A miracle for Mr Hockey?

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Back when ice hockey was new to the American South in 1973-ish, with Atlanta (Flames) and Houston (Aeros) getting teams involving the sport on ice, I had this idea for a feature magazine story.

I could tell the story of the sporting franchises trying to make inroads in cultures where  ice was something to put in their mint juleps, and a puck was someone in Willie Shakespeare’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Maybe hockey would even come to New Orleans, where I was based, so I could get in on the fan action. (As a former player, the closest I could get to ice was the annual Holiday On Ice show that came to town every few years, set up a temporary rink and allowed Yankees like me to skate early Sunday mornings)


I would get an interview with the Houston Aeros star player, Gordie Howe, who had been lured out National Hockey League retirement in his mid-40’s to play with the World Hockey Association. Maybe it had something to with playing with two sons, Mark and Marty. He was, after all, Mr Hockey, already a member of NHL Hall of Fame, and the namesake of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick – scoring a goal, an assist, and involved in a fight during one game.

I contacted the Houston Aeros, outlined my story, and they agreed to let me interview Gordie after a game. Like an addict too long from his drug, I was overdosed with images/sounds/smells from the game, when I walked into the locker room to find Mr Hockey straight out of the showers, glistening in his birthday suit. I remember being overwhelmed with the Adonis-like figure (in a non-rainbow way), and saying to myself:  I hope look that good when I’m 45.

Fast forward now through 41 years and you’ll find that Gordie and I have both had strokes, with his making news.

His stroke, according to his family, left him unable to walk or speak. He was described as ‘catatonic.’

They had mentally prepared for the end; his funeral, the eulogies, the things that are left unsaid, but you’re aware of.

That was the beginning of December of 2014. Fortunately the youngest of Gordie’s sons is a doctor and he saw some literature about a treatment in Mexico involving stem cells.

Now you’d think that with all that doctor training would produce some real-life scientific scepticism, but Dr  Murray Howe arranged to have Mr Hockey transported to Tijuana and get the treatment. And then:

“At Tijuana medical clinic where, on Dec. 8, the elder Howe sat straight up in bed just hours after an injection of about 100 million stem cells and demanded with an astonishingly strong voice that he needed to use the restroom, Murray Howe said.

“He says, ‘I’ll walk,’ and I said, ‘You can’t walk,’ ” Murray Howe recalled. “He says, ‘The hell I can’t.’ And he sits up and puts his feet over the side of the bed and stood up.

“If I hadn’t been there and seen that happen with my dad, I don’t know if I’d believe it either.”

Detroit  Free Press

There are people who don’t believe it, scientists who say with bravado, indignant spittle (because Science is on their side), this story is creating a false hope and raising hope for snake oil salesmen.

So the debate continues.

Can stem cells help cure the affects of stroke?

Or is it bunkum? You can’t fool Science.


I would gladly try anything to be able to speak again. And if it’s good for Mr Hockey, it’s good for me. He managed at age 86 to score one-third of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick – a fight with stroke (which he won), without taking a penalty.

One final note about hockey as a sport:




I’m proposing a new word for 2014

Please go to my new site http://redoable.co.uk

for the entire story!

I invented this word purely to get in the face of the originators of the word “selfie,” because the word I’m proposing doesn’t have the narcissism, self-absorption and ego.

“Selfies” originators  were then egged-on by the Oxford English Dictionary which made “selfie” the “word of the year for  2013″ which only celebrated the vacuous planet of celebrity and party-goers and its St Elmo’s fire of notoriety and does nothing to further the English language. Some forms of “Selfies” can be dangerous as people now use their mobiles/cell phones as a new form of mirror with which to measure their form of reality.

The word I’m proposing is shadowies – a picture of your shadow in various poses that leaves the “me” out of the photograph, allowing only the essence of you. It’s similar to Victorian silhouettes but with more scope for artistry all without worrying about combing your hair, or even what you wearing, or make-up, or skin imperfections.

