More Devastation and Loss. Enough is Enough!

Whenever I come back to blogging and writing after dealing with medical issues, events, and personal losses, I get hit with more devastation.  Angel-Saint

Within the past two weeks, I have lost two people very dear to me in different ways, from the same killer – the hemorrhagic stroke. First, I am now in Puerto Rico, where we put my ex-girlfriend’s brother Petie, to rest yesterday afternoon. When he didn’t show up for work the night of the 11th, co-workers kept calling him because it was unlike him to miss a shift. They called til his mailbox was full. His sister did the same when morning came.

It was two brothers and one sister, always looking out for each other long distance. She called consistently on the 12th, until someone answered his phone. The person on the other end was an NYPD lieutenant who broke the news to her. An autopsy was required because of his age (46), and on the 14th, the ME determined the cause as a brain hemorrhage.

Being there for me during my darkest hour, I felt that the only right thing to do as a friend, was be there for her. I loved Petie in a special way. We understood each other when it came to his sister. There was a wake in NJ for family, friends and co-workers on the 15th; we flew with his flight to Puerto Rico the 16th, had an all day wake the 17th til 10pm, and finally last viewing, church and burial, yesterday. What a week it’s been.

Two days after losing Petie, I lost a former co-worker who also suffered a hemorrhagic while sleeping. I remember working many shifts with him on over- nights. Between all the sick and injured calls we took, we always made time for some humor. One thing I knew about him was his history: hypertension. When I heard, the first question I asked was if he had still been taking care of himself. The answer was a resounding ‘Yes’. I hadn’t seen him much since my illness and the last I’d heard, he’d just recently (within the past 2-3 months) moved to Florida with his partner to start a new life. Though he passed in Florida, most of his family, friends and former co-workers still live in NJ, so he was being flown back for viewing, mass and burial. Unfortunately, I can’t pay my last respects to my friend and co-worker because I won’t be back from PR until next week. Thinking back over the past three years, out of four people who’ve had hemorrhagic strokes that I’ve known well, myself included, I’m the sole survivor. It’s hard to swallow, especially knowing that hemorrhagic strokes are the least common, with the highest mortality rate, of the two types. It makes me question why I was spared. Do I have a life mission? I know I’ve touched on this briefly in a earlier post or two, but it is really hitting me hard now.

hemorrhagic-stroke-photoI love writing. I say it all the time and I try focusing on it every chance I get. I ask myself sometimes too, if that’s one of the reasons death escaped me; so I could write about the killer that is a stroke: both ischemic and hemorrhagic. Am I supposed to be an advocate for those who can no longer speak for themselves? For those who left this world before their time? Or for those who think it can never happen to them and don’t take care of themselves the way they should? I don’t know. But I know that I am going to start something or somewhere along those lines. Everyone that has died was younger than 50. Younger than me. Enough is enough. There is too much loss going on and it’s got to stop. I’ve had my blog for over a year and I love it. I write it under a pen name; always have. Dont know if I will much longer. I used it because I wasn’t really comfortable sharing my story or being myself, bearing my naked soul for the world to see. I wasn’t ready. Now, I don’t care anymore.

Heck, for my fiction, I might just keep the pen name since I have authors to help when their new books come out, reviews that I’ve promised to make and writing that I need to complete. Everyone already knows me as Lilica/Lily or some variation of the two. Works for me…plus, I like it.  🙂

I’m lucky to be alive. Period. Maybe next post I’ll formally introduce myself. I don’t know anyone who’d write a memoir under a pen name. That being said,

I have no more free time to give devastation and loss that has infiltrated my life and tried to suck me dry. Get the hell out of my way; I’ve got shit to do.      LE Blake

That’s all for today, my dear friends. I’m here. I’m strong. I’m determined. Most of all, I’m just pissed.

