Matthew’s Story

Site created on October 1, 2020

This August, Matty was taking the kids and Rosie on a hike when he stepped on a bee’s nest hidden under a railroad trestle. Despite having no history of allergies to stings, including a long battle with the wasps who’ve laid claim to our patio, he went into anaphylactic shock. One shaky 911 call and ambulance ride later (God bless you, Bethel EMTs), he was safely in the hands of the medical staff of a Norwegian (Norway, Maine, that is) hospital. After some follow up tests, doctors noticed some abnormalities in Matty’s heart, and after many tests in both Maine and Boston, we have learned that Matty has severe Coronary Artery Disease.

SO, Coronavirus/Trump Presidency/massive bee attack, hold my 2020 beer, because here comes…open heart surgery! That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have a rockstar surgeon, Dr. George Tolis, who’s basically the Dr. Preston Burke of Mass General, and he assures us that Matty is a great candidate for a bypass surgery. Currently, his surgery is scheduled for Friday, October 9th.  This will be followed by 5 days in the hospital and a longer recovery at home.

The other good news is that Matty is, as the tattoo he randomly returned from a business trip with says, "game to the bone," which loosely translates as a badass, and we can only expect that he'll emerge from this surgery even gamer to the bone. 

We’ve told a few people so far and are already feeling so much gratitude for all your love, support, and offers of help.

We’ll use this site to keep family and friends updated in one place.

Thank you and much love,



Newest Update

Journal entry by matthew orourke

Thanks again everybody for all of your “Endless Loooooooove” (if you don't sing it in the melody of the 80's love song then sorry, it won't work) and support. Anybody of a certain age remembers the guy that would dress in half Diana Ross and half Lionel Richie make-up and lip sync this on the Adrian Zmed TV  dream show "Puttin on the Hits".  It was to lip syncing what Miss Saigon is to theatre, transcendent!  
Check it:

The thoughts and love have been a tremendous source of fuel for me and the check-ins and base touching (HI-OOOOOOooo) or whatever else you want to call it has been overwhelming and continues to fill my bucket to the brim. I am most humbled and so very thankful to you all. It is really too cool of you and it makes me want to be better and get better for sure. 

Getting there…keep on truckin’.

           I never wanted to make this blog/journal/personal written therapy sessions overly religious. God, Yahweh, Hova, Jesus, really any member of the cast of the invisible saviors, none of these deities will have a problem getting a shout out. EVER.  (Shit, watch a sporting event and there will be a John 3:16 sign somewhere.)  He (or She, respect, ladies) always seems to pop up in times of personal sacrifice, times of critical need or when we make really bad decisions. “God please don’t let my parents find out, I will not each chocolate for a whole week”…just the way Jesus wanted you to repent: chocolate-free, so pious. 

These times of calling to them seem to be when God or whomever you are jiving with at the moment, is taken away from their normal duties which lately seem like primarily overseeing of governance in politics. They constantly seem to be in attendance at moments of national security or crisis helping to get us through troubling times. These Invisibles, for the amount of time they are called to help with government, must really crush opponents playing Stratego or RISK.

            It is often awkward and a bit unnerving when you ask something really heavy of a friend or loved one and we often hesitate doing it.  We always make sure that we have asked every other possible person we could think of before we bring our issue to the real people that we truly know and truly know us. They are the people that will know all of our history. The numerous drunken face plants and ugly cries and thus they will know how to embarrass/blackmail us. That is what makes it easier for us to tell our problems and needs to the peripheral people or to the invisibles. We all do it. We feel it is better to speak our needs or prayers into the void of space whilst perched alongside our beds. This is the best place that it can be heard, it is at this area 3 feet off the floor next to our beds that has the best reception to the invisibles. It is our 25¢ “Prayphone” on the side of the highway.

