“Let me call you back when I know what the EMTs say…”
One phone call changed this little family’s life and came in the wee morning hours, late spring. At a spry 33-years old and while working his part-time second job, my husband suffered a stroke.
I know what you’re probably thinking, so let me squash those thoughts right quick: no, he had no warning signs, no real medical problems or history, he wasn’t a drug user (weed doesn’t count), he’s wasn’t drastically overweight and he has no family history of stroke. Heart disease, heart attack and Crohn’s disease yes, but no stroke.
How in the hell did this happen? We still aren’t entirely sure but here’s what we know…
His cholesterol was extremely high, he had started smoking again six months earlier, he didn’t have as much physical activity as he should and at his full-time job, he sits at a desk with an incredible amount of stress and responsibility.
When I saw him laying in the ER, my heart tightened. I’m one of those people who likes to help others and fix everything so seeing him helpless? Crushing. As soon as he saw me, he tried to talk but his jaw wouldn’t move. Seeing the love of your life struggle to talk to you and hear his sobs to find simple everyday words is indescribable. I didn’t know what was happening and I was terrified. I couldn’t stop the tears and even though my duty was calming him down and relax, my unstoppable tears screamed panic – Holy Shit. Unable to tell me what hurt or what was wrong, he just laid there with his jaw locked while tears ran down his face.
Because I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know what I should be doing, I called Mom as soon as they took him for his CT and MRI. As I paced trying to explain to her what happened, I felt like a teenager again – desperately wanting to curl up on my mom’s couch and pretend that I’m not getting older. Within minutes of reluctantly hanging up, my parents were walking down the hall of the ER. I lost it.
With patience and a soothing voice, my mom swooped in and took my place to calm D. “Shhhh, it’ll come just lay here and relax, we’re right here…”
I watched my mom gently stroke his forehead and soon his body relaxed and his breathing calmed. I stood behind her because you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to leave, but I shielded my husband from my face. My stupid emotions were out of control and I couldn’t stop my panic.
When the neurologist explained that his tests revealed no bleeding in the brain but ischemic stroke, I decided to let them administer the “TPA” drug (it’s this monster “clot-breaker-upper” with some serious risks). I learned there’s a tricky thing with strokes and its timing. Since his symptoms started an hour earlier, his best chance of survival and recovery laid within the medicine but every second wasted meant part of his brain was dying.
As everyone assumed their positions his doctor told me that if it is in fact a full stroke, this medicine should start working very quick. Within the hour, he was able to slowly move his right side. He still wasn’t able to speak but they were able to move him to ICU.
I made call after call – his boss, kids’ teachers and for J to pick up the kids – but every time I said the word “stroke” I choked up. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.
Will he ever regain his speech?
Is he disabled?
How do I explain this to the kids? (Without scaring them) Family?
What if he can’t walk? Talk?
What if he can’t work?
My mind would not shut the fuck up and slow down and I had nurses and doctors repeat a phrase I’ve come to loathe, “It’ll take some time.”
As I sat listening to the ICU nurse tell me what to expect and what they were going to do, my little brother walked in. You have to understand my brother and I’s relationship dynamics. I have always thought of my two younger brothers as my best friends, my protectors – yes, pains in my ass but I wouldn’t change a thing. The months before, my immediate family and I had created this distance but right then, the incredible support from them, closed that gap hella fast.
When he was finally able to say my name, I thought nothing else on this green earth sounded better. From that moment, I had hope that things would turn around and he’s on the long road to recovery.
It Changes You Forever.
Almost six months later, I’m still a mess some days. I feel like an emotional tornado. I can talk about what happened without choking up but the trauma has left this ugly scar.
Now that he can walk, talk and seem almost 100 times better than he was a few short months ago, we still struggle with certain things. The aftershock and events that have followed is for another post – I’ll crank it all out at some point I’m sure. My therapist said that writing it out will help heal. Still working on that.