Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Scary 20 Minutes. And a Life Perspective.

It was two weeks ago. The Covid-19 pandemic had locked us out of the university. We were adjusting. I was hosting a Zoom information session for the Walton College’s MBA program. I love doing these, but something did not feel right. I was finding it hard to speak. I was drooling and could not control it. My left eye would not shut. My left eyebrow and the left cheek would not move. Somehow, I finished the session. Then stumbled to my bed. “So, this is it”, I told myself. “It’s a stroke”.

I knew I had to call 911. Yet I did not quite feel the urgency. My brain dove into a pensive stream. Was this the end of life as I knew it? My kids were still asleep upstairs. Would I ever have normal conversations with them again? And with my mom? Would I banter with my students again? Would I take my treasured night walks with my dogs? Go on hikes and photograph nature? And if this were the end of my active life, what had I achieved? Surprisingly, I felt satisfied. On the professional side, forty years ago, if I had been told I’ll be where I was today, I’d have said “I’ll take it”! On a personal level, I could not have asked for a better set of kids. I’ve received extraordinary love from my family. And the love and respect from my friends, colleagues and students has been overwhelming. And at key points in my life, especially at the low points, so many people stepped up to help. A helping hand. A word of encouragement. Yes, at this point when I felt the best of my life was over, I felt satisfied and grateful. And at peace.

A part of my brain chided me. “Shake yourself. Call 911.” And I began to focus on the problem at hand. Something, however, wasn’t adding up. I still could not move the left side of my face. But I didn’t feel sick. My thoughts were clear. The rest of my body was able to move normally. In the current pandemic I didn’t really want to go to an ER. So, I pushed myself off the bed and facetimed my physician cousin in DC. He went over my symptoms. Made me try a few facial movements. “You probably have Bell’s Palsy” he said. “The symptoms are like a stroke. But it isn't a stroke. You’ll still have to see a doctor and get treatment right away.” So, I did. It was Bell’s Palsy! And I got put on some rather strong medication. But in a month or so I should be normal again.

That night I reflected on the experience. So often when I focus on the future I think in terms of my career. Or how I will be perceived by others. Or living alone as an empty nester. I don’t have much control on these things. And yet in the twenty minutes when I thought that my life as I knew it was over, the things that I would most miss were the simple things that I DO control. Getting up feeling fresh and healthy in the morning. Cooking for my kids. Working with students. Walking my dogs. Taking pictures.

And when I summed up my life in those 20 minutes I was satisfied. I just hadn’t known it before. And it seemed I had worried about the wrong things! I did have one regret – had I ever let the people who’ve loved me and helped me know how much I appreciate them? That they meant a lot to me? I hope I never have that regret again. Realizing that I’ll still have this normal life I love, I can’t but believe that every moment I now have is a bonus. A gift too valuable to waste worrying about things I don’t control. A bonus set of moments to appreciate the simple but valuable things in life. A precious gift of time to recognize the people who positively impacted me in life. I hope I carry this lesson forward.

Post Script.  In the days since this incident I’ve felt a huge weight lifted off me. It seems my thinking is clearer and faster. Work and home are even more attractive and fulfilling than ever before (And that’s saying something given everything we are going through right now). I shared this story with several folks. It was personal. My kids encouraged me to write it as a blog. Its too personal I said. A friend who wishes to remain anonymous called me twice asking me to blog about it. A former student, Megan Iseman, asked me to write it. So here it is (thanks to these folks). A personal experience that has affected me and that I want to share.


  1. Vikas. As always, you inspire me and make me reflect on important things in life. Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspectives with us. I hope you recover soon. A big hug to you!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I feel I know you better, and I've certainly been inspired. Our lives are a gift. Our families are pecious and to be told so regularly. Thank you for reminding me of this. Joe Rose. Current Executive MBA studnet of yours, Class of 2021.

  3. Glad you are doing ok and writing the blog. Do keep sharing your musings and thoughts. You never know who you will "touch" and how your thoughts could guide them.

  4. This is a wonderful post, and I am glad you decided to share it. Perspective shifts can happen in a very short time and have effects for a long time after, and hopefully, like you have demonstrated, impact our lives in amazing and positive ways. This made me remember to consider what is important, what brings me joy and to think about how I would feel in a similar situation. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Vikas, wow. What a scary, visceral experience. I'm so glad you're on the mend with a new lease on life! Thank you for all of your guidance and encouragement. You are a visionary. -Matt Lyon

  6. such incidents can really shake you up. good to know all is well. take care. good you wrote this- we sometimes think of the worse but god has his way to give u a wake up call