Friday, August 19, 2016

College of Western Idaho: Promises Made. Promises Kept. Dunham Is Running for Re-election!

IT IS OFFICIAL! I am running for re-election to the Board of the College of Western Idaho representing Zone 5! I am asking for your vote November 8th! Though I represent Zone 5, I am “elected at large” meaning ALL voters in Canyon and Ada Counties elect trustees.

I have been on the board since the beginning in July of 2007 when we had one vacant building, a hundred acres, no programs, and no personnel. We didn't even have a phone. 

Nevertheless, we had huge dreams and expectations!  In those nine years, CWI has become the hallmark of community college innovation, serving more than 20,000 students every year and helping business and industry to succeed. 

Look what CWI has done so far!

My job as a trustee is not finished yet. I am seeking another four-year term because I want to complete the accreditation process, finish our strategic planning process, and help develop our campuses in the valley.

I have always been focused on student success, working with our stellar faculty and administration, working for underserved populations, and helping business and industry.  I am keenly aware of taxpayer dollars. I have always been diligent to make sure our budget is cost-effective and conservative. 

On a personal note, in January of 2012, I had two strokes. One was devastating. Throughout those difficult months of intensive therapy, I never missed CWI meeting. This wonderful college and the students I serve gave me incentive to persevere. 

THEIR strength gave me strength.    
Mark Dunham’s bottom line? When the voters approved the creation the College of Western Idaho May 22, 2007, there were huge expectations for the college.  I was appointed July 17, 2007, and the initial trustees made many promises. I have run twice before. 

In my 9 years, I have kept my promise to the voters, taxpayers, students, faculty, staff, and businesses to provide “a public, comprehensive community college dedicated to supporting the economic and social well-being of our community.”

From vague promise 9 years ago, today we have: 

  • 20,000+ students served each year
  • 91% positive placement in professional-technical programs
  • 13.9% return on taxpayer investment
  • 5,000+ students have earned degrees and certificates
  • 400+ business and industry partners
  • 28% decrease in student borrowing
Promises Made. Promises Kept. I am not done yet! I need your vote to complete my job!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghost life

Yesterday, I was deleting a whole bunch of old computer files because I am donating an old laptop.

This laptop was the state of the art when I bought it in 06. I bought it when I cofounded a real estate school and I used it until my stroke in 12.

I couldn't use the laptop after my stroke simply because it was confusing to me. 

Therefore, opening old files was like opening a ghost life.

I had thousands of emails from Envision Real Estate School, Boise State University, Idaho Commerce and Industry, and the Idaho Associated General-Contractors.

For many years, long before Hillary Clinton had a private email server, I used two laptops: Company ones and my HP laptop.

I have a habit of copying important emails from my work laptop and my HP private laptop. "Just in case."

Opening old emails trying to clear sensitive information was like opening a window to a forgotten world.

Real estate matters, strategic confidential emails plotting legislative tactics, often funny yet profane observations about work life between friends and me, sensitive contract negotiations, and every day things like lunch plans and recipes. Thousands....

Glancing through those emails was sad in a way. I remember being so busy and secure in my own thoughts and plans.

Was that really "me?" How could I juggle everything that I did? 

After my stroke, my neurologist said that I am a "ruminator." In my head I was always thinking strategically about work, life, and family. 

The ruminations did not stop after my strokes. Rather, my brain "short-circuited" my plans and hopes.

When I emerged from the brain fog, I had no idea about what I lost. I was just grappling to live day to day.

Recently when I chaired a stroke support group, a caregiver said, "I remember you! You were the 'guy!' You're a legend." 

I was startled. Embarrassing! Even now it doesn't seem that was me.

Opening thousands of emails and glancing into my life on a old laptop, was a stark reminder my "old normal."

But I need to move on. I could grieve about my old life and think about all of those emails.

Or, I could format the hard drive to erase everything. And that's what I did. 

I deleted my phantom life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Anomic Aphasia and me!"

Yesterday I had a doctors appointment. My wife is out of town and my son was still asleep when I left.

Therefore, I wrote a note for our son to explain. Same handwriting! No misspellings other than a dog's name.

The phrase "wrote a note" would seem to be second nature. 

However, when you have aphasia, simple every day tasks sometimes are an unbearable struggle.

For several years since my strokes, writing a simple note was incredibly difficult.

When I try to write notes, I have to concentrate on every single letter. I used to be a grammar and spelling whiz. Today, my spelling skills are at best mediocre.

