So, I had a Stroke

This is one of my “Life’s Stories”.  I’m recounting it here, so that in 10, 20, or 40 years from now, I can remember all the details, because I know some of them, just like all other memories…will begin to fade away.

September 10th, 2017. It was a wonderful fall, Sunday morning.  6:30AM and was starting just like any other day.

I was still feeling great after finishing well at the Keystone Triathlon about 3 weeks prior, which was about a 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. The summer of training and running 6 miles per day for 30 days in July left me in about the best cardio shape I had been in, since I was probably 30 years old. My nagging cold that needed treated with steroids and antibiotics was finished causing issues for me (I had sought treatment a few days after finishing the Keystone triathlon). It was a persistent cough, that I had for about 2 months.  I didn’t want there to be any lingering effects for the my upcoming Savageman triathlon…which was only 6 days away. 

I love to get up and get going each morning, and that morning was no different. Started my morning off with some breakfast and then headed to the bathroom.  Sat down on the toilet, and then, my world, my families world, and my entire existence and being changed in the span of about the next 7 seconds.

The sensation was unmistakable, and unforgettable.  It felt like this sudden, numbing rush, swept down my left arm from my shoulder to my fingertips.  And I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve never felt a feeling like that in my life ever before” and realized that something wasn’t right.  I tried reaching for the toilet paper, and I wasn’t able to grasp anything in my left hand.  4 seconds have now passed.  I tried to holler for my wife, Annie, knowing something didn’t seem right, and a garble came out of my mouth. It was at that moment that I realized I may be having a stroke.  

I quickly made it off the toilet and knew I needed to get to our bedroom quickly to wake my wife.  I was very scared knowing that in 10 seconds my body had just shut down that fast, and I realized I may not make it to her bedside.  Upon arrival, I quickly shook her leg and she sat up quickly and said…”What? what’s wrong?”.  I mumbled through my drooping face “I think I’m having a stroke”. And she said “What??”. I mumbled it again.

She sat up quickly and said…”What? What’s wrong?”  I mumbled through my drooping face, “I think I’m having a stroke”

At that point, she sprung out of bed, and somehow in the midst of all the chaos, she managed to call 911 and locate an aspirin quickly. Amazingly, we never kept aspirin in our house. Two weeks prior, my wife sent me into the store to get some ibuprofen, and while I was in the store, she called me and  asked me to get aspirin instead. To which, may have been one of the best decisions ever made in our lives.

I was walking back the hallway, and my oldest daughter Elliana, who is 16, was walking between the bedroom doors and she was a little confused and sleepy, and groggy, and asked, “What is going on?” and I told her “I think I’m having a stroke”. Bear in mind…this is probably only about 45 seconds after I first noticed my arm go numb.  The drooping of my face and slurring of my speech must have been appalling.  Because the look that came across my daughters face of pure terror is one I will never forget. Matter of fact, it brings tears to my eyes sitting here typing this, just thinking about her reaction.  She had a quick freakout moment, and then helped Annie to find her purse, etc.

After passing Ellie in the hall, I went into the boys and girls bedrooms and woke my other 2 kids up. My oldest is now at college, so he wasn’t there.  At first, the younger kids thought I had been shot.  I had a large wet spot on my shirt from where the water dribbled out of my mouth as I was taking the aspirin. I poured water into my mouth, and it was just coming back out of 1/2 my face that wasn’t working.  I explained to them, I thought I was having a stroke and that I needed to talk to them.

Sitting down, I gathered the 3 kiddos around our couch.  In the moment, what I said next wasn’t hard.  Hearing it now, it is hard. I gave the kids some parting words. I told them “if this was it”, that I loved them very much. I told them to be strong and courageous. And i told them, no matter what happens, stay Faithful, and if this is my time, that one day, we will see each other again in Heaven.  

I made sure Annie knew where “the file was”.  It’s a document titled “If Brandon dies”.  It details everything my wife would need to know, and who to go and see in order to take care of all of our business affairs and determine what to do next.  

2 or 3 minutes have now elapsed and I was simply lying on the couch with 1/2 of my body not really able to move. Within about 10 minutes, I was in an ambulance on my way to the hospital.

Several Days Later

Over the course of the next several days, doctors told me many different things.  I had a cryptogenic stroke, which basically means, they couldn’t determine a cause.  What I did know:

  • I didn’t have Diabetes
  • No brain tumors
  • No carotid artery blockages
  • No signs of Atrial Fibrillation
  • No Blood clots able to be discovered anywhere
  • Blood Pressure was fine.
  • Cholesterol ratios was one of the five best the cardiologist ever saw.  It was almost a 1.0 ratio. I didn’t even know what that meant.  Actually, I didn’t even really know what a cardiologist or a neurologist was. I never had a need before that.

