April 16, 2018

My Stroke: 1-Year Anniversary

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."


April 12, 2018

Dog Training: Go Back to Bed


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.




April 5, 2018

In the Pool for Aqua Fit

In the swimming pool at 9 a.m. for Aqua Fit. This easy-on-the-joints exercise was recommended for post-stroke. 
"Kick, kick!" said the instructor. I admired her verve.
"Now move to the right ... and puuuuulllll your arms to the left."

When I had my stroke on Interstate-95, my 86-year old mother (who was in the passenger seat) quickly jerked the car off the highway over to the right.
"You were slumped at the wheel," she said. "I had to take control of the situation."

That quick veer to the right, I believe, is the reason for the continued pain.

"Here, take these.. They're lighter," the instructor noticed I was having trouble with the weights. I told her I had a stroke. She said this would be easier. I can move up to heavier ones later.
My lack of strength on the right was obvious. I felt like crying. Will it ever be strong? Am I being overly hopeful that it will be equal to the left? 
I flashed back to being in the ICU almost a year ago. I was paralyzed. I couldn't even move my right hand off of my thigh.

I remind myself of those times and I think how very far I've come.
I am grateful.
I have eternal gratitude for the simplest of things ... my snoring dog. (Aren't I lucky to be able to hear?)
I am sitting at my desk. And typing. And the type isn't jacked up (as my daughter did last summer) to 18-points so that I could see it better.
There are certain blind spots now, but I can see!!!!!
With my new pacemaker, I don't have to worry that I am having a heartbeat every 4-5 seconds. (It was up to 8-second interim! Not a good sign, I must say.) My heart beats normal. 

I am acutely aware of all of my blessings. 

I am grate-full. (That's my new word for full of gratitude.)


March 21, 2018

Global Warming & Nor'easter Numero 4 (In 3 Weeks)


Clearly, our weather is meshugganah. It's snowing. Again. 
The fourth nor'easter in three weeks ... and it's the first day of spring. 
(Happy Spring!)  


The trend for global warming is accelerating. If we don't curb emissions, average temperatures in the U.S. could increase by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Internationally, Alliance for Climate Protection advocates laws to reduce CO2 emissions, working to persuade everyone -- from individuals to corporations -- to become "carbon neutral."
What does Trump think? 
"Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. 
A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I'd be—received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn't care less. They have very—you know, their standards are nothing. But they—in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it's very hard on our business."

Thank you, Mr. Trump. 


March 15, 2018

A Great Example of Human Kindness




Although this originally appeared in Gannett's County Post, it was also picked up by Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, and U.S. News & World Report.  It's getting the word out there that you don't have to be with EMS to save someone's life.  
Call 9-1-1.

Here's the story. It's a good one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bonni Brodnick doesn’t take life for granted after coming so close to losing her own.

Each day lived, she is grateful to a South Jersey couple for the kindness and care they offered last Easter Sunday.

“I was picking up my mother to bring her to my house,” said Brodnick, a Tarrytown, New York resident. “It’s no big deal, on a good day I can do it in 35 minutes.”

Joe Manno and Janie Parks, in Connecticut for a friend’s wedding, were headed home to Pittsgrove for a holiday family gathering.

Both vehicles were traveling in the middle lane of I-95, heading south through Darien, Conn., when Brodnick suffered a stroke.

“Traffic started slowing down,” Manno told The Daily Journal during a recent interview. “I was trying to figure out what was going on, I could see the one car in the center lane, they were just going slow.”

“I was like what the heck is the person doing,” he said.


Then they noticed a person in the passenger seat frantically gesturing.
“She put her hand out the window trying to point, like they needed to get over,” Manno said. “When they scooted over and got into the shoulder, they just bounced on the guardrail until they came to a stop.”

Inside that Honda CR-V, Brodnick, 61, didn’t comprehend what was happening when the stroke hit.

“I was in fine fiddle, I was in good shape, I was happy, my life was great, I wasn’t stressed,” she said, during a phone interview with The Daily Journal. “There was nothing, no indication, my mother said I had helped her with gardening that morning.”

“We were 10 minutes from her house, I was looking at my hand shaking in the console and thinking, ‘That is just sort of strange,’ not aware that I was still driving,’” she said.

“My mother said she called my name and I didn’t respond; then she screamed, ‘Pull over, pull over,’” Brodnick said. “I was not aware of anything at all.”

The stroke weakened Brodnick’s right side so she couldn’t maintain pressure on the gas pedal. Her mother grabbed the wheel to steer them off the road.

“At that point, we were passing them,” Parks said. “I was looking inside the car to see who was in it, what was going on.”

