Rarely have I ever been happier than I am today.
I'm back at my desk at The Herald-Whig, able to write columns, trade insults with fellow co-workers, and -- most important -- be involved in a "normal" day.
Since late December, I have missed all three of those things, which I once took for granted.
A little more than two months ago, I ventured out on what I thought was going to be a routine trip to a local supermarket.
It wound up different. Much, much different.
I suffered a stroke inside the store and found myself at Blessing Hospital shortly afterward.
I will readily admit it was the most scared I have ever been in my life.
The worst part, in my case, was temporary memory loss. I'm still piecing things together but am in the "home stretch" of recovery.
Incredibly, during the early stages of my recovery, I found out that one of my closest old friends from my days living in Ohio had also suffered a stroke -- within 24 hours of mine. Coincidentally, his name is also Steve. Like me, "Ohio Steve" is on the mend, but he has a longer road ahead, I'm afraid. Ohio Steve suffered some paralysis and other side effects.
I've had a lengthy period to examine my own case and have realized how fortunate I am to have escaped with no more side effects than I have. I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am to my doctors -- Stilianos Efstratiadis ("Dr. E."), Taylor Moore and Austin Hake -- and not only for their obvious assistance, but their encouragement. I'm usually a pretty upbeat kind of guy, but there were times, especially in the first weeks of recovery, I was worried and depressed.
They assured me things would get better, and they have.
The first few days after the stroke, the only name I could remember was that of my wife, Kathy, whose plate is normally quite full simply dealing with "normal Steve," let alone Steve without a memory. She was -- and is -- quite an anchor. The help we received from my brother-in-law, Dan, and his wife, Julie, will never be forgotten, and the support from our kids -- Geoff, Sarah, Kaysi and Melissa -- was invaluable.
During the early days of recovery, when I would look at words on a page or screen, they were constantly changing. After I was released from the hospital, I was scared to death of my home computer, even a television. I could not remember how to use the computer or turn on the TV.
But day by day, things began to improve. Some days were better than others, which is still the case, but the better days now far outweigh the ones filled with frustration.
Oh, and one other important thing. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciated the cards, letters, phone calls and emails from readers. Each and every one made me smile.
It's good to be back.