It’s kind of crazy. September 9th, I didn’t know anything about strokes, other than they can make you lose abilities in about 1/2 your body. I also learned about 1 out of 5 people who suffer a stroke die. Within 3 days, I had heard, studied, and read so much about strokes, I felt like I was an expert on the subject.

I had regained most of my motor skills within a couple hours of the stroke. This rapid regaining of my abilities led the doctors to at first suspect a TIA.  Subsequent Brain MRI’s on the 2nd day at hospital showed otherwise…that I had a full Stroke and suffered a small spot of permanent damage to my brain. (Great! That’s all I needed, I barely had any extra brain capacity to spare before that)

What the doctors DID discover, was that I had a small hole in my heart called a PFO. (Patent Foramen Ovale…Pronounced Payton FoorAyMen Ovaylee. Now, a PFO hole in your heart isn’t unheard of. As a matter of fact, about 25% of the overall population still has one. Everybody has one before they are born. Once you are born, instead of breathing through amniotic fluid, the hole typically closes and seals up, and then you begin to breathe through your lungs.  Yet, 1 out of 4, still have it, and for most people, it never become a problem.

The Anxiety

Never before have I ever had what I would call anxiety.  Sure, sometimes things would cause me to worry, but I never experienced anything like those first 4 to 6 weeks after my stroke.  I had troubles going to the bathroom.  My arm would feel like it was going numb, when it really wasn’t.  Sleep was hard to come by.  I would wake up quite a few times each night, feeling like I was having my stroke all over again. It just felt like my arm was going numb. My head would swirl with all kinds of thoughts. I’d have to test my blood pressure just to make sure everything was ok.

It was a long couple months. But, eventually, the anxiety mostly subsided.

The Treatment (that didn’t happen)

The local doctors recommended I take (1) 325 mg aspirin a day. If I have a second stroke, then they would consider putting me on blood thinners. And then, if I had a 3rd stroke (seriously…a 3rd stroke), they would consider a PFO closure procedure.

The Wife (who is persistent)

The thoughts of waiting and hoping and praying I don’t have a 3rd stroke didn’t sit well with my wife, thankfully.

She went on a mission to find me some other second opinions. What we discovered was that UPMC had a Multidisciplinary Stroke unit. Basically, that means, they have a group of doctors who are specialists in their own fields, who work together as a team to solve difficult cases. And being a young (in stroke terms, anyway) 45 year old male with no known causes allowed me to be seen by them.

Dr. Starr is supposedly one of best “young cryptogenic stroke” neurologists in Pittsburgh. I met with him, he reviewed everything thoroughly and suggested I talk with Dr. Conrad Smith, who was supposedly one of the best cardiologists in Pittsburgh. Dr. Starr was thinking that I should probably consider having the PFO closed.

The Treatment that DID Happen – Heart Surgery

Dr. Smith also recommended PFO closure and it was conducted on December 5th, nearly 3 months after my stroke. In 2017, several stroke studies were published in the New England journal of medicine documenting that statistically speaking, young crptogenic stroke victims are able to decrease their chances of followup strokes.  This was the culmination of at least 2, and possibly 3 different studies following hundreds of patients, for about 5 or 10 years.

I had never really known what a heart catherization was prior. I heard of them, but didn’t really know what it was.  Basically, I had a heart catherization procedure done, and then they insert a long piano wire thing through the hole and it has some “umbrella” things on the end that end up closing the hole. Here is a 1 minute long video that kind of gives you an idea of what they do for the PFO closure.

It’s now been over 6 weeks since my heart surgery. I’m feeling fine overall. Every once in a wall, it sort of feels like my heart is racing and that sometimes I think I can feel the device in my heart.  I’m now off blood thinners and am simply taking a baby aspirin every day and a dose of Lipitor.  I have some followup blood testing in about 4 weeks that will hopefully show that I can drop or reduce the Lipitor also. I’d like to just be taking the baby aspirin daily.

I did put on quite a few pounds during my off months, and for some reason, during the month of December, I ate like every single Christmas cookie I could get my hands on.  So, now that I’m cleared medically to do anything I want physically, I just started back earnestly by creating Challenge 2 and 3.  I’m going to eat according to MyFitnessPal and exercise for at least 30 minutes, every day.

What Caused it?

While it’s very difficult to know for sure, my hematologist (the blood doctor) was the original one to review my records and recommend I get some other opinions about having the PFO closure.  We spent about 2 months making sure that I didn’t have some kind of “Anti Cardio” Lipid antibodies or something elevated that may have been a contributor to the stroke.  One indicator was slightly elevated out of my blood testing right after my stroke. If I had indeed had elevated proteins in my body, then I may need to be on blood thinners regularly instead of just aspirin.

He said, its a possibility, that due to my taking the medicines and having my cold, my blood may have been a little stickier than it normally is.  I may have had some blood clot up, travel into my heart, crossover into my left atrium through the PFO hole, and shoot up to my brain, causing the stroke.