 

http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain_spinal_cord_and_nerve_disorders/stroke_cva/hemorrhagic_stroke.html http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/TypesofStroke/Types-of-Stroke_UCM_308531_SubHomePage.jsp http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/symptoms-of-a-hemorrhagic-stroke http://jomurphey.blogspot.com/

Coming Clean About My Stroke-Part5

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After the entire fall incident, things began to fall into place. I had a routine to follow, which was important for me then. I had Physical Therapy (PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT) four times a week, Speech Therapy (ST) three times a week and Recreational Therapy (RT) twice a week. I did exceptionally well in PT. By my third day, I was able to stand between the parallel bars and walk half way across and back. My left foot dragged a bit, but at least I could get her to move. I kept forgetting about my left arm and she kept hanging back. My PT would tap me and remind me to ‘bring her along’.  My right arm would dutifully come around and drag my left arm forward to bring her up to speed.

My speech also improved, although it was still my most frustrating therapy. The inability to find my words, my constant stuttering, the feeling of being overwhelmed, and the inclination to cry when asked simple questions began to slowly diminish. I didn’t notice it until a few sessions in, when my ST pointed out that I had answered a question and did not cry; or I did such and such exercise without a hint of a stutter. It was a hell of a breakthrough for me; at least I knew people were understanding what I was saying to them.

Same thing in OT. We worked a lot on ‘daily living’ things: folding clothes, zipping zippers, buttoning buttons, etc. This was in addition to dressing, washing, brushing hair and teeth. They always focused on working my left hand and arm because that’s where my deficit is.

One thing I was notorious for, was clutching utensils in my left hand (or any other item–pens, pencils, mini-lotion bottles, etc) without even realizing it. Some days coming back from meals,  aides or therapists would notice and have to take it out of my hand with a bit of force. I was just unable to let go, even though I willed my hand to. The staff caught on quick though. Every night before I went to bed, my assigned aide would go through my bed. Sure enough, by the time she was done, she had a handful of spoons, forks, straws, body lotion, and rolled up paper in her hand.  🙂

It was a lot of work, but I progressed nicely. I always looked forward to RT. I was always allowed to choose what we were going to work on. Since I wanted badly to be ‘normal’ again, I would pick games that required thinking skills like Scrabble, which I used to be really good at. Of all the times we played, I may have won one game; but it was a sweet victory. It was near the end of my stay.

In my down time I used to watch TV or read magazine that visitors bought me while I was in the hospital. Christmas was only days away, so I had visitors come see me while I was in rehab too. It was nice having the people I love and care about around me. A neighborhood family volunteers every year at the rehab center to sing holiday carols and popular songs in the lobby on Christmas Eve. I advised the floor nurse that I’d wanted to go, so when they were ready to start, a volunteer came up and wheeled me down to the lobby. It was a girl, her father and her grandfather. Three generations with their own little band. They played everything from Silent Night to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. It was amazing.

My family came on Christmas Day to see me and visiting hour rules were ‘ignored’ by the staff on my floor. I was grateful for that. As much as the staff tried to bring holiday cheer to us, it just wasn’t the same. It just made me itch to want to go home even more. Every time the doctor came by, I asked him how long it would be before he thought I’d be ready to go home and do my PT, OT and ST on an outpatient basis.  His answer was always, ‘Let’s give it a few more days’. I hated that answer.

Over the next few days, I busted my butt and worked really hard on my PT. I had graduated from using the wheelchair all the time to using the walker from my room to the lunch area or PT/OT, which were right down the hall. (I still had to sit in my wheelchair for further distances, like ST). I would be out of inpatient rehab as soon as humanly possible.

If I couldn’t do it for New Year’s, well then as soon after as I could,

That’s all I’ve got for this Part, I should have Part 6 up some time next week,

Until then, love you guys!

I Think I’m Ready

A few people have asked me about my stroke and for the longest time, it was something I didn’t speak of freely unless it was to people directly involved; doctors, family, and close friends; and even to them I’ve left out a lot of intimate details of what I’ve FELT during this journey to recovery. I’ve talked about it in pretty clinical terms with everyone. Now is as good a time as any to just get it all out there. A very wise Aloha man told me once that when I was ready, I would be able to share. I’m going to do my best; although this is going to take several blog posts. I’m thinking at least four. But before I get into all of that, I think it’s important for me to discuss some events that occurred a few months before my bleed.  I guess this is my warm-up post.

I worked EMS for over a decade. In August of 2011, I ruptured my right ACL at work. I was out on Comp until I was to have surgery. I mention it so everyone is aware that I was already out of work when everything transpired.

