The day before the stroke we played at Lake Henshaw. Lake Henshaw is in the middle of nowhere, hours away from Los Angeles. There was hay everywhere and millions of grasshoppers, some as big as your fingers. We played a set which was taped by Paul Shelasky, and afterwards I heard a song that I sang, “Devil With The Devil.” The day was beautiful, clear and hot, and we were out in the country. I remember that our band, the Good Ol’ Persons, and this other band, the Shy Persons, were going to do the same song, which is a no-no if they’re too close together. I think the other band finally changed their song – we were the headliners, we could do any song we wanted to! I thanked them anyway.
The day of the stroke we got up, got dressed, played our second set, and drove from Lake Henshaw to Mission Viejo. We got to our hosts’ house, the Mirkens, changed our clothes, rehearsed, and went to the music store, the Shade Tree. It was a store that sold musical instruments, music books, and an assortment of records and cassettes. The sound system was almost set up – the owners had moved all the musical instruments out and they had set up a stage, one that was barely big enough – I think Kevin (fiddler) had to stand on the floor. We went into a practice room and they let the audience come in. We made our entrance and began to play. I have no idea what we sounded like that set, the last set that I would ever play. For the last song we played “My, My, My,” a trio which Kathy sings lead on. On the last beat of the vocal I had to hold the note out for a long time, and the note that I sang was very high. So I started to sing it, and I can not tell you what happened next, only what it felt like.
I felt something explode inside my head. I did not black out for a split second, but it was like that – suddenly everything changed, everything was different. I can’t explain how it felt, but at this writing it’s been almost 18 years since the bleed and I still remember the way it felt like it was yesterday. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I was still singing the note, nothing had changed except my perception and a blood vessel or blood vessels in my head. The way it was explained to me by Kathy, who is the band leader, who had it explained to her by the surgeon, is as follows: Blood vessels sometimes have thin places, and if they get too much pressure on them, they can have a blowout, something like a tire. Your brain is blood and other stuff on the inside, but it can not have blood on the outside of it, and if it gets blood on the outside of it, it gets allergic, and it also gets swollen. That was what was happening to the inside of my head.
[This was sort of inaccurate, but until they did brain surgery, they explained it as an aneurysm, when actually it was a CVA (CerebroVascularAccident) which means a tangle of blood vessels in the wrong place.]
So I finished singing the note, and then I just stood there in shock for a minute. Then I said “Oh shit,” and I thought to myself that there’s no way on earth that they’re ever going to know what is wrong with me, much less be able to fix it. Sally, the Dobro player, said “What’s wrong?” I said I didn’t know. Then I put down my bass, got off of the stage, walked to the back of the room, sat down, and put my head in my hands. By this time I couldn’t talk, I could just make guttural sounds, which would come out every now and then involuntarily. I don’t remember this, but apparently I couldn’t use my right side either. I looked around to see if anybody noticed, but they didn’t. On looking back at this, I should have alerted someone to make them find out what was wrong with me, but then I was too freaked out to consider what I should or should not have done.
Eventually, the rest of the band realized that something was wrong, so they asked if there was a doctor in the house, which there was [later I found out there were two!]. The doctor asked if I was in pain anywhere, I indicted yes, she asked where, and I pointed to my head. She said to call 9-1-1, and the paramedics arrived. They made me lie down on a stretcher, did an assessment, and said I should be taken to a hospital. So I was carried to a waiting ambulance, and we started to drive to the hospital. By the time I was carried out to the ambulance, I think I was unconscious – I don’t remember being carried anywhere.
They told me later that there is a head trauma center not five minutes from the Shade Tree. It was the best place I could have been, unless I had actually been playing in the hospital itself. If I had had my bleed the day before, when we were at Lake Henshaw, it is relatively certain that I would have died. Also, if they had not taken a piece of my skull out, the resulting swelling from my CVA would have killed me.Last Modified June 12, 2009 @ 9:32 am