Normally, a blood clot travels into the heart, and then shoots from the right ventricle to the lungs, where it is typically either absorbed, or causes an embolism.  Which, don’t get me wrong, an embolism isn’t great either, but it’s much better than having a stroke. So, while there aren’t any guarantees, and nothing is ever certain, hopefully, my heart procedure will have taken away about 90% of the different things that could have caused me to have a stroke. 

Nothing is certain. Your days are numbered.  Make sure you live each one as if it were your last.  The crazy thing is, I was living life daily as if it could be my last when it happened.  I wasn’t taking my days for granted and was living life to its fullest.  If it was my time to leave this Earth, I was ready. I was right with the Lord, and had done the best job I could trying to be the best Dad, husband, and leader that I could be.


Things are now getting back to normal. We still can’t really say the “S” word (stroke) around my wife or daughter.  Hopefully, that will never be something we have to relive again.

Not familiar with Strokes?

FAST is an acronym the medical world uses.  Face (dropping or sagging), Arm (weakness or numbness), Speech (garbled or difficult to understand). Time to Call.  If you or a loved one are experiencing those conditions, please get them help right away. Also, would be a great idea to keep some 325mg uncoated aspirin in your house that can be crushed up and put into their mouths.

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Random, Real Estate Investing

$742,800 in Renovations & Valuing Your Time

Several days ago, I had an interesting phone call. Someone who has been coming to SWIG meetings regularly for a couple years called and wanted to know if I’d look at a house he owns in Greensburg. He wanted to pick my brain on repairs, exit strategies (flip or rent), and garner
some wisdom and insights.

I have learned over the years, that I like real estate investing, and I have grown to become pretty good at it. 🙂 Rental after rental, flip after flip, more and more pieces come together, mistakes are minimized, profits are maximized, and I realized sharing that knowledge can be more fun than actually doing the deals myself.

I suppose it’s like anything else. Parenting is much the same. We have 4 children, so we’ve been through a lot of stages, repeatedly. Just like mothers love to pass on their wisdom to other moms after their child moves from one rough stage to another, I have found that passing on knowledge of real estate is very rewarding.

However, the knowledge I have gained over the years in Real Estate has come at a price, whether it was the library of books we have on our bookshelves, or the seminars, the weekends flying to a “hands on” workshop, bills from lunches of mentors, paying mentors, coaches, etc. And then there are the deals that we jumped into, head first, took the plunge…sink or swim. And we learned to swim through and navigate the world of real estate…not without a few cold plunges and barely treading water. But, now, we can throw life savers to others.

A question here, advice there, I’m willing to give to others a piece of that knowledge that has taken me years to acquire. Though I love to help others, there is also the realization that this is my career, just like any one of us, we provide for our families from the knowledge we have acquired, whether we are contractors, teachers, plumbers, real estate agents, lawyers, nurses…we use our knowledge to help others and provide income for our families.

Because so many real estate enthusiasts are supplementing another career with the income they receive from real estate, it becomes muddled, and may feel like a hobby to some. To me, this is my full time path and my way of life. I eat, sleep, and breathe real estate investing.

I have forced myself to be guarded with time on workdays. If I’m not careful, half a day can be gone checking on rentals, flips, etc. and conversations can derail our focus from the daily goals I set. Time management is a huge component of moving into a full-time real estate career vs a “hobby” real estate enthusiast. Be mindful on the time you spend on little things that will make a minor difference, but are a huge time suck.

I give as much time as I can to our SWIG Investment community, my family, my church, and myself. Not knowing whether I would charge the guy or not, I asked him, “Would you be willing to pay me?” I really wanted to know how he viewed me, my time, and if he understood the value he was receiving from time and a conversation. This time and conversation that is pulled from another portion of my work day and life. We need to look at our time as valuable.

I have a friend who is a physician. We are not close friends, I might say acquaintances. The fact is we know things about each other’s lives and when we see each other, we catch up. Usually, it’s when I have a medical question. But I don’t call him up at home, I make an appt with him at his office. I go through his office staff, make an appointment and pay him to give me his expertise. I value his time. I value his experience and I’m willing to pay for that time and advice.

Back to the gentleman on the phone, I wanted to know if he valued the time I was being asked to give, to drive to his property, walk through, give advice, etc. Was he willing to return my time and expertise with payment for that time, if asked? Ask around, this group is filled with people who have needed advice, time, analysis, brainstorming, etc. and have never been charged a dime.

The investors reply, to summarize, was this: “Well, I thought if you’d come, look the place over, give me some good enough tips, then maybe we could explore something further in the future and maybe I’d be willing to pay you for information down the road, etc” (That is strictly my interpretation).

