Coming Clean About My Stroke-Part 2

I finally stabilized enough that I was extubated for the last time, the first week of December. I’m in a private NICU room with doctors, nurses, therapists galore, family and my ex. I’m up, but don’t really understand what’s going on.

I remember one of the nurses asked me if there is something I needed, and I remember responding with a voice that was unrecognizable to me, “McDonald’s McNuggets and Sweet Tea”. I was speaking as if I had a small bag of rocks in my mouth. This was moments after being extubated (none of that I remember). They found the request amusing,  but I didn’t. I was hungry.  I was told I wouldn’t be able to eat any hard food until the speech therapist tested my swallow skills. I had just been extubated. I was looking at juice, apple sauce and jello. Whatever.

I remember my attention turning elsewhere.  I tried getting out of bed. I told my body to get up, swing off the bed, and stand. My entire left side betrayed me. She just lay there and wouldn’t move. My brain asked, begged, yelled and screamed; but my left side, particularly my leg — wouldn’t budge.

I remember just staring up at everyone in the room, trying to formulate my thoughts and figure out what was going on. One of the doctors explained what happened and what I had undergone. He began to test my physical and cognitive function. My coördination was pretty bad. My brain couldn’t figure out which way was what. I was confused about how to place my finger to touch his nose.  When he would ask me to lift a particular leg a certain way, I would do the opposite. I was given three simple words to remember and would be asked to recall them in one minutes time.  He checked my heart, lungs, and pupils. Asked if I was in any pain. I said No. He asked me to repeat the three words. I couldn’t remember a single one.

He explained the “residual effects” of the stroke on my body. This included the aphasia, left-sided weakness, the memory loss, difficulty in finding my words, slurring of my speech, coördination issues and emotional turmoil.

If you go by my memory, I can tell you I was in the hospital for all maybe a week. The truth of the matter is, I was in NICU for a month. All I can remember are fragments. I suppose I’ve put all these fragments together in my mind and made one big memory. I don’t know.

(c)2013 LEBlake

Slipper Socks on my hands to keep me from taking the stitches out of my head! (But at least I was extubated for good at this point!)

But I do know it wasn’t fun. I had to have slipper socks tied to my hands to keep me from trying to scratch the stitches out of my head.

I distinctly remember people at various times brushing my hair. I don’t know who it was. Several of my female friends came to visit and took time to brush out my hair since it was so long. The neurosurgeon made the incision along my natural part, so he didn’t have to remove that much hair; but it was still a mess. My friends did their best to try saving it.  :’-)

I had another port inserted on the left side of my chest for the TTP treatment. Plasmapheresis was what my treatment was called. I had it at least 3-4 times a week while in NICU. 10-12 bags of donor plasma is infused into my body (via some dialysis type looking machine) and my ‘bad plasma’ is removed and discarded. The entire process takes about three hours, including patient, blood type check, etc. No fun.

I was taken down for CT scan about 430am almost every other morning. I’m sure I slept through most of it.

Being that I couldn’t move on my own, near the end of my stay in NICU, physical therapy came around. They were wonderful ladies. Since I wanted very much to be able to sit in a chair and maybe read a book or magazine, I thought physical therapy was the answer. It sure was. I couldn’t even walk with help. In order for the team to get me into the lounge chair, I had to be hooked up to this hammock looking contraption that basically picks me up off the bed and the team maneuvers it to the chair.  From there, they adjust me, and undo all the doohickeys. Definitely no bueno.

After nearly a month, I’ll be released from NICU to a regular room, where I spend the next two days before my next adventure at the Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital.  Yup, I remember more from there. . .

Stay tuned for Part 3, which I will probably post next week because I have my Insecure Writer’s Support Group coming up this week also.

Thanks again for always being here for me. . .   🙂

Love you guys!!!

Coming Clean About My Stroke-Part1

Physical therapy had gone well for my knee, back and hand. I had lived with some friends in NJ since I had separated from my partner in August. I would get picked up on weekends to come back to PA. We would talk about the problems that led to our separation and if there was any possibility of reconciliation. It didn’t really look that way to me, but we continued to talk about it and I continued spending my weekends in PA, from Friday to Sunday.

NOVEMBER 20, 2011

We had just gotten to PA from NJ. I had promised one of my roommates that I would finish the first draft of his term paper on Assisted Suicide for one of his classes. 😦 My ex was in the family room downstairs watching a football game. It must have been about 9pm or so. At some point, I had to go to the bathroom, so I went upstairs. I got up and felt a tremendous heat from the back of my right foot that rose up my body. Then it was like a rubber band snapped the back of my neck. It was the worst pain I had ever felt; yet it only lasted about 30 seconds. Immediately after, I had the worst wave of nausea hit me. I knew that something was terribly wrong, but I didn’t know what. I called out my ex’s name but didn’t get a response until the fourth time I called. At that point, I was practically screaming.

We both worked EMS and as soon as my ex came upstairs, I said I needed to go to the hospital. I don’t usually go to the hospital for anything. I hate hospitals. All I had to say was something is NOT RIGHT and we NEED TO GO NOW. That was all it took. I was in pajamas. I put on my sneakers with help. I could barely walk by myself. My ex got me to the car and helped me into the passenger side, and left. The last thing I remember after leaving the house was reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over again. We weren’t half way to the hospital before I began to seize in the car and vomit myself. (I was given this information long after my return home from rehab.) My ex considered pulling over to call an ambulance, but knew it would be quicker to haul ass in the car.

I do have some vague memories at the Emergency Department; of being wheeled into the CT room, looking at my left arm jerking uncontrollably and wondering what was going on, doctors and nurses buzzing around me, but not quite comprehending what they were saying to me, hearing a loud whirring noise, feeling huge, heavy headphones on my ears and a flight medic telling me that everything was alright. That was it.

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Aviary Photo_130217256582411449

The CT scan showed an extensive bilateral sub-arachnoid hemorrhage. I was flown by Medivac that night to the nearest Level I Trauma Center because my hospital was not equipped to care for me. In the early morning hours of November 22, I underwent a right frontal craniotomy for the clipping of a pericallosal anterior cerebral aneurysm rupture. I had been re-intubated later in the week secondary to post surgery seizures.

Sometime after surgery, a Hematologist was brought in to check my blood work because some numbers were off. I was diagnosed with an idiopathic case of Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP), which is a rare blood disorder that causes blood clots to form in the small blood vessels around the body, and leads to a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). I’d never had any hematological issues in the past, that’s why it is classified as idiopathic in nature (arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause). I’ll explain more about treatment I underwent in one of the later posts.

The first week and a half after surgery was “wait and see” because there were so many complications. More than once staff had to stop visitation for everyone except immediate family. It was at this point my (full-time) supervisors had a meeting about what to do if the worst case scenario were to play out. . .I died. I worked for the City; even though it is a small one, the EMS agency I worked for (and technically, still do) was close and tight-knit. The EMTs wouldn’t have worked if one of their own had “fallen”. They were figuring out who they would ask to cover the City for my funeral if it were to happen. To this day, I still find myself having difficulty wrapping my brain around how close I came to not being anymore.  Even though I still have bad days when the pain is really bad or I feel depressed because my focus is worse than usual, I know I’m still luckier than a lot of others. The smell of fresh rain, Sophie’s kisses on my cheeks, and the fact that I can still hug my family and friends is a constant reminder to me. I thank and love the Powers that Be (God) always for my second chance at Life.

I went off on a bit of a tangent there, sorry. . .

I will continue with Part 2 in the next few days. I need a breather. Seriously.

Love you guys.