Half-a-brain but filled with gratitude

Graphic by Rylee Holwager.
Graphic by Rylee Holwager.

“I wake and someone is talking to me. I don’t understand … where in the hell am I? Who is this guy? Why is he here? My head hurts so very bad it is difficult to see. I have no idea what is going on,” wrote Jack Bousquet in his memoir, “It’s amazing what you can still accomplish with only half-a-brain.” 

“I don’t know where I am. So, I try to sit up. Oops that’s not working, why can’t I sit up? I find it impossible to sit up. What the hell. Disoriented, confused, and yes scared. I can’t sit up. Why? Who is this guy? Where am I? … I start looking around. I did not know where I was, how I got here, or what happened. OH crap … I am in a hospital bed.”  

Bousquet had just suffered a severe stroke on his 49th birthday on Sept. 27, 2002.  

The Newhall resident was diagnosed with dermatomyositis nine years prior to his stroke. Dermatomyositis is a rare autoimmune muscular disease that causes muscle weakness and skin rash. Because of his dermatomyositis, he can only walk about 15 feet before getting tired and needing to sit down. He would get a liter of intravenous Immunoglobulin for two consecutive days every month, a process that can last up to seven hours per day. Bousquet’s condition even led him to be the first person in Los Angeles to receive IVIG at home. 

Bousquet was used to working on real estate development projects worth upward of $100 million. Now, he felt weak. 

“I don’t like being the sick guy,” wrote Bousquet in his memoir.  

Dermatomyositis was believed to be one of the perpetuating causes of Bousquet’s stroke.  

His stroke immediately caused him to lose feeling in almost the entire life side of his body. This was because the stroke was caused by the large right artery in his brain collapsing.  

Bousquet lost 40% of his brain function, this being on the right side. He details it by cupping his right hand, placing his right hand above his right eye and moving his hand until it reaches the back of his head.  

“That side is dead now,” said Bousquet.   

Frustration was one of the immediate emotions he had endured after having his stroke, constantly facing the question, “Why can’t I do this?” 

His recovery process involved many, “Can you feel this? Can you do this for me?” and took about two and a half months. 

“There were so many nurses who helped me,” wrote Bousquet. “I could have never made the recovery without them. They taught me how to walk again and how to talk again. Hell, they helped when I was at my worst to relearn some basic everyday simple functions.” 

The main lesson that Bousquet had to learn was that he was no longer his old self and that he could never be, he was someone entirely new.  

“I told the doctor as I was recovering, ‘Everybody saw me as Jack. I still look the same. Everybody thought I acted the same, but I wasn’t. I was so different.’” said Bousquet. “I had to let the old Jack go because that was holding me back and once I let him go, I just had to deal with this (recovering and moving on).” 

After the recovery process, Bousquet went back to work and went on to develop $2 billion worth of real estate projects. As he was developing these projects, he also developed fear that he would be treated differently for having a stroke. 

“Nobody knows that you had a stroke and you’re so afraid that you’re running projects that are worth a couple 100 million dollars and if they find out you had a stroke and lost 40% of your brain, they’re not gonna let you manage all of that for them,” said Bousquet.  

Bousquet’s accomplishments went on to inspire some of the nurses he was around and they urged him to speak to fellow nurses. They wanted them to see that a kind of recovery like his was possible. 

His speech was so inspiring that it earned him an invitation to speak at one of the American Cancer and Stroke Society’s programs.  

After his speech, many nurses approached him with one common thought. 

“They all said, ‘You should have a book,’” said Bousquet. “I thought, ‘Nobody is gonna read this.’” 

The thought lingered in his mind. He recalled the time when he was in recovery and looking for answers. He never found one that identifies with him now. 

“I could find books on the internet and at a bookstore on strokes, but I couldn’t find anything about people recovering,” said Bousquet.  

Bousquet wrote his memoir, “It’s amazing what you can still accomplish with only half-a-brain,” to show that recovery is possible for those having a stroke as severe as his.  

Bousquet’s memoir is available for purchase at Barnes and Noble, bit.ly/3wwgeH9.  

Despite not having feeling in his left arm, hand or the left side of his face anymore, Bousquet says, “Life is good and I’m living the dream.” 

He is now retired and spending all the time he can with his grandkids.  

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