So a year ago today, this happened.
I’ve not quite gotten to the point where I feel comfortable talking about everything that happened that day from my point of view, but I like pushing myself so we’re going to give it a whirl.
That was not a good week – the day before, Jason’s youngest brother had been denied re-entry into Canada (where he lives with his wife) and we’d gotten news that some of our closest relatives, Jason’s other brother and brother’s wife had suffered a miscarriage. Our family was under spiritual attack and we didn’t know why, we were all simply reeling. Jason’s parents were coming to visit and I had let Canadian brother (Scott), entertain Lucy while I picked up the house a little bit and got ready for the latest visitors. Jason even left work early to come help me and to be there when his parents arrived.
About four o clock, Scott and I set out to run some errands. This included a run to Dutch Brothers, my favorite coffee stand. When they handed my drink out the window, I suddenly felt very tired and lethargic. My left arm felt like it was moving through water, as if I were pushing it through resistance. I shrugged it off as an oncoming migraine (I’d been having a lot of those lately) and paid, then we went to Target. Scott wandered off to look at video games and I ran to get teething tablets and diapers. I had to lean heavily on the cart, I felt exhausted and dizzy. I was still thinking a migraine, as my medical history has taught me to be aware of arrhythmia and chest pain – there were neither. In fact, I wasn’t in any pain at all and I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about what was happening to me, just annoyed.
A side note into all this – the clot was in the right side of my brain. This is the side which not only manages the left half of your body, but also reasoning, problem solving, and social cues. The part of my brain designed to tell me that something was wrong is the part that was being suffocated and damaged. I wasn’t aware that by this point, Scott was very concerned about me. It also is the part that is mostly likely controlling emotions, which is partly why through the entire stroke event and treatment, I never felt afraid.
Scott asked if I was doing alright as we left Target and it very briefly occurred to me that I should ask him to drive. But I’m stubborn and proud and it was a little over a mile to our house so I didn’t ask. He grew more concerned and asked me repeatedly if I was okay when I nearly swerved into a car changing lanes, and had to do three-point turns every time we needed to make a left hand turn (three times). I just kept thinking I’m just tired, I need a nap. Just need to get home to nap. When we pulled into the driveway, I realized I had to lift my left arm off my leg with my right and open the door with my right hand. I managed to swing my lower body out of the car and placed my coffee in my left hand – and immediately dropped it on the ground. Which made me irrationally really angry. I leaned over to pick it up and fell out of the car.
Scott ran to see what had happened and I continued to assure him I was fine, I just needed to get inside and sleep. He tried to help me up and we couldn’t manage it. By this point, I was getting confused, slurring words, and mixing up parts of my body as I talked about them. Scott ran in to get Jason. When Jason came out, he asked me if I was okay. I emphasized that I just wanted to go inside and sleep. I kept telling him something was wrong was my right side, when it was actually my left side that was completely paralyzed. He gave me that “you’re somewhat ridiculous” look and told me if I could get up on my own and walk to the door, I could take a nap. Which I obviously couldn’t, so he managed to get me in the car, give brief instructions to Scott and we headed to the ER.
The ride is somewhat of a blur, I do remember him asking me many inane questions over and over (the number of times I had to tell people throughout the evening that Obama was President was ridiculous). I recall the nurses coming to get me from the car, but everything else is blank until they took me to get a CT scan. By this time, my parents were there, as well as my pastor. When they read us the results of the scan indicating a large clot (actually two), I thought well, that’s ridiculous. That sounds like I’m having a stroke and strokes are for old people. I’m only thirty. Guess I get to have my head shaved. They administered tPA (a stroke medication) but it didn’t have much effect on me. They were continually asking me if I felt this or if I could move that and nothing was happening, which was frustrating but beyond that didn’t concern me. I dozed on and off and every time I woke up, there were more people in the room – my sister and her boyfriend, my brother and his wife, my father-in-law and Scott. I kept wondering why they were allowing so many people to be in my triage room and it was only later that I realized it was because they didn’t expect me to live. I kept looking at Jason and thinking he looked so worried, I needed to cheer him up and reassure him.
If you’ve read his post, you know they were planning on airlifting me from almost the very beginning. They prepped me for flight and I said goodbye to my family, borrowing my sister’s chapstick and again getting frustrated that I couldn’t open it one handed. I later found out that they gave my husband a less than 33% chance I would still be alive when he reached me at Sacred Heart. The helicopter ride was cold and bumpy – they had to give me something for nausea. And I still remember seeing the lights glinting off my wedding rings (although that could’ve been my brain filling in what I usually saw on my finger) even though they weren’t actually there. I was piled in warmed blankets and slept most of the way. As we landed, I could smell rain. I went straight to surgery check-in and prep. The admins kept asking me to sign things and the nurses kept yelling at them that I was having a stroke – and I kept interjecting with “no, I’m right handed, it’s okay!” And the last thing I remember before surgery was the doctor patting me on the arm and saying, “you’re going to do fine…”
I still don’t think I’ve processed everything that happened that day and week, it may take me a long time of talking and working through it. I have a lot of thanks to share – with Christ who not only saved my life, but my soul so that if things had turned out differently, I still would be okay. With my husband and Scott for their quick reaction time to my distress. With my in-laws for watching LP and especially my father-in-law for driving my extremely distraught husband three hours to the hospital I was airlifted to. With my pastor for being there for my family, for preaching a timely sermon the Sunday before, for being encouraging through the entire ordeal. With my Bible Study and small group friend family for providing meals, with my parents for continually supporting us, driving up to visit us in the hospital, for helping out with Lucy, and for helping me the past 12 months as I continue to recover. With the amazing baristas and baristos at Dutch Brothers who encouraged us, made us laugh, and plied us with decaf coffee this past year, helping me confront my fears of returning to the places I was at when I was suffering from my brain being starved of oxygen. And with the literally hundreds of people who were praying for me around the world the entire night of my stroke and beyond. With every single person who donated to our giveforward account and helped us cover medical expenses our insurance denied. With our lawyer for fighting the insurance company on my behalf, and with the doctors and nurses for skillfully making decisions concerning my care and performing tests and surgeries – both at Kadlec and Sacred Heart. So much to be thankful for, such a family of support, such a blessed life.