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When I used to work doubles and triples. I used a pic where I looked the most tired!!  🙂

THREE MONTHS PRIOR TO HEMORRHAGE (May or may not have been important. I will never know.)

On September 23, 2011, I was driving my roommate’s vehicle to the local convenience store (roughly 1145pm), when I was struck from behind by a speeding drunk driver. He was driving so fast that my roommate’s car wasn’t enough impact to keep him from striking the vehicle in front of me. We both hit it, according to witnesses. It caused a chain reaction; six cars were involved.

My airbags deployed, struck my face. Took out the driver’s side window with my head. Fractured my L2,3 and 4 in my lower back and sprained various muscles and bruised anything and everything in between. The car was a total loss. I was taken to the local hospital. X-rays were taken and I was given a CT scan of my head that came out CLEAN. I was admitted two days for observation and the simple fact that I couldn’t get up off the bed because of the pain in my back.

State Troopers came to the hospital for information from me and advised me that the driver was arrested. He was over twice the legal drinking limit. I was also told that I should consider myself lucky. When my vehicle was struck, the back seat (it was a Tracker, so it’s one long seat) unhinged and popped up, creating a barrier for the front. Had the barrier not been there, the Trooper told me he did not think I would have left the scene. When I saw the car a few days later, I understood exactly what he meant.

After my two-day stint at the hospital, I was given a back brace, some pain medications and told to follow-up with my doctor. That is exactly what I did. I was also referred for more physical therapy. Surgery for my knee was pushed back nearly a month since I wasn’t able to lay on my back and I continued going to physical therapy for both my knee and my back,  and hand (also injured).

It was business as usual for a while. I had my knee surgery performed on October 19th, 2011. Don’t quote me, but I believe that’s the date. It was same day surgery. I was given all the equipment and instructions I would need to help me get through the first week until I started physical therapy the following. It went well considering I was in pain a lot of time. All I knew that I had already been out of work for over two and a half months and I was desperate to go back. Plus, the holidays were coming! 🙂

This was just a brief summary of what went on the last few months before I got sick. I’m going to start my purging with my next post. I think I’m going to call it Coming Clean About My Stroke-Part1. And I suppose the posts after that will be Parts2 through whatever until I get it out of my system.

It’s time. Love you guys!

Need To, Got To Vent…

Hey there fellow bloggers. It’s after three AM in PA now and I can’t sleep a wink; not that it’s unusual for me. But today (yesterday, actually) started out a really bad day.  First off, I told my roommate that I would set up a few things for her around the house because she was having a realtor come with a possible buyer to look at the property, since she is planning to sell. Fine, no biggie. So, about 15-20 minutes before the expected arrival time, I start opening curtains, lighting the tea-lights, opening the sliding doors, etc.

One of the last things I do is turn off the alarm system, which is always on ‘stay’, and unlock the door. No sooner do I unlock the door and start heading up the stairs, when all of a sudden the alarm starts blaring. Because I am still recovering, I get easily overwhelmed and proceed to freak out at the noise. I frantically try to make my way back down, put the code back in to silence the alarm. After that’s done, I have to make my way back upstairs to the bedrooms so I can wait for the alarm company to call so I can tell them it’s a false alarm. Meanwhile, this whole time, I’m shaking and tears are streaming down my face. Let’s all remember that I’ve also got that slight gait issue going on also. 😦

About three minutes later a call comes in. It’s not the alarm company; it’s the State Police. Apparently, they got the call in from the alarm company as a panic alarm, so there must have been some sort of malfunction with the system or keypad. Either way, the operator advised me that I needed to call the alarm company directly and cancel them since they’ve already been dispatched. Now, I start to freak out even more. As I’m getting off the phone with the operator, my roommate is calling my cell. When I answer, I try to blurt out that she needs to call the alarm company and cancel the State Police before they get to the house because I don’t have their number. She tells me to calm down and she will take care of it. End of call.

