogging jacket was difficult but I finally got them on.
Some ” invisible force” was involuntarily pulling my entire body to the left. I was scared and did not know what was happening to me. I had to use my left hand to brace myself as I slowly walked down the hallway into our living room.
Once I got there, my wife and granddaughter were waiting for me. I walked slowly to the car and got into the passenger seat. I did not mention the physical difficulties I was having. I did not want to miss the pancakes and eggs at the IHOP restaurant. At the restaurant my wife and granddaughter noticed my vision was impaired when I tried to make a call on my cell phone. They also said I was talking incoherently.
My wife said, “That is enough, I am calling the doctor.” The next thing I knew she was rushing me to Swedish Hospital emergency room. At the hospital I was immediately admitted, given an MRI and then told I had had a stroke.
Since then my life has changed. The main result of my stroke is some loss of memory, attention and recall. I have received excellent rehabilitative care. I am very committed to developing a broad strategy for positively understanding and combatting all of the ill effects of the injuries to my brain caused by my stroke.
I am on the mend and have received excellent professional care from providers committed to working with me. My extremely supportive family and staff at King County have enabled me to continue to serve the people of King County.
My wife, Rhonda, has provided tremendous guidance, direction, inspiration and focused leadership during the ordeal of coping with my new health challenges. I had read articles which had praised the role strong spouses or partners can play helping their loved ones get well. I now can testify about the huge difference having a caring and totally involved spouse makes on the road to recovery. Rhonda has made sure I make every medical and therapeutic appointment, she does research to make sure we ask the appropriate follow-up questions and she does not allow me to ever stray from my new strict diet. She is a blessing, and I am lucky I have her in my corner.
Rhonda also set up appointments with a wide variety of doctors, nurses and other health care workers helping me deal with my stroke. She has made sure I see a very experienced neurologist and a specialized eye doctor. She made appointments with a heart specialist, foot doctor (DPMS), physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapist who specialize in working with stroke victims. She also insures there is the proper follow up. She makes sure I follow up with counselors and dieticians who have superb reputations for their work with patients dealing with traumatic brain injuries. Rhonda makes sure I avail myself of every health care program I need to address the varied health problems exposed by the stroke. My medical care has been comprehensive, primarily because King County has such an excellent health care coverage plan.
Since The Retiree Advocate asked me to write about the impact my stroke has had both physically and psychologically, I started thinking deeply about being 69 years old. Had I already retired from work and only had Medicare when I had my stroke, I might be “in a world of hurt.” I do not think Medicare would have covered the comprehensive care I have received, and I would not have been able to afford the level of comprehensive medical assistance I am receiving. To cover the health care I am getting would more than likely have caused me to consider borrowing significant money. I would have been forced to choose between receiving less comprehensive care or using credit cards, putting my family into serious debt simply to afford good and necessary health care after an unforeseen health crisis.
It has been difficult to accept I am now a person living with disabilities. I am much more appreciative and empathetic to the thousands of people in our community who have suffered from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other serious illnesses—especially retired and/or low-income seniors without adequate health coverage.
As an elected official for nearly 20 years, I have always advocated “health care for all.” But it was not always from the deep, personal perspective. My stroke has made clear to me why we must demand comprehensive health care coverage for ALL residents of our country.
At this historic juncture, I believe we need to support implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. However, the ACA is limited to just providing “basic” health care for all citizens. “BASIC” is not enough. We can and must do a lot better in bringing comprehensive health care benefits to all people!
A Luta Continua.
Larry Gossett is Councilmember on the Metropolitan King County Council, District Two. He and his wife, Rhonda Gossett, are PSARA members.