For your well being: A hole in my brain

Jill+Gordon-129 Barbara Christenson, of The Speak Well Being Group, did a review of My Brain LLC.

Dear Friends,

May is Stroke Awareness Month, and I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to a stroke survivor, Gordon Viggiano and his wife, Jill, both of whom I greatly admire and respect. They live right here in my town, Lake Oswego, Oregon, so I’ve attended a couple of their local presentations and met with them about the speaking business. I was so impressed with both of them and they are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. It is very impressive to me to think that Gordon could not put a sentence together after his stroke, and he is now making his way as a profound professional speaker who, in telling his story, can entrance an audience (including professionals) and give them new and startling information from a stroke patient’s point of view.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a taste of their story.

Gordon Viggiano:

A Hole In My Brain

Gordon and Jill Viggiano were a typical family. They lived trying to do things right — working hard, providing for the family, following Christian values. The day after Gordon’s 51st birthday, out of nowhere, the unexpected happened: he suffered a massive stroke. One might say they were dealt a dirty card, but they see it differently. As they see it, the experience was a true test of faith and perseverance.

It started in the evening with a vision problem in Gordon’s left eye. Over the next nine hours, they went from a happy, healthy family enjoying Spring Break, to a vision problem, to a 911 call, to the Emergency Room of a hospital that had never been a part of their health insurance plan, to Jill having a frank discussion with the organ donation lady. In nine short hours, Jill was facing the possibility of losing her husband, financial ruin, and raising their two children alone.

Gordon survived, but not without severe consequences. He had lost the use of the right side of his body, his ability to speak and think, and his memory. While Gordon was lost in the dense fog of his stroke, unable to speak or to understand a full sentence, Jill was faced with the terrible reality of caring for a disabled husband, raising their two children and seemingly inevitable financial ruin.

The entire story of their challenges and determined march toward recovery, are recounted in Jill’s book Painful Blessing. The book is compelling and rich,Painful Blessing by Jill Krantz Viggiano recounting not only the unfolding of the stroke, the subsequent consequences, and the journey back to a new life, but also giving guidelines and hope for anyone who might be faced with this or a similar challenge.

There are two storylines I want to highlight here. First there is Gordon’s amazing will and determination to speak again, and subsequently his path to becoming a professional speaker.

Early in Gordon’s stroke recovery, when they knew nothing of the journey they were heading into, they naively thought that Gordon would be fully recovered in one year. They thought they would have a party for all the wonderful people who had helped them and that they would all celebrate the end of that horrible year. At the one-year anniversary of his stroke, though, Gordon was nowhere near recovered. So they decided to postpone the party until the two-year mark. They thought that he had to be recovered by then, right? Wrong! At the two-year anniversary, he was still in awful shape so they agreed that they would celebrate full recovery at three years. At the three-year anniversary, they finally understood that recovery was probably going to be a lifetime pursuit and that maybe they should just have the party anyway.

Gordon agreed but he said he wanted to talk about the experience at the party. It took six months to write “My Brain Has A Hole In It” and eight months for Gordon to practice enough to deliver the speech. On the four-year anniversary, they had the party and Gordon spoke. The overwhelming feedback was that Gordon needed to tell his story to more people, and so his professional speaking career began. (And, as any professional speaker knows, having a speech is just the very beginning of building a speaking business!)

I have witnessed his presentations, and they are compelling, professional, multi-media, and Gordon at Podium-HoleSlideBckgrndemotionally stirring. Actually, I should be saying “their” presentations because Gordon and Jill are a team, just as they have been all through his recovery. At this time, Gordon offers two speeches. The most stubborn and impactful deficits from Gordon’s stroke are his inability to organize his thoughts and then get the words out. Because of his cognitive inflexibility, any changes to his fully prepared speeches require months of practice to be able to speak to an audience. As a result, he sticks to his script. (PLEASE NOTE: Gordon’s speeches are anything but rote).

At the end of the program, Jill steps to the podium for Q & A, which adds an additional level of credibility, information, and emotional impact as experienced by the patient’s family. Jill also has her own powerful program, based on her book, Painful Blessing, that she delivers to general audiences as well as to caregivers and health professionals.

The second story I wanted to tell is that their programs are appropriate for many more audiences than stroke or heart events. Gordon is an excellent speaker for any meeting planner desiring to set a tone of inspiration and possibility for their meeting. Their talk titled, “Putting Failure in Its Place,” is a great fit for corporate or sales professionals. As a business owner, consultant, and entrepreneur before that fateful Spring Break day, Gordon had always personified the focus and determination necessary to be a top-level business professional. When the stroke rendered him disabled, he used his sales skills to pursue recovery just as relentlessly, and he’s incorporated his method into the talk.

