It was late March in Tennessee, and it was already warming up for Spring. That Sunday evening, my wife, Connie and I were home talking about the upcoming summer. We were planning a trip to Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Summers are wonderful here in Tennessee, though, especially in the woods of the mountains. We love the mountains, and with that in mind, we considered vacationing in Montana. But after going back and forth from beach to mountain to beach, we finally decided on Cabo. It would be our first time out of the U.S.—to an exotic tropical beach paradise, no less.

That Sunday, I had a headache all afternoon, which was unusual, because I never had headaches. It hurt on the right side under my temple—a constant, dull ache. Because I very rarely took any medicine, I didn’t take anything for the pain, thinking I would just tough it out.

Connie’s phone rang, and she went into the kitchen, out the back door, and down the steps off the deck, to the area where the cars are parked. I walked into the kitchen following her, but I didn’t go outside. It was already dark, but the porch light was on, so I could see her.

Then I noticed something odd. I could clearly hear everything she was saying. I thought, “I could never do that before.” Then I noticed I could clearly hear the person she was talking to on the phone. I got very excited, because I had been a musician all my life, and I thought, “This is great—God has suddenly blessed me with super hearing. I will be able to hear things in music I have never heard before.” Connie came back inside, and I told her the great news. She looked at me like I had maybe lost touch with reality.

We eventually went to bed, and I slept well through the night, waking up at my usual time of 4:30 A.M. I took my shower, went back into the bedroom and picked out my clothes. I raised my right foot to put it in my trousers, and I immediately fell in the floor. Connie was awake in the bed, and she asked me if I was already drunk that morning. We both laughed at that. Then, suddenly serious, she asked if I was okay. I told her I had just lost my balance, but something didn’t seem quite right. Connie wanted to call 911, but I told her to just let me rest on the bed a minute, and I’d be okay.

“Now your speech is slurred,” she said, becoming alarmed, “I’m calling Joe.” Joe was our neighbor. Since I was struggling and couldn’t seem to get up off the floor, I told her “okay.” Connie called both Joe and 911. Joe came over immediately and started joking about me being in the floor. We all laughed. Then Joe tried to help me up, but even with our combined efforts, I couldn’t get up off the floor.

The ambulance arrived, and two men came in. They looked at me struggling in the floor and knew immediately that I had had a stroke. I was picked up and put on a stretcher, and then I noticed that I couldn’t keep my left arm up on the stretcher. Someone laid it across my chest and told me to hold it with my right hand. The ambulance guys put me in the back of their rig, one got in with me, and off we went.

My first stop was Middle Tennessee Medical Center where an MRI was done of my head. The doctor confirmed that I had had a stroke, but there was nothing he could do to help me. Connie and my son, Josh were both there, and Connie called Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville and spoke with a doctor who knew a procedure that could help. It was pouring rain, and life-flight was not running, so it was back to the ambulance and off to Vanderbilt, and we got there in no time flat.

I was beginning to see that something very wrong had happened. I was taken from the ambulance to an elevator. I don’t know if we went up or down, but when the doors opened, I saw what looked like a cafeteria. There were five men in white coats at the closest table. They immediately got up and came towards me. I noticed one of them had a syringe in his hand. One of the men told me to count backwards from twenty—he said by the time I got to one, I would be asleep. So, right there in the elevator I started 20…19…18…all the way to one. Then I panicked and thought, “I’m at ‘one,’ and I’m not asleep! Something has gone wrong!”

Then, I woke up lying on my right side and immediately opened my eyes. The room was totally dark. Not a bit of light anywhere. A deep male voice came out of the dark very close to my head and said, “You have had a bad stroke.”

I thought, “How did he know my eyes were open?” It was too dark to see anything. I fell back to sleep and when I woke again and opened my eyes I saw a nurse with her head turned the same as mine and just about a foot away, staring into my eyes. She said loudly and with surprise, “You look good!” I saw that I was in a bed in a brightly-lit hospital room. The doctor came in with a wheelchair and got me out of bed to show me around. I couldn’t even sit up without help. They put me in the chair and rolled me out of the room and down the hall.

This is when I encountered the painter. He wore a short billed white hat, a white t-shirt and white overalls, and he was a tiny man. And when I say “tiny,” I mean he was small enough to come crawling out of my tear duct. The painter crawled over into my right eye and stood up laughing quietly to himself. “Hee hee hee,” he chuckled. He had a paint roller in his right hand, and he began to methodically paint a stripe of gray from top to bottom across the center of my vision.

I thought, “No, please don’t do that—I won’t be able to see.”

But he just laughed, “Hee hee hee!” Then he disappeared back into my tear duct in the corner of my eye. I was afraid he was going to get more paint. Soon the painter crawled back out and went right to work painting a horizontal stripe across the center of my vision from right to left. I thought, “No, please stop. I won’t be able to see!”

He turned towards me with his left fist on his left hip and his right fist still holding the paint roller on his right hip. He leaned back a little (still chuckling quietly, “hee hee hee!”), and then turned back to his work, painting a stripe from the top right to the bottom left.

The next stripe from the top left to the bottom right finished defining a box, and the painter then started filling in the holes between the lines. I was still saying, “No-o-o-o-o-o-o, I can’t see through that!” Soon each hole was covered and the tiny man disappeared back from where he came. Fortunately, the gray square on my right eye doesn’t cover all my vision. In that eye. I can still see doorways going by in the hall with my peripheral vision, but if I looked at anything directly, it was covered by the gray box. I wasn’t screaming though, because the doctor who had saved my life was pushing me down the hall. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there.

Finally I said, “Dr. Kirshner, I have gone blind in one eye.” He came around to the front of the chair, to my right side so I could see him.

“Which eye?” he asked, calmly.

I said, “My right eye.” Then I told him about the painter. He smiled as if he understood and disappeared behind me to resume pushing my chair down the hall. The doctor’s seeming lack of concern for my story calmed me. So I relaxed and watched the doorways and walls of the hall roll by. The doctor took me back to my hospital room and got me back into my bed. Soon, I was asleep again.

When I woke up, my vision was gray paint nor tiny painter anywhere. I was in my bed, in my hospital room, laying on my right side with my left side paralyzed. Connie and Josh were there. “Don’t worry,” they said, “In six months you’ll be past all this.”

There it was...hope from the people I loved. “God,” I prayed, “Thank You. Thank You for hope and love.” Hope will keep me going, but it’s the people I love that will keep me hoping.

E-Publisher’s Note: I met Paul Dunlap in September of 1974. It was the first week of our Freshman year in college. I was sitting in my dorm room playing my guitar, and he asked if he could join me on guitar. We started a band that night called “Contents Under Pressure,” and we’ve been playing music together ever since. Since his stroke in the Spring of ’07, he has slowly been regaining the use of his left arm and leg and is currently relearning how to play his music. To hear a track which features him on saxophone, go to We recorded it in a New York City studio in the late 1970s. Paul arranged all the horn parts and is playing all the horns on the entire track.

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