He mentioned he was unsure of what I was wanting, since I talk about helping people with coaching at the investors group meetings. Indeed, I am moving forward with the coaching, which is my passion, but people pay me for my help, which saves them time and money and gets them to freedom and financial retirement, faster.

Long story a little shorter, the man informed me that over the last couple years that he has been attending the SWIG meetings, it sounds like I haven’t been very profitable with my investing, and he doesn’t know what I’ve done, so,”why would i pay you?”

Basically, I haven’t proven anything to him and that I need to be “transparent” about things. In the spirit of taking all feedback I get as positive feedback, I took it all in, and gave it some thought. Every month our meetings are full of answering questions, helping where I can, and providing insane value, for next to nothing.

Starting my career in real estate, I didn’t have a mentor, I didn’t have a group leader to bounce ideas off of, I didn’t have an awesome community of like-minded individuals. I learned things the hard way, by making mistakes, a lot of them, over and over til I got it right sometimes. And let me tell you, if I wanted advice, I paid for it. I bought books, paid for seminars, or paid the price of jumping into a deal and learning through the experience. I’m not claiming to know it all, but I am experienced, decadesnof experience, and now, I have a lot to teach.

I’m not proud of bad deals, but I’m not hiding them either, actually usually they have provided some great entertainment and amazing education over the years! So, I’m going to tell you these things, not to brag, but to be more transparent about how I can help you get to where you want to go in your pursuit of real estate investing…Why I feel I can transform most anybody with a desire and the drive to succeed in real estate investing into a millionaire within a relatively short number of years.

– I’ve been on the buying side of over 100 transactions as a principal, with most being residential flips. I also have experience with some multi-units, rentals, wholesale deals, owner financing, new construction, commercial, and building a business from scratch that today is full of awesome people, customers, and employees.
– Within the last 5 weeks, I have deposited net profits from 2 flips that net more than the majority of the country makes in 1 year.
– My wife and I have a networth over $1,000,000 and 99% has come through real estate investing.
– We purchased a dilapidated barn for $30,000, invested into repairs and extra land, and transformed it into a beautiful wedding venue which currently rents for $6400 for a 3 day weekend. Here is a video of the renovation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQZ70n3fNUU
– I have built and sold 2 brand new construction homes.
– Our rental portfolio currently stands at 10 units, though it was up to about 25 at one point.
– I have spent approximately $742,800 on repairs and managing contractors on my deals over the last 2 years. That is repairs alone does not include any acquisition costs. That is, on average, over $30,000 per month in renovations and repairs.
– I have coached and mentored folks over the past 10 years (not all in a formal capacity with a few currently purchasing at least 1 house per month, primarily flips, in our local region.

Back to the phone call from the gentleman, even though I wasn’t sure if I was going to charge him to take 2 hours out of my day to drive there, look at his house, give him 15 years of wisdom, possibly save him a $10,000 mistake on contractors, and then drive home…I wanted to know…does he value my time?

I know it’s hard to know what you’re missing, but Annie and I, looking back over the years, would have paid to have someone steer us in the right direction on many deals to save ourselves the stress of trying to get out of it on our own. I do not believe he valued the time he wanted me to gift him, and so I said No I was not coming, also I didn’t think we would be a good fit for any coaching or mentoring moving forward in the future.

I need to know that if I’m investing time into someone, they value the time as well. Toward the end of the call, I let him know I wasn’t interested in looking at the property with him, and that in the long run, we would also not make a good fit for an ongoing coaching arrangement, if he ever thought about pursuing it.

The gentleman was put off by my guarded response in terms of my time. A short time after our phone call ended, he texted me: “The one question I really would have for you is if you truly did make $xx,xxx in the past month or two from real estate then what would be the big deal about giving someone one and a half hour probono property visit?”

When I seek my doctor friends’ advice, I value that advice because I know he has seen patient after patient just like me, he probably misdiagnosed patients like me in his early years, and now, now he finishes my sentences with what the problem is, and has it diagnosed before I have to explain it. I value that.

As I thought about it, I could literally write a book on this question, but to summarize, my answer is this: Because you don’t value my time, and I do…highly. You also wanted me to look at your house after 5 pm. I value my evenings when my kids have ballgames, my family dinner, and I’m triathlon training, even MORE than my regular “day” job hours.

I do thank the gentleman for the valuable conversation, as it did make me aware that I could do a better job of letting you all know the value that I bring to you as a coach, the experience I bring, maybe more details of deals. I struggle with sharing numbers to the group as a whole and maintaining privacy for my wife and family, but one-on-one, or small settings, we can dig deeper into deal details.

If you think I might be able to help you craft a plan to take your real estate investing business to the next level, and you want to talk about how , then I encourage you to schedule a break through session with me. I have about 3 openings each week that we can setup to talk things through and see if we’re a fit to help each other.
Go to: www.BrandonYeager.com/breakthrough


Photo Credit: Alexander Boden  

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