That same doctors appointment, I had to fill out work. I had to write down our pharmacy which is "Fred Meyer on Franklin and Orchard."

I had problems remembering the spelling of "Meyer." I could not remember how to spell "orchard." 

Recently, noticed that filling out paperwork or writing notes are getting better if I "speak" what I need to write.

My wife has noticed that when I type my blog or write a note I "speak it" also.

Certainly, I am compensating. Subtly, I seem to be recovering to the point where simple written communication is getting a little better.

Recently, our Idaho Aphasia Support Group heard a presentation about different forms of Aphasia.   

It seems that I have a form of aphasia called "Anomic" with a little bit of "conduction aphasia" for good measure. 

According to Wikipedia, 

"Anomic aphasia is one of the milder forms of aphasia. The term is applied to persons who are left with a persistent inability to supply the words for the very things they want to talk about, particularly the significant nouns and verbs. Their speech is fluent and grammatically correct but it is full of vague words (such as ‘thing’) and circumlocutions (attempts to describe the word they are trying to find). The feeling is often that of having the word on the tip of one’s tongue, which results in their speech having lots of expressions of frustration. 

People with anomic aphasia understand speech well and they can repeat words and sentences.  In most cases they can read adequately. Difficulty finding words is as evident in writing as it is in speech."

That is the textbook definition. It describes me better than most definitions. However, I don't struggle with nouns and verbs. I struggle with prepositions or "connector words." It is rare for me to struggle for "words." I understand financials, but I cannot calculate or ask questions about math because of the conduction part of my aphasia. 

Just like every stroke is different, my aphasia is different.

My aphasia is better than most. I made only one typo: "Lucy" versus "Lusy!" Not bad.

Pretty grateful.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Stroke and Bullshit

Yesterday, I met a new stroke survivor. She wept.

Her stroke was 2 months ago. She cannot speak well. She has aphasia. She has some paralysis.

I met her at a stroke support group. I have often said that “Stroke survivors are an exclusive club that no one ever wants to join.”  

Like it or not, she has joined our club.

Her emotions are incredibly raw. At our group, all of our survivors tried to say “it will get better.” And it will.

Nevertheless, we said it is OK to be pissed off and angry. “People” (in other words, non-stroke individuals) say things like “It’s God’s plan” or “This is your new reality.” The one that I detest the most is "my new normal."

Really? Most survivors – if they can talk at all – respond to be polite:  “Well, excuse me! That advice really helps! Thank you! I never thought about that.”

Inside our broken brains, we are saying “bullshit.”  You have NO idea what we go through every single day.

New survivors are always told “you are a survivor not a victim.” We cannot feel sorry for ourselves for too long.  Our victimhood will only last for a moment. 

Then, the recovery mode kicks us in the ass.

"People" say things like "Your stroke should not define life." Again, that sentiment is great until you live it. Again, "bullshit." 

Also yesterday, I found out that another stroke survivor is now divorced and living with his mother. He is 60 years old. His wife of 40 years could not handle “God’s plan.”

The new survivor implied she cannot deal with this situation. Through her tears, unable to communicate, she hinted “I would rather die.”

I get it. I felt it.

All of us get it.

We tried to comfort her and her husband. For example, she is recovering pretty well for her new 2 month truth. At two month after my strokes, I could not attend a stroke support group. All of us told them “it will get better.

Nevertheless, it is bitter pill to swallow. You can overdose and die, or just keep trying and trying.

Survivor or victim. Depends on the day.     

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pain Scale: Physical and Emotional

The results are in! I still have brain damage! However, the MRI and MRA procedures I had last Friday show that my brain images are just the same as a year ago. That is good news!

The bad news is I still have neck pain since the rear-end collision I experienced last January. Despite PT, X-Rays, and very rough brain scans I have pain.

In the hospital after my strokes, nurses posted a “pain scale” for me to describe my pain level. At that point, I needed the chart because I could not talk.

During my PT because of the rear-ender, one of my therapists asked about my pain. I said, “In the hospital after my massive stroke, the doctor had to insert a port into my heart. That pain was a 10. It was awful!”

The PT is helping. Nevertheless, I still get some sharp shooting pains.

I sometimes wonder if the neck pain will just be there forever.

I have also considered that I am getting older. Is the neck pain the result of the collision or being 55 years old?

Years ago, my doctor saw me for some ache or pain. I was describing my pain. 

