An Open Letter to Kris Letang

First off, congratulations Kris! Stroke is the leading cause of disability in America and the third-leading cause of death. It sounds like you beat the odds and are one of the lucky stroke victims who can still tie his shoes and walk without assistance. So am I. I thank God every day.

No two strokes are the same. You gotta remember that. Don’t fret about what might or might not happen to you. Everybody’s got a story to tell eventually. Whether it’s heart disease, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – do what your neurologists tell you to do but be proactive. Nobody knows your own body as well as you do.

You got lucky having a PFO (Click here if you don’t know what that is). Your doctors have a road map treating you. My stroke was labeled “cryptogenic” because no one ever figured out why I ever had one. I had low blood pressure, didn’t smoke, exercised, etc. The docs even asked me if I did cocaine, because that can lead to the type of stroke I had.

I don’t know what part of your brain clotted, but reports did say that you were dizzy. I was dizzy, too. My stroke was in my right PICA, which is a fancy way of saying it was in the cerebellum near the brain stem. Balance issues are often associated with CVA’s in the cerebellar region. Typically, you either end up in a vegetative state or you make a near full recovery. If you were able to attend Monday’s Pens’ game in the press box, then you’re once again one of the lucky ones (as am I).

You can thank your mother for the hole in your heart. Seriously, everyone has one, but most close up shortly after birth.

I took the following information from the National Stroke Association website.

What is a PFO?

All people are born with flap-like openings in their hearts. But, for most, the opening closes by itself shortly after birth.

In some people, an open flap remains between the two upper chambers of the heart (the left and right atria). This opening can allow a blood clot from one part of the body to travel through the flap and up to the brain, causing a stroke.

You aren’t less of a person because you had a stroke. Everybody deals with something if they live long enough. Appreciate every day with your family. Help others less fortunate than yourself.

Looking forward to seeing you back on the ice someday, but don’t rush it. You’ll feel differently about certain things the further you distance yourself from the stroke. Seriously, if it takes until the 2015-16 season to get back with the Pens, so be it.

You’re a young guy with a bright future ahead of you. Take things a day at a time and you’ll be okay.

Treasure Life!
John Toperzer

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