I had to keep my eyes closed because I was experiencing a horrible case of double-vision and I had just vomited from the breathing apparatus that was lodged in the back of my throat. I heard my wife, Cathy, talking to someone, presumably a doctor.
I will never forget the words I heard, as I lay on a gurney, waiting to be transferred to a different hospital.
“Your husband had a stroke during the procedure.”
I calmly said, “I didn’t need to hear that” before I slipped back into an incoherent daze.
Cathy later told me the doctors and a transport team had discussed air-lifting me to a hospital that was better equipped to handle my stroke. However, an ambulance jarred and jostled me around as it sped over the city streets with its full arsenal of lights and sirens. The bumpy ride and my disorientation made me vomit again.
I was uncomfortably numb. I didn’t know what was happening, but I sensed a feeling of urgency surrounding me. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t communicate. I had no control. I was forced to submit and let strangers determine what would become of me.
“Our Father, who art in heaven… thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”
I made it through the emergency surgery. I suffered some mild residual effects as a result of the blood clot that lodged itself at the base of my brain stem.
The following day, my physical body regressed. Further testing of MRIs and CT scans revealed that three additional clots had lodged themselves in “dead-end” arteries of my brain, causing semi-paralysis on my right side, impairing my speech, and affecting my vision. In short, parts of my brain would die.
I was assured that my brain could re-wire itself and make new connections – a sort of detour around the destruction/construction, but I would need extensive physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
Oh, poor me, right? NO. I had the “easy” part. All I had to do was lie in a hospital and have someone take care of me. And then participate in my therapies.
Cathy had the tougher job. She had to take care of our animals, she had to keep her clients happy and continue to work. She had to make countless phone calls to doctors who rejected to see me because we didn’t have insurance. She had to weave through mountains of paperwork and medical bills. We had a cat who was on the last of his 9-lives. We had a senior dog whose health was failing. They also needed supportive care.
She had to relive and retell the horror story of my incidents in countless emails, text messages, and phone calls.
And yet, everyone thought that I had suffered a terrible tragedy. That may be true, but I was never alone.
No one saw the exhaustion in Cathy as she fought to stay awake while visiting me in the hospital. No one heard her cry at night while she lied in bed, unable to sleep, sick with worry.
No one thinks about the “healthy” spouse. Nobody thinks about their physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.
ONE STROKE, TWO SURVIVORS
Cathy and I have many scars. You may never see them, but they exist. They are deep and they hurt!
I am sorry that I have inflicted some of those wounds. Time alone does not heal all wounds. Hard work is the answer.
With patience and persistence, we will recover. We will not be victims.
We will survive!
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.