He smirked, and said, “Well, you are 40 now. Your body will get more aches and pains. It is just life and being older.”

I use the pain scale often because of the PT and otherwise. It is handy to describe all sorts of pain.

The loud banging noise during MRI’s and MRA’s are about a 7.

The sharp shooting pain because of the collision varied from 3 to 9 or 10.

The actual first stroke on the pain scale was pretty minor. However, the migraines the lead up to the strokes were about an 8.

Just doing this blog typing in my home office, my upper back is painful…about a 7.

That is just the actual pain in my shoulder and neck.

In my brain, the internal pain is getting more profound. The concentration I need to type gets worse as I go.

Preparing for and attending meetings is the same concept. My pain when I start doing any actively is about 2 or 3. I also have some pain. Again, I am getting older.  Throughout an activity – especially when I have to speak and/or think a lot – my threshold of pain decreases exponentially. By the end of a long meeting, my pain is about 8 or 9.

The next day, I am exhausted and have to sleep a long time. That next day, the pain can be a 9 or a 10.

I do think I have a high pain tolerance. I also believe I have a high pain tolerance for emotions, stamina, persistence, and patience.

However, I do have some limits. I am testing my limits because of this man rear-ended me. Certainly, his insurance is covering the basic stuff.  

Yet, wearing my old Economist major hat, my “opportunity cost” is getting exorbitant. What is “opportunity cost?”  

In other words, I am just tired of using my limited financial and brain capacity to deal with this situation. I have to drive, use gas, use MY time, miss other things, etc. 

HIS choices have left ME know choices. 

I am pissed off with a headache and back pain. Not a good combination. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Middle Aged and strokes

What is the age when you realize you are “middle aged?” According to “,” the definition is  being of the age intermediate between youth and old age, roughly between 45 and 65.” I am 55 years old so I am in the middle of middle age.

The other night, my son and I had dinner at a national chair restaurant. This was my first experience using my “Over 55+ Menu.” I laughed when I ordered. My son laughed too much I thought!

“Dude,” I said, “You can walk home after you pay the bill yourself using my senior citizen's discount.”

I really never thought about my age until my strokes happened. Sure, I was 50 years old, but my mortality was a distant concept. My strokes instantly made me feel old and vulnerable.

When I got home from the hospital, though I could not “do math,” I tried to calculate milestones. What age will I be when my son graduates high school?  When will my 20 year life insurance policy end? When does my disability and social security income decrease? With my strokes, will I even see my son grow up? How much time is left for me?

I do not think about that often anymore because I am so busy living. That is a good thing.

Nevertheless, the clarity of my medical issues is a palpable when you do any test.  Last January, I was rear-ended. Despite physical therapy, I still have neck pain.

Yesterday, my doctor ordered another MRI and a MRA for me.

MRI lets doctors see very detailed images of the inside of your body. MRI passes through bone and takes pictures of soft tissue, such as tendons, blood vessels, and the brain.

“MRA” stands for magnetic resonance angiography. An MRA scan gives a view of specific blood vessels (arteries and veins).

I do not know the results yet, but it will be interesting to see if my brain has other different since my last MRI.  I hope everything is the same. That would be great news.

On January 6, 2012, I had an MRI because of severe headaches. The MRI showed nothing.  Three days later, I had my first stroke followed by the massive one January 13, 2012. If I had an MRA rather than an MRI, my life would have been so much different.

 I am glad I am getting both procedures just for the peace of mind – well, what is left of my mind!  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Social media blather?

A hiatus from Facebook?

A couple of days ago, I went into a convenience store. A clerk was telling another clerk, "today I'm going to do my annual Facebook check to see if I've missed anything for a year. Usually I never miss anything. I'll check it next year."

The same day, one of my therapists said, "every once in a while I deactivate my Facebook account because I get tired of everything and clear my head.  I just want calmness in my life. I don't need to check in all the time."   

A lot of social media is just blather.

I'm thinking about heeding that sage advice. Perhaps, I need some serenity without social media blather.

I get so tired of political rants and raves. I'm so tired of Obama, Hillary, and Trump apologists.

So called "Progressives" and "Conservatives" are all the same now: Condescending arrogant talking heads. Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limgaugh, Bill O'Reilly, etc. are all the same.

I'm so amused and dismayed at the same time.

I just tired of patronizing social media gadflies.

Therefore, I might pull the social media plug. I might let you know. Or not....