When Tragedy Strikes

Are you prepared for a life-changing illness?

Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of installments by Men's Fitness Editor-in-Chief Roy S. Johnson as part of a two month partnership with the new NBC/Proctor & Gamble site Healthgoesstrong.com.

It wasn't supposed to happen. Not this soon. We're far fitter than our parents were at the same age. We exercise more, eat better, have more sex (okay, some of us do), and we believe our 50s are the new, hell, the new 30s! So it just wasn't supposed to happen.

But it did. One still dark, early morning last October, my wife rose from the bed feeling "something," she told me months later. In a few moments she was on the floor, suddenly paralyzed, unable to speak and consciously unconscious (awake but with no recollection of anything after getting out of the bed) because a blood clot was blocking oxygen to the left side of her brain.

She was suffering a massive stroke.

My wife was 52 years old, and she possessed none of the traits that would have made her predisposed to having a stroke. She was not obese. Cholesterol was normal. No high blood pressure. Nothing.

A catastrophic illness wasn't supposed to happen. Not yet. But it did. And it changed our lives.

That moment she suffered the stroke is eight months behind us but its images and emotions are as vivid to me and our children (two teenagers: a son, 16, and daughter, 13) as if they were playing out on the HD flat screen in our kitchen.

My wife is home now, light years better than she was then and the weeks that followed. She underwent a radical brain procedure and initially we did not know if she would suffer a severe setback. She could not speak for days, and did not know my name (she kept calling me Cliff, who is one of her brothers) for more than a week. I recall the day when a physical therapist came by her hospital room and needed two other people to help her "walk," which essentially meant one aide holding her upright as the therapist and another aide, each holding a leg, moved them forward separately.

Read more from Men's Fitness Editor-in-Chief Roy S. Johnson and find out how he coped when personal tragedy struck — healthgoesstrong.com.

Related articles:

Let It Go: Negativity can make you sick. But not if you don't allow it to

Savor the Next "You": Get excited about where life is taking you

Today is Not Tomorrow: Setbacks happen to the nicest people

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