Maybe two minutes later, she calls me back. I’m still hysterical, trying to calm myself down. First question out of her mouth is, “What did you do?”  I was still so shaken and upset that it didn’t hit me immediately what she asked me. Finally, in a rush of stuttering words I told her that I didn’t do anything wrong and tried to explain what happened. She tells me “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this,” and proceeds to hang up on me. What boggles my mind is that she works as an EMS dispatcher for a living. This is how you speak to distressed callers? I know I’m just a friend, but give me a break. After what seemed an eternity, (which was about 20 minutes) I calmed down enough that I was able to freshen myself up and make myself look halfway presentable. After all that, she then decides to text me and speak to me like I’m three. “In case the Police do by chance show up at the house, just remember, they’re  your friend.” Really? I’ve worked with them my entire EMS career. Really? Thanks for the words of wisdom there, Sherlock. Don’t need them now. I’m sorry if I’m sounding just a wee bit angry, but those 20 minutes were probably the worst 20 minutes I can recall in a very, very long time.

I’ve never suffered from panic or anxiety attacks of that nature or magnitude before. My heart breaks thinking about how people live life every single day feeling that way. Thank goodness these people looking at the house didn’t show up until nearly noon.

On the bright side, and there was a beautiful bright side to this day; my close friend and former co-worker came up from New Jersey today to spend the day with me. She called me right after my little fiasco with the alarm and said she was already on her way. We call each other PIC (partners in crime) because every time we used to work together, we would always get ourselves into some sort of shenanigans… so we did a bit a shopping and some lunch and caught up on some goings on. I love this young lady too. She is yet another one of my adopted daughters. Briana! You’ve got another sister! 🙂

Anyway, speaking of New Jersey,  while I was debating about whether I wanted to vent on the blog or not; I went through some YouTube videos and came across this one with Gov. Chris Christie and Jimmy Fallon slow jamming. Made me laugh. Goodness knows I needed a few. Until tomorrow; I hope you enjoy.

My First Post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Hi, my name is Lily, and I am an extremely insecure writer…

Um, so I should mention that I recently joined what I hear is an awesome writing group called ‘The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’ founded by the wonderful Alex J. Cavanaugh. The Group meets the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re interested in joining, just click on the image below and the image will direct you to Alex’s page to sign up.
Click Here to Join!I need to get a bit of history out-of-the-way so we can focus on my insecurities as a writer aspect of my post. 🙂 Most, if not all of my followers know that I suffered a stroke in November of 2011.  Mine was hemorrhagic in nature; meaning that I ruptured an aneurysm in my brain, causing the excess blood to cause damage to my nerves and tissue. Because of the sudden onset of this type of stroke, mortality rates are usually very high. Fortunately for me, I survived and made tremendous strides in my recovery.

Some of the residual problems (as it pertains to my writing) I still face from time to time are problems with my short-term memory, inability to focus for long periods, finding myself unable to find the right words (even though they are right at the tip of my tongue), and general feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed.

I have read posts by other stroke survivors who I have come to admire for the way they write and how easily their words seem to flow. Towards the end of my speech therapy, my therapist said that I was performing at the highest level possible. I will admit that I still need to practice every so often because when I find myself becoming overwhelmed or flustered, I tend to stutter slightly and find myself unable to find my words.

I think I have become so afraid of failing because of everything that has happened, that I haven’t finished any of my projects. I have several in the works. I even signed up for NaNoWriMo in April. Came close to finishing my word count. Didn’t quite make it. I was practicing for November’s big event. I am full of ideas; they usually come from the weirdest places… My imagination runs wild. It always has. That’s why I’ve loved writing since I was a little girl. It’s why I started this blog; to get out there and fulfill my dream. Whatever it takes, I will do this and so many people have helped me get out of my shell little by little. I need to build up the confidence to finish my projects and hopefully get some good stories out there.

I do a lot of reading on the subject of writing as well and am aware of what writers go through. I understand all about the writer’s block, the stories laying dormant in drawers (or computers in my case) for months or years at a time, and the fear of rejection and ridicule. It’s what I go through all the time.

So, I guess what I’m asking is, am I more irrational than most? Do you think my problems are due to whatever residual effects I had from the stroke or is this what most of you have gone through as writers?  I really don’t know. I haven’t personally met any writers to ask. Please be honest. I don’t offend easily as long as you’re not malicious, rude or crude! Lol.

Thank you all for listening and again, my name is Lily and I am an extremely insecure writer…