Dependent on how the light strikes you, you can be tall or short, thin or thin-challenged. It’s the perfect anonymous portrait. You don’t have your silly duck-faced photos living on in internet eternity.

Go back into the shadows and lose yourself in the anonymity.

Here are some I took earlier.

Redoable – 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

In which I volunteer for medical research – hit me with the Botox Doc

I keep up with science-related research through press releases and general news which was pretty much my last job at The Open University communications department, and before that, a career as a journalist and now as stroke survivor blogger.

In the daily trawls I came upon this:

New research shows that repeated treatments of Botox (botulinum toxin type A) over one year after a stroke can improve muscle tone and reduce pain in the arms and hands, making it easier for patients to dress themselves.

I read it as: miracle cure will help you type better than hen-pecking at the keyboard mostly with your left hand because your right is stroke-affected.

So I’ve volunteered for medical research.

I emailed The Spasticity Service at the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery in London. A few days later a nice woman named Luci responded with this:

Thank you for getting in touch with us and for your interest in our study, which is investigating the effects of botulinum toxin injections to the hand and arm. I appreciate that it took you a long time to write your email.  

I attach a copy of our patient information sheet which goes into quite a lot of detail about what would be involved if you were eligible to take part in this study. This is a fairly long document (10 pages or so), so if you would prefer a paper copy, let me know your address and I will post one out to you.  

Because this is a research study, we can only recruit a specific group of people. There are 2 main things that would help us to decide if you are eligible to take part: 

  1. You would need to be      able to hold a glass in your affected hand (you can put it in there with      help from your other hand), to lift it up and place it on the table      (without help from your other hand), and then to let it go. It doesn’t      matter if letting go is very slow or difficult, or if you need to drag      your hand off the glass, but you do need to be able to let go WITHOUT help      from your other hand.
  2. We are looking for      people with a specific kind of stiffness, also called spasticity, in the      hand and fingers. This is because the injections will only work on this      kind of stiffness.

I wrote back saying: I can do that; put me in the game coach. Then Luci replied:

From what you say in your email you may be potentially eligible.  

However, we are getting a lot of enquiries about our study from people who, like you, live quite a long way from London. You have raised concerns about this yourself in your email. We need to consider how practicable it would be for people who live a long way away to undertake all the travel that would be required to attend all the trial appointments. We have found that participants do get quite tired as the sessions can be fairly intense. This does not mean that you would not be able to take part, but once we have ascertained who may be potentially eligible, we need to discuss who would be most appropriate for our study, how far they would need to travel and whether we would be able to help with travel costs.  

Once we have done this I will get back in touch with you to let you know what the position is.

I’m waiting.


I worked with a guy named Neil at the OU who was super-fast at typing – it sounded like maybe 100 words a minute – at least I thought so.

It wasn’t until I walked past his desk that I noticed he only typed with his left hand, not because of any disability, he just preferred it that way.

Would that I could.

Great-grandmother De La Foret slapped my tendency to be left-hand out of me when I was two.

Aware of aphasia? Hell, I can’t get it out of my mind!

I hear that June is National Aphasia Awareness month in the US.

I’m aware of it the other 11 months as well as June. I’m only too aware of it outside the US since I live in the United Kingdom.

I wish mine would go away, constant companion that it is.

All this effort I have spent on redoing my brain. Since my stroke and resulting aphasia, I’ve learned about my brain, what it does, what it can do, what it does with a good blood supply, what it does now that I interrupted that blood supply, what it might do if I could get stem cells injected in it, what it does with medications.

Before Stroke (BS) I had little interest in the organ on top of my head. I knew it would work for me. It would hurt occasionally if I mis-used it. I used it primarily for the creative arts – weaving words and pictures with an active imagination.

The closest I came to studying the brain before BS was the case of Billy Milligan. His was a case of the brain so mis-firing because of child abuse, that he developed 24 separate personalities and acquired foreign languages written and spoken, martial arts, weapons expertise, and even an artistic flair.

I covered his story and later worked with him (just the one Billy after they re-did his brain) on a screenwriting project. The last I heard of him they were still going to make a film of his life.

