The right hemisphere of the human brain has one set of motor neurons to control all movement on the left side of the body. Because the stroke damaged that section of my brain, I now make bizarre involuntary movements – similar to a dog that shakes its leg during a belly scratch. I rub my left eye … my fingers straighten.
My hope for regaining control depends on forging new neural connections between my healthy brain tissue and nerves. I often feel electrical impulses shooting through areas of my left side. When I feel these twinges, I visualize my neural pathways branching out like a root system.
The stroke has had a similar effect on my relationships. Word of it traveled to my family and friends; it stretched into the past to people I hadn't heard from in years; it branched out to friends of friends and total strangers.
The blog has contributed to this phenomenon, connecting me with survivors across the continent and readers around the world. I used to think people who put their lives on the Internet were odd. Who would want to be so public? Now I can't imagine recovering without it. Suffering in isolation makes the suffering so much greater.
Like my motor neurons, these human connections move me. In the face of mortality, fears and pretenses melt away, making my interactions honest and intense. Even strangers have become more accessible – they initiate conversation, they offer help.
The stroke has shown me that the pathways between us exist. We just have to access them.