Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I Go On Adventures

I speak all around the country.

Let me tell you about my latest adventure.

Darlene in the center of things

It was in Vienna. No, not Austria, in Virginia at the Stroke Comeback Center whose Executive Director, Darlene Williamson, is a gem. More on her later.

I flew into DC to Ronald Reagen Airport, I'm so old school I still call it National Airport. Every flight that is uneventful is a good flight in my book. This flight was uneventful. I took a cab to the Center and that's when the magic began....

The driver was an elegant man from India and he began telling me how wonderful America is. How people here take for granted how great this country is. We talked for awhile and in our conversation I casually mentioned I used to be in news. He quickly looked at me in the rear view mirror, squinted his eyes, and exclaimed, "You had a stroke!"

I wasn't expecting that.

"I watched you do the weather after your stroke!"

He went on to explain that he has a cousin back in India who also had a stroke and, I'm not making this up, uses me as hope and inspiration for him.  His cousin doesn't do his rehab on a regular basis and thinks 'woe is me.' I always say you can't think that way. You can't. You have to keep battling. My new friend said he tells his cousin not to give up, he tells him I haven't given up. His words, to me, were like manna from heaven. To think you can affect someone half a world away.

The rest of the ride was a haze of goodness.

Back to Darlene. The Center is an oasis for stroke survivors and people who have aphasia. I do not use the word oasis lightly. When I was going through my rehab I sure wish I had a place like that to help me. Darlene is the reason it's so good. She's kind, smart, has a great heart in the right place and is one of those people making a difference.

High praise and well deserved.

That night we had a dinner with board members, survivors, and Cindy Chambers.

Cindy is many things but she is also the author of a series of books.

The Beamer Book Series.

Beamer is a therapy dog and helps people of all ages to understand all kinds of things. Complex things like diabetes, cancer, stroke and things not as complex like going to the dentist, the ER, fire safety and more. Her books especially help children to not be afraid of these things because, through the books, they're gently explained.

And therefore not scary.

At that dinner the food was delicious, the company great, and the conversation superb.

I spoke the next day.

The room was full of stroke survivors. My kind of people. I'm from Maryland so I talked at first about the Baltimore Orioles of my youth--Frank and Brooks and Boog and Earl Weaver. They loved that. Then I told them I was a Yankee fan.

They didn't love that.

I talked about my stroke, about rehab, about my life after stroke. What it's like today and things I've learned. How to never give up. I talked about hope.

After it was over it did my heart good to shake every hand and to talk to, what seemed like, every person there. To let people know that stroke, that aphasia, is not necessarily the end of the line. And a few hugs coming my way didn't hurt.

All in all, a magical adventure.
Debbie Rieger, Cindy Chambers, Darlene Williamson

To find out more about the Stroke Comeback Center go to

To find out more about The Beamer Book Series go to www.tell me

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