After more than two years, Karl Winkler hasn’t recovered completely from a stroke. Indeed, that may be beyond reach.
But he insists that he is close enough to be back in the mainstream.
“What I find very concerning – and I want to stress this – is that I am seen and addressed differently than I was before,” he said in an interview at his home. “It’s a bit of a loss to me.”
One longtime friend, he laughed, acknowledged recently that he is as blunt and outspoken as ever.
Winkler, 59, is an engineer, an entrepreneur, and a technical advisor to startups and other businesses. He and his wife Cheri have three children, all in their 20s. He sits on the Historic District Commission and is also an associate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Only four years ago, Winkler recounted, after losing 65 pounds, “I felt the healthiest I’ve been since high school.” His new routine included serious weightlifting.
Everything changed in an instant one day in April 2021. He was at the gym, “feeling phenomenal,” executing a set of curls using a free weight “with a chain over my neck.” After leaving the gym, “I had such a sudden migraine,” followed by “weird flashing in my vision.”
The results of an MRI and CT scan at Lahey Hospital confirmed that he had suffered a stroke, a result of a ruptured arterial wall – a “vascular tear” – reducing the flow of blood to the brain.
He spent more than a week in the hospital. Initially, “it was significant enough that they worried about sepsis.”
Still, “the neurologist was surprised how well I was able to respond,” he related. After reviewing imaging, “multiple neurologists couldn’t understand why I wasn’t drinking from a straw and living in a nursing home.”
The recovery started out spasmodically. After a few months, Winkler noticed he had developed a tremor in his hand and started stammering. He began to remodel his residence with features to make everything accessible, “planning for the worst if I kept up this kind of decay.”
He experienced some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, discovering that a sudden loud sound could trigger micro seizures. “There’s no training for this,” he said wryly. The vascular tear, however, eventually repaired itself, he added.
So far, the after-effects are a mixed blessing. Surprisingly, Winkler not only has 20-20 vision and can dispense with reading glasses, but also for the first time can see the world fully in color. “The trees stood out, blazing, like I couldn’t put into words, and I couldn’t understand why,” he related. “So many TV shows use vibrant shades of red. That had been completely lost on me.”
On the debit side, Winkler said he no longer can multitask the way he used to – which often involved listening to an audiobook while working on a computer screen talking on the phone. He said now he has trouble filtering a conversation in a room crowded with people speaking to each other.
More seriously, a few months ago he was diagnosed with epilepsy, which he said his neurologist concluded was another consequence of the “damage in my brain.” He is now managing that condition with medication and has not had a seizure for months.
Winkler’s two rescue dogs, Harper Lee and Scout, provide additional therapy. “They have been my saviors since all of this has been going on,” Winkler testified.