I remember waking up in a hospital bed, unable to move. The entire right side of my body was useless, including that side of my face. Then everything fades to black. My next memory was of looking up into the face of a paramedic, and realizing I was covered by a blanket, strapped down chest and ankle TO the bed, and that I was in transport to a medical rehabilitation facility.
Life is strange from a gurney point-of-view; mostly, I saw the ceiling float past, and in a haze, I seem to remember being put in a private room, but the whole thing had a dream-like quality to it. Once I was actually IN the bed, I remembered thinking “Well, it was only a stroke [ONLY], I should be better soon enough, I have a strong body and mind, if I can deal with cancer, I can deal with this.”
But God had other ideas. He decided my body [not my mind] was in charge, and there was NOTHING I could do about it.
Depending on the nurse assistants was the worse. They helped me go to the bathroom; dress me; help me EAT; help me sit up in bed, turn on the TV, and sponge bathe me, leaving me feeling like an infant child. The only thing worse than having a stroke, is being relatively YOUNG, very independent woman, and having a stroke.
According to my doctor, there was no way of telling how long I’d be that way, or if I’d recover at all. That people in “my situation” had a 56% chance of having a stroke to start with; people over 50 with Sturge-Weber Syndrome Epilepsy.
When he told me that, I wanted to smack him SO bad! What about a little bedside decorum? What about cutting me some slack, seeing as I had been told hours earlier that the stroke was caused by toxic levels of the blood thinner I was on for ANOTHER medical problem. I could have used his information MONTHS ago. I TRIED asking him to stop being so callous, but anything I tried to say came out slurred. I LOOKED like the right side of my face was sliding off.
A couple days later I was back in a hospital, because I was unable to keep ANY food down. I came out of the haze I floated in, just long enough to realize I was being prepped for surgery, and then faded out again. The surgery was to insert a feeding tube directly into my stomach, so I could be “fed” through it. When I woke up, there was a tube with a cap on it sticking out of my side about an inch from my belly button. My “food” was a liquid supplement with added nutrients, and was given by a bottle drip that hung on one of those metal IV drug bars.
That lasted about 4 weeks, mixed with bouts of severe nausea. It was SO bad, the nurse assistants actually wrote my last name on a throw-up basin.
The nausea and feeding tube ALMOST took my mind off how slowly it was taking for me to heal. The physical therapists kept saying I was a very rapid healer, but if all I could do was sit up one day without getting dizzy, it didn’t get what they meant. A week later I was actually IN Physical Therapy doing leg/ankle exercises. I worked at getting better every chance I got, did leg muscle stretches while watching TV, and it STILL took months to heal. That once-independent woman was gone, and it made me want to cry. Many times I felt as if I were whole again, looking through a glazed window at the shell i was now.
But as time passed, I learned how to lift my hips off the bed, to slide my jeans up. Next, I was able to wheel my own wheelchair; my right arm had minimal usage, but I WAS getting around on my own. Sort of.
And I remember the baby-style food they finally “let” me eat. Everything, even orange juice was reduced to the consistency of pabulum. Every day, a speech therapist worked with me, doing food-swallowing exercises; only after she was convinced I could eat at a slightly higher level, was I allowed what is called a “mechanical soft diet”. What it MEANT was that all my food was crushed, as if a 2 year-old was eating it.
After several weeks on it, I finally rebelled. I told the nurse assistant to tell whomever, I wasn’t eating ANYTHING any more if they forced this on me. The day I snapped I got mashed up chicken fingers, and mashed up noodles with noting but butter on them. My roommate got regular chicken fingers, a salad, a dinner roll with butter, coffee and a piece of chocolate cake!
As I was rebelling at my speech therapist who put me on this awful diet, my roommate was complaining all she wanted was a ham sandwich with mayo, on white bread. How ironic that I wanted food an adult would eat, and SHE wanted the type of food a 8-year-old would eat.
But, over time I DID heal. I was at that rehab for 3 months, missed all of spring, but I did heal. I came home to a REAL bed, real bathroom, and the ability to use both. The doctors decided I no longer needed the feeding tube, and had it removed with minimal surgery: my mood lightened considerable without it. I felt whole again.
Now I can even walk again, albeit it I’m a little wobbly, and every day I marvel at coming through it all. But my BEST surprise; my most crowning glory; is realizing I never lost the “me” of who I truly am. Through everything that happened, I’m STILL here.