Nicknames are lovingly given to replace someone's real name. For example, is there anything more endearing than "Schmoopey"? (It's what I sometimes call my dog. A pet name, so to speak.) Or, the diminutive for someone who is "ace" at something might be my daughter, Annaclaire. Her initials are "ACB," thus the spinoffs "Ace," or "Acey." For those not in a rush, they go for the full three-syllable, "A-C-B." My entire name is Bonni Dee Kogen Brodnick. Over the years, I've accumulated multifarious sobriquets: Bon Bon-Bon Miss Bon-Bon Bon-Ton Benni (I think Elton John wrote a song about me. Click here.) Bonnzi Bobo Bonni B. BB B. Bononni CloBon(a derivation of "Cloudette Bonni") Bonchi Scoop (This was particularly clever because it was rendered when I wrote a weekly newspaper column, "Talk of the Town" for the Bedford-Pound Ridge Record-Review. I'd hear from across the street, "Hey, Scoooooop!" and knew exactly who was calling me.) Bonomo Bonomo Sugar Benni Booni Bonanni Bonnikins Bonniunde I love all of them. I truly appreciate that someone wants to bestow me with a moniker other than Bonni Dee Kogen Brodnick. That they should feel close to me. Love me, if you will. But, if you don't know me well, don't call me by a nickname. E.g., don't call me "Bon" too soon in our relationship. Also, if I'm at a business meeting, say I'm discussing the media tactics for a new campaign and someone whom I just met asks, "So, Bonnzi, what do you think?" I think you're getting a little too personal. You might as well add, "Old friend, old pal" and whack me on the back. So, play it safe. Keep a distance. Call me "Bonni." You'll know in your heart when the time is right to use one of my nicknames. I promise you, Flippy.
So here I am, doing research for a new writing project. I googled "atrial fibrillation." In the right-hand column I see ... no, wait ... is it really ... ME? (Click here) The chick in the photo looks exactly like me (plus 30 lbs. ... like, me when I was in college and cooking at Helio's, a Greek restaurant on Martha's Vineyard, and I couldn't get enough of the tahini frosting). Can you believe I'm the poster child for A-Fib? I look crabby and disgruntled to have disorganized electric signals and heart palpitations. Plus, I appear to have the grimace of being irregular ... with heartbeat, that is. My mother said, "Bon, do you have glasses like that? I really think it's you. Maybe they took it of you and you didn't know." And my sister said, "Call Central Casting!"
(Left to right) My sister Pamela and my brother Michael. I am so thankful for them.
I was returning to Phelps Hospital, where I was for two weeks in-patient rehab. My stroke was mid-April. Perched in my room on the 4th floor, I could watch the seasons change as the grass, flowers and trees turned from spring to summer. Then during follow-up therapies, I watched them go from fall to winter. Today, the scenery is once again on the cusp of bloom. I was back to have my post-stroke, 1-year anniversary.
The entrance to Phelps has “P” in black and “helps” in red. Phelps Helps. The boxwood were trimmed just below the word “Emergency.” (Once when I was leaving in June, the flowers had grown to nearly cover the word. I thought, “How can you have a sign with the word ‘Emergency’ covered? What if there was an EMERGENCY?)
Today, I left enough time so that I could navigate the hallways, which can be confusing. One half of the hospital is 755 and the other is 777. I had appointments with my neurologist in 777, but had to drop off a form to retrieve my records at 755. I had also parked in the wrong place. No worries. I could do it.
I remembered walking the 4th-floor halls with my physical therapists. “Watch out for the walls.” “Over here a little more.“ I was slightly dizzy and weak. My vision was skewed. Why were their mouths so long? (I later learned that my eye muscles were temporarily weakened from the stroke.) I couldn't wait for the session to be over when I invariably crashed. The naps couldn’t come soon enough.
When I walked the 1st-floor with my OT therapist, everything was so confusing. There was more bustling with people coming and going in the lobby. In one of our sessions, she asked me to count how many fire extinguishers I passed from the OT room to the gift shop. I had to point and say, “Fire extinguisher” as I passed each one.
“You missed one,” she said patiently. Her challenge was steep for this post-stroke survivor. It was so hard to walk, watch and say “fire extinguisher.” “Oops, you missed another one," she said.
“Maybe it’s my eyes,” I said. I could blame a lot on my eyes.
Finally, we got to our destination: the gift shop.
“Find a Reese’s Cup, pocket tissues and a pair of earrings,” she said. “Then, take me to where there are things with a proverb written on them.”
Sounds easy. Believe me, it was challenging. I felt so slow-minded. I wanted to go to my room where there weren't as many people hustling around. And the noise. My brain couldn't take the confusion.
But today -- my 1-year anniversary -- was different. I felt stronger. I could walk straight -- both a straight line, and tall and straight. I was proud. I could navigate the noises, lights, and people so much easier. Even the fire extinguishers didn’t fetter me.
My neurologist was thrilled to see my progress. He asked what were some of my challenges.
My right side was weak but getting better. I was also self-conscious of my aphasia.
“You are talking much clearer,” the doctor said. “There is more hesitation between the words, and you speak softer, but it is clear. I don’t think you should tell people you have aphasia. They might not have even noticed.”
“Maybe I could use it to my advantage when I was talking on the phone with the bank or insurance company.”
He laughed and agreed.
That evening, I went to the market. A couple was there. She was picking oranges. The man was muttering something. He had a limp, a cane and a clenched hand. I used to have the same.
I empathized with what he was going through. I wanted to ask, “Excuse me. Did you have a stroke, by chance? I did, too.”
I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all I could do.
Today is the 1-year anniversary since I had my stroke. I am thankful and grateful for many, many, many things. My family, for their patience, love and encouragement. My friends, for their steadfastness and love. I'm grate-full (new word for "full of gratitude") for being able to walk, talk, think, see, feel ... and dance at my son's wedding. And I am thank-full to Joe Manno and Janie Parks for stopping on I-95, calling for help immediately, and being my Good Samaritan saviors. The County Journal story,"South Jersey Couple Hailed as Good Samaritan Saviors," appeared on the front page (top-of-the-fold!). Many thanks to reporter Deb Marko and her editors for deeming it worthy of this attention. Today, it runs in the Chicago Tribune ... joining Philadelphia Inquirer, U.S. News and World Report, Washington Times, and many other publications in spreading good news. In a country that is so divisive, it sends a national message: Be kind and thoughtful. Go out of your way to be a Good Samaritan,
On this 1-year anniversary, I wrote to Joe and Janie to thank them " ... so much for stopping and helping me. You truly saved my life."
It's 4:30 a.m. and she wants to go out. It's so early. It's too early. Maggie, our 1-year old Cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle combo)has been getting into bad habits. The night before it was 4 a.m.
"Go back to sleep." I reach down the bed to pet her. She stands up and shakes her head. Then she jumps off the bed. "Maggie, go to sleep," my husband says. We weren't giving in. She jumps back into bed. Power to the people.