Your favorite curmudgeon gets sidelined for the holidays

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Wow! So this is what a stroke is all about.

There I was, just before Christmas, heading to Saks Fifth Avenue when I felt slightly lightheaded and a tad shaky on my feet. I was to lunch with Marty Singerman, longtime publisher of the New York Post, interview a movie actress and have drinks at "21" with former CBS topper Tom Leahy. This did not bode well.

Since it was only 11 in the morning, it couldn't be an overly enthusiastic three-martini lunch. No, I had a little problem here.

If I got to the women's sweater department, say, and collapsed for some reason in the Christmas shopping season, they'd probably store me in a stockroom until the January clearance sale.

Being a sensible sort, I went to the bank, interviewed the movie actress, went to the office, wrote up the Parade interview, then went home to the apartment, blowing off an Advertising Age/Crain's New York Business Christmas party. By now, my speech was slightly slurred.

So I called my internist, Dr. Globus (which always sounds a bit like a major character in an apocalyptic movie). The good doctor ordered me to New York Hospital at 68th and York. He would call ahead and alert the ER. For once, there was a cab. I felt so stupid that I told the driver I was going to visit a friend, not wanting him to consider me an emergency case. How vain we are!

I was still walking pretty well but was aware of a left-side weakness, both arm and leg. The ER was terrific, the paperwork minimal. Thank God for a company medical plan! I'll spare you the details of the ER (no George Clooney, but a few real honeys, plus some very competent professionals of both sexes).

I have since had a CAT scan, an MRI, X-rays, blood pressure tests, blood tests and a pulse count, and I am on a blood thinner and 97 other things. Only the blood thinner hurts: a needle in the belly. My speech is slightly slurred, my left arm and leg weakened. I can walk, but am unsteady on my pins.

They expect to get me out of here in a week or so. Then comes physical therapy. Can I write? I am writing this report in longhand for an editor to transcribe. God bless intern Sigrid Masson!

In the few days I've been hospitalized, I've run the emotional gamut. Deep depression (my life is over). Hilarity (being naked half the time does inspire some levity, and a resolve to do my physical therapy and get well).

All of you who are healthy will understand how upsetting it is to be sick. Those of you with various maladies, I salute you for your courage. I wish I myself were a braver person.

I informed everyone I hate flowers in a hospital room, redolent of wakes and funerals. So, naturally, there are flowers all over the joint. Also, a Christmas wreath on the door to the john. God bless all who disobeyed my orders.

What else? When one arm is useless, the Post and Daily News are easier to handle than the broadsheet Times. TV? Well, I try not to watch John Edward talking to the dead, and I have had too much already of Osama bin Laden. But "Casablanca" is on tonight, and I plan to watch that for the 400th time.

Oh, yes, I miss the Four Seasons, Le Cirque, the Palm, Michael's and a drink at Wollensky's Grill served up by Pat Ford. Elaine Kaufman called, which was nice, and chewed me out for quitting smoking so long ago. "See," she said, "it doesn't pay."

I haven't called Imus yet. He'll only accuse me of shamming to promote a book or something. The Marine Corps called from Washington. I told them they were going to have to win this war on their own.

As for all of you I've been writing for and to, bear with me for a while. I'll be once again your favorite curmudgeon very soon, I hope. Meanwhile, it's off to rehab at Mount Sinai.

Ad Age columnist James Brady, who wrote this from the hospital, went home last week and now is undergoing rehab therapy. He can be reached c/o Advertising Age, 711 Third Ave., New York 10017.

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