Marilyn Quinsaat’s bass playing sped her recovery from a stroke.
  • Marilyn Quinsaat’s bass playing sped her recovery from a stroke.
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“I was having dinner and drinks with a friend when all of a sudden, I started to feel numb,” recalls bassist Marilyn Quinsaat (Sequin in the Sky, Sock Monkeys) of the night her life changed forever. “I thought maybe I was drunk, but when I couldn’t reach out to touch my glass, because my entire left side was too weak, I knew something was wrong. Thank God my friend intervened and called the paramedics.”

She was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a life-threatening stroke. “They kept me in the emergency room for quite a while, looking at the film and figuring things out.”

Quinsaat spent several days in the ER and perhaps a week more in ICU (amnesia set in so she’s unsure of the exact time). Afterwards, she began the long process of rehabilitation. She had suffered a relatively rare hemorrhagic (brain-bleed) stroke due to a blood vessel abnormality.

“They shipped me to Scripps in Encinitas where they have a fantastic brain-injury program, and I spent about six weeks there. The doctors explained that the areas of my brain affected by the bleed would not be regenerating, but that there was hope due to the brain’s plasticity — somehow, it figures out a new way to compensate for what’s been lost.”

That’s where music gave her a new lease on life. Almost immediately, her connection to music and to the bass in particular proved to be essential to her recovery. “I had my kids bring my iPod, and while I was lying in bed I was listening to my band and imagining playing along on my bass and my fingers started twitching. That was not supposed to happen — usually your fingers recover last. My whole left side was still not moving — but my fingers were. Just hearing music and thinking about it reawakened that part of my brain. The doctors and therapists started using music right away in my therapy. Before long my kids brought my bass in just so I could hold it. Within three months I was able to hold down a note and by the time a year had passed, I was able to play scales and simple riffs.”

Where is she now, musically speaking?

“It’s been five years. I’m able to play as well as ever, just not as fast. I’m still walking with a cane, but I play every week at a guitar workshop. I haven’t gotten back in a band yet, but I look forward to doing that.”

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