The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Michele Bender

March 8, 2014

MICHELE M. BENDER | What happened to Christmas?

JOHNSTOWN — Headaches rarely bother me. I always felt sorry for folks trapped in the Advil/Dristan web.

I woke up at 4 a.m. Dec 17 with a headache that probably registered on a Richter scale. (People in New Zealand experienced aftershocks.)

I keep what I call a “go bag,” a duffle filled with hospital necessities, on hand.

Hospital tissues are designed for “Tinkerbell” sneezes. The mouthwash tastes like Pine-Sol with a shot of Mrs. Dash.

I bring my own socks, undies, floss, toothbrush and paste, and extra hearing aid batteries.

I could keep dissin’ hospital supplies, but when you’re miserable to begin with, you like your own stuff.

When Highmark gives you frequent siren bonus points, you learn.

Restock your bag after each trip; your blood pressure will drop 8 points, at least.

Now, rewind to 4 a.m. Dec. 17. Jill arrived, topped off the go bag and called 911.

I recall her waving, but little else. Her hand must have been frozen.

I realized I was in ICU for the first time ever. A whirlwind of machines kept me entertained.

On Day 4, a gaggle of doctors like you see on “House” came to report that yes, I’d had a stroke; no brain damage; no brain surgery. Confirmed … I  have a brain; it just leaks a little.

One older doctor told the “newbies” that I write a humor column in the newspaper.

“Try to familiarize yourself with aspects of our culture,” he suggested.

When they left, I laughed for 20 minutes. I’ve been accused of being many things, but never of being a cultural icon. (Go, girl!)

They moved me across the hall the next day, and discharged me Dec. 28.

Back at home Jan. 9, I decided to heat up leftover tuna casserole for my dinner.

I never slipped, never had a second of dizziness, no pain, but I found myself flat on the floor on the linoleum.

I surveyed myself for broken bones, then shimmied my fanny over to a chair for leverage to sit up, get my TracFone from my walker bag and dial 911. I lay back down on the floor. My head felt damp.

Then I heard voices. I’d forgotten that the band (Johns-town Classic Rockers) was rehearsing that night.

At the peak of excitement, we had five rockers, two paramedics and Steve, who just moved in across the street, gathered around my carcass.

As the EMT knelt to take vitals, I realized I was covered in blood and tuna casserole, something that Hannibal Lechter might whip up if he’d invited “Jaws” for dinner!

Poor Steve! We’ll have to break him in.

I received 37 emails titled “What Happened to Christmas?”

It’s hard to squeeze Christmas and New Year’s between two strokes.

My “12 Days of Christmas“ column appeared Jan. 19. I wanted to appreciate all the delightful caregivers who sacrificed their holidays for the likes of me.

“The Best New Year’s Eves Ever” was published Jan 5.

I thought those columns would fill in the blanks, but apparently not. There were gaps for sure.

I think it needed a little more tuna.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.


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Michele Bender
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  • Bender_Michele.JPG MICHELE M. BENDER | What happened to Christmas?

    Headaches rarely bother me. I always felt sorry for folks trapped in the Advil/Dristan web.
    I woke up at 4 a.m. Dec 17 with a headache that probably registered on a Richter scale. (People in New Zealand experienced aftershocks.)

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo


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