The day was magnificent. The snow was smooth and deep and the trail had just been groomed. We were skimming across the snow at a good clip doing one of my favorite things in the whole world, snowmobiling in the beautiful Rocky Mountain backcountry with our snowmobile buddies Cy and Jeannie Scarborough and some other friends, hitting the high spots and just having a wonderful time.
I noticed that my left hand was getting numb and thought that it was because I had been hanging on to the handle bars of my snowmobile for so long that it had gone to sleep, but then I felt the left side of my mouth starting growing numb and my left foot started getting hard to control and I knew something was happening to me. I knew I'd better get back down the mountain and get some help.
I told Cy how I was feeling and we immediately headed to the trailhead, for the longest 15-mile snowmobile ride I ever hope to take.
When we got to where we were parked, Jeannie gave me three baby aspirin and we got in Cy's vehicle and tore out for Mercy Regional Medical Center about 30 miles away in Durango.
I had so little coordination on my left side that I needed a wheel chair to make it to the emergency room where the staff hurriedly started diagnostic procedures.
A few minutes later, the doctor on duty told me what I was pretty sure of already. I was having a stroke in the right part of my brain, the part that controls the left hand side of your body, probably caused by a blood clot in the brain
They gave me a shot of a drug called tPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator), which breaks up blood clots and in a few minutes I was loaded aboard an ambulance plane and hurried off to Swedish Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, where I was hurriedly taken into the emergency room and examined by a very, very capable staff of doctors including a neurologist and was put in the critical care ward where I was hooked up to a battery of diagnostic machines and IVs and began the many tests I would be given in the next two days.
The early consensus of the doctors was that I had indeed had a stroke in the right hand part of my brain, as a CAT scan was later to confirm.
The only effect that it seemed to have left behind was a numbness in my left hand and a stiffness in my left arm.
They released me on Sunday morning and I went back to Durango, where I am writing this column.
I begin physical therapy today to relieve the stiffness and numbness in my left hand and arm.
That's kind of it in a nutshell. I'm doing fine but there are a few details I'd like to share with you.
First of all, if you begin to feel a stiffness in your limbs or face or if one or more of your limbs start to become difficult to control immediately chew up a couple of aspirin and head for the nearest hospital or clinic.
Don't procrastinate or try to tell yourself it's going to go away. You only have three hours from the time you feel a stroke coming on to get a shot of tPA into your system to break up the blood clots that are causing the stoke. So don't play with your life, get help.
The other thing I wanted to share with you is how the fingerprints of God were all over my experience.
First of all, we were snowmobiling on the side of Durango where Mercy Regional Medical Center -the only hospital in Durango- is located. We could have easily have been on the opposite side of town and much further away.
Cy and Jeannie Scarborough -who always haul their own snowmobiles- had decided to ride my two extra machines that day which meant that we had a vehicle with no snowmobile trailer to unhook and could hurry to the hospital without delay.
Our other friends Tom and Anita loaded our snowmobiles and drove our vehicle down off the mountain.
By the time I got to the hospital and the doctors got me diagnosed, I only had fifteen or twenty minutes left to take the shot of tPA to break up the blood clot in my brain.
Swedish Medical Center -the hospital they took me to in Denver- has one of the top neurological units in the country.
Of course Hazel immediately got on the phone and started calling our pastor and our Christian friends. The prayers were making their way to heaven even as I was making my way to Denver.
I have seen the hand of God extended over me in the past when I was in a dangerous situation and I knew He was near.
There were so many things that made me know that God was ordering our steps.
We could have easily been snowmobiling a lot farther away from the hospital.
The fact that Cy's vehicle had no snowmobile trailer to remove saved us precious minutes.
Everything worked like clockwork; there was a plane available to take me immediately to Denver.
And here's the mind-boggling part, Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango had only been stocking tPA in their pharmacy for about three months. If they hadn't had it, there would have been no way for me to get the shot in time to prevent the stroke from doing major damage.
As I said, nothing less than the hand of God.
One other note. My wife Hazel is a very emotional person and will shed tears at the drop of a hat. On the way to the hospital I heard her tell Jeannie, I've got to be strong for him."
And she was, she has been a rock.
On the way to the hospital, I called my son, Charlie, and after telling him what had happened I simply said, "Your mom needs you."
He and my manager and friend David Corlew were on the next plane heading our way and met us in Denver.
Thank God for family and friends.
Well that's about it, I'm doing fine and I want to thank all of you who got the news and prayed for me.
Looking forward to another great touring year.
See ya on the road.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, and for our country.
God Bless America
Charlie Explains "Mild Stroke" to fans