              I really had no intention of ever making that call. I was not interested in taking a meeting, talking to, driving with or letting Jesus take the wheel, confiding in, or joining him as my invisible, spiritual tour guide on my current struggles. Let me be really clear here, it is NOT because I don’t believe or think he/she exists and I have asked numerous times for help and guidance and the occasional lottery number help. I most certainly have done all of this. However, right now I need my man (or woman) coaching from the sidelines or up in the booth on this one. This is not blasphemy, far from it.  It is simply a choice, my choice that I will handle this on my own. My way. My lumps, my pain, my achievement but all with close supervision from above provided they are not playing board games. 

            God, I am sure you have a massive to-do list and maybe by now you have managed to check a few items off or maybe you are even caught up, I mean who knows. I will always be thankful and respectful of you and your almighty power and guidance. So hear me out on this, oh good Shepherd of Shepherds.  Imma gonna go ahead and need you to lay back in the cut on this one and have a juice box and an orange slice. If and when I need you, I will give you the head nod and the look. You know the look. The “it’s go time” look. I may put my right hand on my left bicep and make the call to the bullpen, then we can talk about my options.Till then my sandle-rocking homie, enjoy the snacks and take a knee, bud. Catch you on the flip, after all this and we can laugh.. ohhh how we’ll lauggghHHHH!!! Right now the motto is WWMD. What would Matty do?…shit, who knows. Just keep on keeping on, taking it as it comes be open and vulnerable to it.

          When I got home for the second time, sigh (taking a moment here), it was on a Sunday and not as exciting as my first time passing through the archway into Ranch-O’Rourko. The original loser landing, like a lunar landing but only with a massive surgically repaired now doughy, bald man had a bit more fanfare. This time it was a little blurry out of my left eye and had a tinge of a more serious nature; it was just, well, different. The familiarity of my home was there, but only in basic tactile form. I knew every inch of this place intimately but it did not feel comfortable or anywhere close to what I remembered or would classify as normal. That weird feeling would stick around for about a day or so then slowly started to dissipate. Strokey stuff and strokey stuff is odd. (See what I did there? My editor has left it in for your enjoyment.) The comfortability with my surroundings slowly came back and perhaps it was just that my brain was literally a TNA-filled (see previous post) hot mess. It would probably be easier if I said everything had turned into a very beautiful and vibrant cartoon and I ended up becoming great friends with and thus an empathetic partner to some local squirrels.

               “Hey Larry!! How goes the nut hunt man? Happy molting.” I would say in a very jovial way. Larry would laugh and ask me why we’re still going with Cam Newton at Quarterback and if Parker Lewis Can’t Lose was on a streaming platform yet, as he found it to be well written and irreverent, and he loved its non-referential humor. I would make the “I don’t know” face and we would both smile and continue about our day. Actually, this is all true. I actually can talk to squirrels and this has been going on for years during the PS (pre-stroke) years. Larry, for the record, is very wise and is oddly very adept at making savvy football bets. 

              Anywho…to say it in normal terms, I, me, us, we were all off-track. At times, I had trouble processing things. It was sort of like doing a puzzle and the pieces at first glance looked like they kind of fit and you want them to fit because that means progress, but you know they really don’t. So you make an agreement with yourself, and you’re one second away from getting a hammer to “massage” the piece into the puzzle and then you realize and scoff "this isn’t right".  Basically, I was being tasked with mentally trying to process, accept, and adapt to a stroke and all the wonderful accoutrements that come with it, whilst only being two days removed from having it. And yet still using words like “whilst.” BAM. This shit is hard and weird to process, especially with a stroke-addled mind. When dealing with your brain, a thing you can’t see or physically mend, you don’t really know how to fix it. After heart surgery, you eventually realize that this is your body and it is now working correctly. All the work that was done has gotten you to a good place or as close as they can.  You will soon be getting back to your old self and becoming whole again. Back to you the actual person, the full intact individual. You have to just let your body heal. Be patient. You wait and slowly find your way to the your center and the calm again, before you try to figure out what you THINK you need to do. So you start to feel that you have made progress and then your body will be completely jostled and cut, sawed, disconnected and reconnected and knocked around so much that your pendulum is pushed way off course and slowly it will repair itself and find its center again. That is the stroke. Just when your body is in a seemingly good place your brain always in need of attention apparently starts yelling, “Hey man, I need to get in on this action…what about ME!??” and blows the whole GD thing out of whack. 

