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"Sink or Swim": post-stroke advice from Michael Shutt


Michael Shutt is a stroke survivor. Thrice. Back to back to back. Unusually, he was only 48 years old at the time of the strokes. Afterward, his life was upside down. His left side was nearly immobile, he had significant cognitive impairment and lost much of his peripheral vision.


"Sink or swim" became his stroke recovery motto. It was a line his father had told him, back when he was a little boy, learning how to swim in the ocean's waves. The waves had pummeled him. The force pushed him down, tipped him over, discouraged him from making progress. Faced with the daunting task, his father simply told him: "you have two choices, sink or swim".


As a stroke-survivor adult, Michael remembered this lesson and decided to invest all of his efforts into learning how to "swim" again, fighting now against the repeated waves of disappointment and difficulty that the stroke meted out to his mind and body. So successful was his recovery efforts that he was inspired to create a solo show and podcast titled "A Lesson in Swimming."


Strictly speaking, this post is not about aquatic stroke therapy. But I wanted to share Michael's story, because it contains an important truth for all stroke survivors. I'll let Michael say it in his own words:


"‘You have a choice.’ We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to life. "



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