Their programs are also a good fit for insurance/financial, and risk management professionals, as it is not an exaggeration that their investment in a Disability Policy saved them from financial ruin.

“It forces us to think about our lives in a different way- from both a personal and a         professional stand point,” commented one listener. “Change is a part of all of our lives, but we somehow think that terrible and traumatic events will never be a part of our lives. You show us how we can overcome small and enormous adversity.”

Gordon and Jill will inspire people to move beyond their assumptions and their ordinary obstacles and motivate them to imagine and pursue what is possible, as this couple use their inspiring story of emergency, chaos, self-doubt and recovery to model how to handle adversity, and how to prevail.

Although I don’t usually include testimonials, these two convey the impressions of listeners in a way that I could not, and because of that, I think they are worth your attention:

I invited Gordon and his wife Jill to be the keynote speakers for Deloitte’s National Sales Meeting, and they knocked the cover off the ball! I’ve hired sports heroes, navy seals, and other terrific motivational speakers in the past but Gordon’s story was the most powerful. The hundreds in attendance unanimously agreed that Gordon’s inspirational story of loss, recovery, hope and faith was a real eye opener and provided all of us with a reminder of what’s really important in life.

          Tom Lutz
          Managing Director of Sales, Deloitte

And

Gordon Viggiano was the keynote speaker at our recent Comprehensive Stroke Center celebration. Gordon gave a moving presentation on the stroke survivor’s experience from the Emergency Department, waking up in ICU, working hard in Rehab and then the continual recovery over the past 7 years.  He is an engaging speaker who shares his personal story with humor and honesty.  The audience was made up of nurses, therapists, physicians and hospital administration. Gordon’s presentation gave everyone in the room a fresh perspective on stroke survivorship.

Gordon was joined at the end of the presentation by his wife Jill to answer questions and share how this experience has shaped their lives.  They are an example to healthcare providers of how life post- stroke can be full of meaning and purpose.

We are so thankful that Gordon was able to join us for our celebration.

          Linda Stanford, MSPT
          Project Lead Comprehensive Stroke Center
          Legacy Emanuel Medical Center

For a taste of their programs, click on this link and view a video clip from my web site, and to learn more about bringing them both to your community give me a call at 503-699-5031 or email barbara@speakwellbeing.com.

Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,

Barbara
For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!

The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they know how to connect with women and give them life-changing information served on a silver platter of joy, camaraderie, with a side of sauce (spicy, of course).

Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me endless joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.

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For more information: http://www.speakwellbeing.com/for-your-well-being-a-hole-in-my-brain/

 

Jill continues to be my hero!


We spoke at a Professional Development Day at a local hospital.  Here are some of the comments:

It helped me remember why I became a nurse.

Thank you for bringing the speakers Jill and Gordon—Painful Blessings.

Please tell the Viggiano’s thank you for sharing their story.  Really puts everything in perspective.  I so admire both Jill and Gordon.  I honestly would not be able to do what they have done.  I’m on a redeye flight tonight, so their book will be a good read! So inspiring!

The Painful Blessing was an amazingly inspirational motivating share.

I liked the slides that were presented with the talk.

I like the patient perspective.

Awesome

Great Q & A.

Uplifting.

Was I nervous?

IMG_0486Last week, I got to speak in front of college students.

While I don’t normally get nervous, I was with this group!  Oh no:  what if I am becoming like ALL the other speakers?

Could this be a fact?  I haven’t got nervous since my stroke.  What was once a “little benefit” could be gone. While it bothers me a little, I am kind of psyched about getting my old self back.  Now before I speak, I won’t be able to eat, I will pace back and forth,…. and I will get chills down my spine.  Ok, I won’t do all those things, but I am excited to get my “old self” back.

How did I do???

“FANTASTIC!”  

“GREAT!”  

“When are you speaking again?”  

“That’s what I needed to hear.”

 

↑ ….OK…not quite THAT good, but this was more what I had in mind.  I worked on the speech and made sure I was changing it up a bit.  I slowed down…speeded up….paused, etc.  I did all the things I was supposed to do.

I didn’t offer feedback form (they offered there own)….but the verbal feedback I got was wonderful.  I will share the feedback once it comes back.

I don’t understand why I was feeling so “off” last week. But now I know the answer to:  “Will it be like this again?”  No…it won’t…unless I l LET it happen.

And you know what?  Good things may come from the talk.  God works in mysterious ways!

How do we communicate?

