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The Dangers of Pimento Cheese

Posted by Lynn Bronikowski Jan 25 2017

Blame it on pimento cheese.

At least that’s what stroke survivor Andy Ellis says in his humorous and informative memoir The Dangers of Pimento Cheese—Surviving a Stroke South of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Early in 2006, Ellis and his wife, Cristie, had just eaten pimento cheese sandwiches when she noticed her husband’s face was drooping and his speech was slurred.

“I think you’re having a stroke,” she exclaimed before dialing 9-1-1.

Ellis was 49 and in what he thought was good health, although he smoked and later would learn he had high blood pressure—two risk factors for stroke.

“I was barely conscious the first two weeks and then spent two and one-half months in the hospital,” said Ellis. It was while there that he learned to inject humor into his recovery.

“As an advertising writer I frequently use humor in my work so that’s part of what kept me going. I would joke around with the nurses and therapists,” said Ellis who continues to work as an advertising copywriter in his Wake Forest, N.C., home.

His neurologist and others encouraged him to pour his humor into a book to inspire other stroke survivors and caregivers that they, too, can get to the other side of recovery. He wrote the book over three years and pushed it out just as he was marking the 10th anniversary of his stroke.

“Everybody who sees me today is astounded how far I’ve come,” said Ellis, who walks with a cane and has a weak left arm. “But I keep going back for booster shots of therapy with my occupational therapist and physical therapist.”

Now he’s working on a second version of his book and frequently talks to groups about his recovery and his “new normal” life.

“I’ve learned to count my blessings,” said Ellis. “My life is better. I’m healthier and I have a faith that I didn’t have before. I’m not glad I had the stroke but I’m glad I’m a better person.”

He’s also glad to share advice which he peppers throughout the book.

“I know you didn’t ask for it, but here’s my medical advice,” he writes.

• Always write down any and all questions you might have and bring that list to your appointment.
• At the very start of your visit, let the doctor, PA, nurse practitioner, or whoever you’re seeing know you have some questions, and don’t leave until every one of your questions is answered.
• If possible, bring a loved one, family member, or good friend with you to the appointment. Two sets of ears hear better than one.
• Remember, you’re a medical consumer. Make sure you get what you’re paying for.
• Never be afraid to get a second opinion. Someone once told me she didn’t want to get a second opinion because she was afraid if her doctor found out, it might hurt his feelings. I told her if she truly believed that, I might not be able to be her friend.

As for pimento cheese, he even includes a recipe which is a combination of his mother’s recipe and Southern Living magazine’s.

“I can’t be responsible if someone has a stroke after eating pimento cheese, but I swear it’s highly unlikely,” he laughs.

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