You as a vessel. This beautiful body with a lovely outer (candy) shell can do nothing about this except agree to let it happen and be patient enough to let it run its course. You can’t put a Band-Aid on your brain and that is the weird part about it. In my case it just is and just has to be, until it will “be better”.  Your body is doing the inner work of mending and healing now and it will give you all the hints you need as to when you can mentally help out. Until then, you have to give it some room and stay out of the way, not overthinking what you need to do, you basically need to play dumb. (insert comment here)  A small stroke is the same way. The main component of healing is rest and time and more rest. That is really it. The issue of healing your brain is fortuitously harder to rationalize than the scars on your chest or something tactile and physical that you can see. It is harder to know how bad you are hurt or how well you are progressing when you have no actual visual evidence to gauge healing. You can’t see the progress of a scar on your brain as opposed to the giant one down the middle of your chest.   The words generally find their exit pretty quickly with me. That was gone for a bit and it now coming back. They weren’t stuck, they simply just weren’t there. I knew them but they were gone from my recall. Poof. If I found myself in a conversation, I simply didn’t engage. So it was quiet for a bit around the ranch, at least on my end as I was struggling mentally to get this ship right again. It is weird to feel embarrassed in your own home. I don’t think I have ever really been embarrassed. My life is and always has been a bit of a sitcom. I often just resign to simply put my head in my hands and shake my head at the stupid things I do. Often I laugh or wince at myself and make a mental note to either do or say said thing again for comedic effect or to  never speak of or admit to doing said thing ever again. What? Nothing. Exactly.  

        Post-stroke, I could feel I was slow physically and at times reallllllly slow mentally, but it was, is and continues to get tons better. I am really happy with the progress thus far. I still feel the weight on the left side of my face, but that is going away, sometimes the words escape me and I think maybe there were better words anyway. I am self-editing [editor’s note: hahahahaha] and that is a good way to look at it. 

It is making me work harder. I don’t mind the hard work or the hard self-work.  It yields results and that is really what we are after now. Getting better for the sake of being better internally and externally. I am trying to get to a 2.0 version of self.  I have been given an amazing opportunity to audit myself and take stock of what was, what is, and what I want it to be. Some real deal hashtag blessed shit here. It is not lost on me, and for this I am very grateful. Grateful for the dumb shit luck that has been bestowed upon me. This has given me the opportunity to not only fix my scars but also take the time to mend the things that I have been putting off for such a long time.  Sometimes it isn’t really about the destination as it is about the trip and HOLY SHIT this has been a trip. Insert Grateful Dead quote or 45 minute jam of Dark Star from the 1969 San Fransisco Fillmore shows here. 

I do want to take a second for a special shout out to Ms. O’Rourke. She not only is an amazing wife, partner, cook, caretaker and now my editor. She helps make sense of all the junk I put on the white page and makes me sound at times, coherent. No small feat.  She is a much better writer than I and I am continuously humbled by her helping me out. You can read her works at   You will be glad you clicked on in. Happy New Year to us all. I know that the calendar change is not going to flick a magical switch and leave all the crap and baggage of 2020 behind. However, the idea of the promise of better stays is alright by me.  Safe and Sound I trust you all will be. Till the other side of this moon, see you next year. 


Patients and caregivers love hearing from you; add a comment to show your support.

Comments Hide comments

Help Matthew Stay Connected to Family and Friends

A $30 donation to CaringBridge powers Matthew's site for one month. Will you make a gift to help ensure that this site stays online for them and for you?

Show Your Support

See the Ways to Help page to get even more involved.