A day after arriving at Stanford, he had a third stroke.
“They showed me the CT scan” Karen said. “They pointed
out the little strokes, which were like little white dots, but
now the whole right side of his brain was white. That’s when
If a CT scan the next morning were clear of micro-
bleeds, they would go ahead with the heart surgery — but
there was a bleed. They waited another 24 hours, still
administering the extremely strong antibiotics. The second
CT scan showed that the bleed hadn’t continued, so he was
rushed to surgery, with neurosurgeons standing by, in case
his brain started to bleed again during the procedure.
The surgeons warned Karen that it might be a 20-hour
surgery, especially if there were problems. “The surgeon
said, ‘If we run into complications, we’re going to come out
and ask you what you want us to do,’” Karen recalled. “After
eight hours the chief surgeon walked into the waiting room; I
thought Eric was dead! He walked up to me with a big smile
and said, ‘It went better than we ever could have expected.
His heart is really strong and he’s going to be okay.’”
Because of the damage to the electrical system, three
pacemakers had been implanted, as well as replacing the
aortic valve and removing the abscess and resulting infection.
He was on the super-strength antibiotics for a total of nine
weeks. He still has one of the pacemakers, and he continues
on daily preventative antibiotic treatment to this day.
Some of his doctors felt he was too sick for acute
rehab, but the surgeon insisted. After two weeks in
Stanford, he went to acute stroke rehab for nine weeks.
There, his years of working out and doing martial arts
had a beneficial effect. “It gave me the strength to work
through my recovery,” Eric said. “There were two
professional athletes there at the same time. We’d go to
rehab together, and working out was competition. That
In rehab, Eric regained bowel and bladder control
and worked on cognitive function in speech therapy
because his speech had spontaneously returned before he
left the hospital. His whole left side was still extremely
compromised. Then he went to inpatient rehab closer to
home for six more weeks, and he did outpatient rehab
three or four days a week for another year and a half,
Rehab is where Eric first got the idea of doing a
show. The title — A Piece of My Mind — came first,
“and then I began to envision a show,” Eric said. “I just
kept thinking about it constantly, and I told my brothers,
Karen and the doctors I was going to do a show. I don’t
think anyone believed I could or that I would do it.”
When he got back home, it was clear he had to leave
the university, and he decided to do the show for his
students because they’d never seen him perform. “I
wanted to do something special for my retirement. Then
my colleagues told me that they had booked the theater
for me and suddenly, all this talk had a deadline.”
“His colleagues were very supportive,” Karen said.
“They told Eric, ‘All you have to do is come on stage
and wave and show people you’re alive and everyone
will be thrilled.’” As it turned out, so many people made
reservations that a larger theatre was booked.
An inveterate performer, Eric was not going to let an
audience go to waste. In January, he began to develop
his script — with one-finger typing, at first, “but the
challenge was to remember an idea from the beginning
of a sentence to the end of a sentence, one letter at a
SO ON STAG
Eric performing his one-man show, A Piece of My Mind