It’s interesting.

The disruption in Gordon’s thinking and speaking is for me, the most mysterious.  How is it that one minute, he is speaking in (mostly) full sentences and the next, he is looking at me with his mouth open and no words are coming out?  If this were happening to me, I doubt I would risk speaking much at all.

Not Gordon.  Every day he goes into his office and tries to make phone calls–cold calls to total strangers no less!!  He has a script that helps him direct communication to email rather than the phone, which is good.  However, now and then he still hits a block in speaking on the phone.  This is when he calls me into his office, points to the phone, and expects me to somehow know who he is talking to and what he is trying to say.  He fully expects me to walk in and seamlessly pick up the conversation where he left off.

While I appreciate his faith in my abilities, not once has this experience been seamless in any way.  The awkward silence while I try to figure out what is going on is evident to the poor person on the other end of the line.  We fumble the next few moments but eventually get the conversation back on track.

Does this happen every day?  Nope.  In fact, it is happening less and less.

Is it frustrating?  Yup!

Does it stop Gordon from making phone calls every day?  Not a chance!

All parts of recovery are a team sport, even communicating.  I am so thankful to have a teammate who is willing to keep training.

Jill Viggiano

And Jill came in….

IMG_0376SECOND in the writing competition!

It sounds cliche but it was an honor to be nominated =)

We were at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference last week. I was going to write about the experience sooner, but my site revisions took longer than normal.

We began at the conference on Monday night and had dinner with the fellow writers. The following 3 mornings, we had a workshop with Dr. Randy Ingermanson on passive marketing–fascinating!

The take-aways from the conference:

  • Writers write because they like to write, not because they think they will get rich and famous.
  • Jill is an inspirational speaker who wrote a great book, not a writer who also speaks.  It turns out that is an important distinction.

Jill Viggiano

Back Where We Started

RotaryA little over two years ago, Gordon gave his presentation, “My Brain Has A Hole In It” for the first time to a group of close friends.  That experience started us on a new path–Inspirational Speaking!  But who, other than friends, would want to listen to us?  Would we be inspirational to people who had never heard of us?

Gordon and I started making phone calls, trying to book an opportunity to speak to an audience of strangers.  It took some time but we were eventually introduced to Dennis, an active member of Rotary.  After a delightful meeting in front of a local coffee shop, Dennis agreed to give us a chance.

Our first speaking engagement was to the Greater Clark County Rotary of Vancouver, Washington.  I was very nervous for Gordon but he was completely confident.  I don’t think he even considered that the presentation might not go well.  Gordon was right–he got a standing ovation.

Two years have gone by and so much has happened.  Gordon has given well over 100 speeches.  I’ve published a book and have launched my own speaking career.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to that same Rotary Club, back where we started.  This time Gordon was nervous for me!  No need to be nervous, Rotary clubs are filled with wonderful people.  This time, it was my turn to get a standing ovation 😉

Jill Viggiano

Where is that list again?

It is so simple…a fifth grader can do it.  So why do I have such a hard time remembering
what to bring to my presentations..even after 2 years of doing it?  Jill created her famous CheckList.  She has a list for everything: shopping, travel, Costco, Target, Christmas,Things To Do, etc.  EVERYTHING.

At first, I said “Don’t be silly.  I don’t need a CheckList.”  But, she still prepared one for me “just in case.”  And I am glad she did.  I only had 5 things to remember…and I forgot the slide show!  How could I do that?  I was proud that I remembered the Speaker Introduction, my water, the speakers, and iPad….but I forgot the slide show.  Fortunately, we didn’t leave and Jill quickly handed me her CheckList, which you will see below.  Now, every time, I go over the CheckList.   Each time (and I have given over 100 presentations) I say “thank you so much for doing this for me.”  Jill is a star!  She just smiles.

TASKS

-Take Picture

-Projector?

-A table (close by): I use my laptop so I can see the slides being projected

-I have a few video clips that must have sound; (I will need to make sure that the sound from the video goes thru the sound system)

-Cordless lapel mic

-20 Minute Presentation

-30 Minute SALES Presentation

-40 Minute Keynote

-Painful Blessing

-Q & A -Jill Viggiano

-Emailed CORRECT version to iPad

-RECEIVED Correct Version

-MacAir

-iPad

-Podium

-Small speakers

-Speaker Introduction/Summary

-Pen

-Business Cards

-iPhone

-Water

-Everyone need Bookmarks

-Clip board with emails

-Count Attendees

-Count Inquires

-Books Delivered

-Books Sold

-Avg price per book

-Survey

-Ask for Refs