I have learned so much about the brain, even that there is a Human Brain Coloring Book, Now £6.99 (RRP: £9.99).

I think I’ll give myself a treat after I save up some money.

Welcome to the city of Stroke-ville – where more times are bad than good

I did a lot of reading about strokes since one landed uninvited on my doorstep.

My daughter T gave me a book for that first Christmas following my stroke: Stroke Survivor, A Personal Guide to Recovery, by Andy McCann, and there’s a tone in it that everything is wonderful. Oh, there are tough times, Andy says, but he barely mentions any.

(I stopped reading about halfway through for fear the additional sugar overload would affect my diabetes)

There is no writing about the destruction of ego when what has always been with you departs; no frustration as you try to re-grip the old reality; try to get some purchase on trying to grab the phantom that is your old way of life; no writing of the emptiness of soul as you contemplate life without speech and limited mobility. You cannot see a tunnel, much less a light at the end it.

No, everything is hunky-dory with “positive thinking” the way Andy sees stroke survival.

And because he’s a Chuck Norris kind of man – martial arts and all that.

Because he survived and made a business of survival by saying positive things to people for large sums of money.

Maybe that’s the way The Stroke Association sees things – in its own sphere around which its version of the world revolves, the centre of which is The Stroke Association. Sure there are inspirational stories, but you’ve got take the bad times with the good. It’s called objectivity. And, objectively, I can say there more bad times than good in the city of Stroke-ville.

Then, in reply to my outraged emails I got a shovel-full of “apologies” and “unreserved apologies at any distress it may have caused me.” There was even an invitation to contact their media person to see how I might contribute. I thought I had explained that. There’s even a comment to this blog saying they apologise for ignoring me and try contacting their new editor (she’s “keen to hear from you” – that’s why they gave me a generic email rather her personal account).

I certainly didn’t expect to get involved in a dispute with The Stroke Association when I had a stroke. I thought they would be on my side. Now they’veapologised“.

Still, I can’t forget the line:  As you have not used our services and due to the demand, I regret we are not able to take your request further.”

I remember Kate Allatt, who came back from Locked-in Syndrome, re-telling of her feelings of total worthlessness, worthiness, helplessness, indignity, her complete reliance on family members and the guilt that consequently created, fear, the nightmares, the torments, the insomnia, the leg cramps and insufficient turning in her bed, the frustration… She could go on.

And so could I.

In fact, fellow stroke blogger Mindpop said it best:

Mindpop has made me famous. This past weekend, I was invited to Salt Lake City to speak for the Utah Stroke Symposium, thanks to a Mindpop reader.

I told the doctor and therapist audience to be encouraging to their patients. I haven’t always had encouraging care. Watch out, heartless medical staff, your patients are speaking.”

Watch out too charities. Those affected have a voice.

“Strange how some charities find it hard to let service users in.”

It still just sticks in my mind like a bad dream, or toffee that gets stuck in your fillings.

“Unfortunately, not everyone can become a media volunteer because of the sheer volume people.”

All I asked for was a chance to contribute my talents to The Stroke Association – free! I wasn’t asking for pay or commission. I was just glad that my brain was functioning again (almost) although my hands were not. I wanted to contribute to the organisation that was set up to make people aware of strokes. Possibly I could contribute. If only they would talk to me.

Yet she said: “As you have not used our services.” But I had, and paid £2 for the service, and the editor came to us to ask what should be in their magazine.

She added: “due to the demand, I regret we are not able to take your request further.” Did she even read my email? Well, better yet, did she understand it?

She added: “Unfortunately, not everyone can become a media volunteer because of the sheer volume people.”

I didn’t ask to be a volunteer. I wanted to contribute.

Jo, a speech therapist who follows me, recognises something in my writing. She wrote: “Reading these blogs is the closest you can get to understanding aphasia from the inside.”

A former work colleague, Jane, who follows my writing said: “Strange how some charities find it hard to let service users in.”

Then, I found this unattributed quote:

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Now I’ve got find a 150 watt bulb.