Seeing the two women, she turned to Manno and said, “We should pull over.”

Manno, 27, a mechanic at JM Deisel Truck Services Inc. in Glassboro, suspected car trouble.

“I know when your car goes out, you’ve got no power steering,” he said.
Walking up to the vehicle, he realized that was not the case.
“Her mom was hitting the horn, screaming, “Call 911,” Manno said.

Parks ran back to their car to get her phone and called for help.

“I noticed she had a stroke pretty quick,” Manno said, “Her face was drooping and she had no control over her right side.”

“After I realized what had gone on, I went over to the other side of the guard rail because traffic was picking up,” he said. “Then I jumped in the car to put it in park because it was still running.”

Manno focused on Brodnick and Parks calmed Brodnick’s mom until the ambulance arrived.

“I wanted to go to the hospital, just to see how she was but we weren’t family,” Parks said. “We had family in Jersey that we had to get to — so we said we did our part and we just kept going.”

They couldn’t stop thinking about Brodnick, who they only knew by her first name.

“I did contact a detective about a month later to see if I could leave my phone number at least,” said Parks, 24, a vet technician at the Regional Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Turnersville. “I left a message.”

After her hospital stays, Brodnick transferred to in-patient rehabilitation.
“I was pretty paralyzed after the stroke, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk,” she said.  “My vision got really messed up."

And her 29-year-old son, David, was getting married in six weeks.

As she healed, Brodnick grew more determined to thank the young strangers.

“I’m thinking more clearly now, I just thought I have to find out who they were,” she said. “I remembered them so clearly when they ran up.”

“My mom told me what they did,” she said. “I knew they had saved my life.”

Quick access to medical care is critical to surviving a stroke and reducing disability.

Brodnick requested first-responder reports from multiple agencies until she finally received one with Manno’s name and address in it.

“I looked in the directory, there were two Joe Mannos, Jr. and Sr.,” she said. On New Year’s Eve, she called. “I left messages for both.”

Manno’s mom, Judy, got the voicemail. She was aware of her son’s Easter encounter on I-95.

“When I listened, I was in shock,” Judy Manno said, passing the message onto her son and Parks.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Parks said. “It was seven months later, I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

The next day, they called her back.

“It was very meaningful for me,” Brodnick said. “I get emotional talking about it. I wasn’t emotional on the call but these two people, they just really saved my life.”

“It was wonderful, wonderful to be in touch with them,” she said.

They are staying in touch.

“We’re emailing back and forth,” Parks said. “It feels like I have a long-distance aunt.”

They were pleased to learn of her recovery and that she attended her son's wedding.

"I walked down the aisle with him and I got to dance with my son," she told them. "All I can say is thank you, you obviously had a big role in my being here today."

Brodnick calls Parks and Manno “my Good Samaritan saviors.”

“It’s amazing that they stopped because they had a long drive,” she said.

“I’m still shocked that no one else pulled over,” Parks said. “No one, we were the only ones.”

Why did they?

“We’re just that kind of people,” Manno said.

“I feel very bonded with them,” Brodnick said. “They are so adorable, they are the ages of my kids.”

Brodnick recently celebrated her birthday. Manno and Parks were on her mind.

“I’m sure this is going come up at many other junctures, but this was the first birthday after the stroke,” she said

“Every single thing I do, I feel grateful,” Brodnick said. “When I walk up the stairs, I’m grateful that I can do it and it’s easier for me now than it was in the beginning.”

“Just holding a needle and being able to sew, was incredible, my hand was too weak before,” Brodnick said. “Everything I do has meaning.”

Manno and Parks also were changed that Easter Sunday.

“That day left an impact on our lives, reminding us tomorrow is never promised,” Manno wrote in an email to Brodnick.

They don’t know why they were there at that very moment Brodnick needed them but Manno has an idea.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.

#  #  #


Deborah M. Marko: @dmarko_dj; dmarko@gannettnj.com




February 27, 2018

Gannett's DAILY JOURNAL Touts Janie Parks & Joe Manna as "Good Samaritan Saviors"


Janie and Joe did it!! They saved my life.

Deb Marko, a reporter at The Daily Journal said, "I cover so many awful stories. How did you know this is the kind of story I love to write?"

Read "South Jersey couple hailed as 'Good Samaritan saviors'".




February 21, 2018

Snappy + Sassy: Betty Kogen

Here is my mom, Betty Kogen ... the woman who gave me life, not once, but TWICE!! (See HuffPost, "My Stroke: Still Here.")

Here she is contemplating which store she liked most: Uniqlo or IKea. Decided it was a tie ... "But then there's Neiman-Marcus, of course."

87 years young ... and full of wonder!


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