One of my friends asked me if I was scared when all this happened. That made me think. Was I scared?
Well, it basically all happened too fast to be scared. Things I have read after the fact made me realize that the whole thing could have turned out much, much worse. But the fact is, it didn’t.
I admit I was scared when I was at the library and suddenly the room started spinning. But in some ways it was a relief — I KNEW something was wrong. Why was that a relief? Well, for three solid weeks I’d had a headache every morning and had to decide whether I was well enough to go to work. I had even been thinking of going home early that very day, but told myself, no, I wasn’t sick enough.
It’s like when my son was three years old. He started throwing fits at naptime, until finally I stopped making him take a nap. He wasn’t sleeping anyway. But it was a tough decision. Did he need a nap? His older brother had taken them right up until he went to Kindergarten. However, a couple nights later, he threw a major tantrum from 2 am until 3 am, screaming “I want to stay up all night and all daaaaaaay!” There was no agony at all in that decision. Nice try, kid, but sorry, you have to go to sleep!
That compares a little bit to how I felt when I knew, with no question, that something was wrong. All those previous three weeks, I’d had to make decisions about going to work with a headache. Now the decision was out of my hands. I was not able to stand up, let alone work.
I did ask them to call the paramedics when I remembered that since I was on birth control pills (for the trouble I’d been having with ovarian cysts), I was at slightly higher risk for stroke. When the paramedics came, I started vomiting, and rather than make me more afraid, that simply made me all the more certain that something was indeed wrong. No more agonizing decision! I was sick.
I did hear one of the paramedics tell the hospital staff something to the effect that I was at a zero on the “stroke scale,” so from that moment I was no longer afraid it was a stroke. However naive that confidence was!
Now, I had gotten afraid a year and a half earlier, when for three months I was having trouble with headaches that lasted two to four weeks. But they had done an MRI and found nothing wrong. And then they found a preventative that wiped out my headaches more effectively than ever before in my life. Since the preventative dealt with serotonin levels, I was sure they were right and the headaches were just a new migraine pattern. So this time, it felt really similar, and I was easily pacified and told this was probably just a new migraine pattern of some kind. That did make me nervous, but I trusted the hospital staff. Surely, if it was something dangerous, the CT scan would have caught it? I didn’t want to be subject to vertigo as a new migraine symptom, but if that’s what it was… I went to work on Wednesday and told them that whatever had happened, at least it wasn’t anything serious….
Then, when I woke up Thursday morning feeling faint and tingly on my right side, once again it happened too suddenly to be scared. I wasn’t thinking about the future, just if I could get “ready” for the paramedics. Or could I get a friend to drive me? Call me vain, but my first thought was of just getting to my phone and calling the paramedics — but I blanched at the thought of them finding me in my sleep shirt! I did feel better — able to stand — after lying down for a little while. So then all I was thinking about was getting food and taking care of details. I was able to call the doctor’s office and cancel my morning appointment and talk with a nurse. I was able to get dressed and eat breakfast. I put a bag together in case they decided to admit me to the hospital (figuring that by Murphy’s Law, if I did that I wouldn’t get admitted — Too bad it didn’t work this time!). I grabbed not one but two books to have with me at the hospital, my phone and its charger, and the papers they sent me home with on my earlier hospital visit.
All those things to do gave me something to think about rather than be scared. I did get worse just before my friend arrived, but then she arrived and I was able to get to her car and then I was on the way to the hospital.
I have a lot of trust in doctors. Once in the hospital, I could lie down and let them figure out what was wrong!
I do know that some time in the hospital — I’m not sure when it was — I wondered if I was going to die. I don’t want to die, not at all. There’s a whole lot more I want to do with my life, and I especially don’t want to leave my sons yet. But I found myself thinking that if that happened, at least I wouldn’t have any more headaches! I do firmly believe that God would look after my sons. (Though I’d much rather do it.) And I realized that if I die before I mean to — well, the repercussions will fall on other people. I would then get to take it easy! So I did pray, telling God that I really don’t want to die yet, but if it’s His time to take me, He’s going to have to take care of my boys and all the loose ends I’d be leaving in my life.
But that was just one bad moment. And it wasn’t being scared, it was thinking through the fact that even if the worst happens, I don’t need to be afraid.
I did find myself praying as the MRI was being done, “Lord, if there is something for them to find, let them FIND it!” because I was not ready to go home again and be told this was a new migraine symptom! It was way too extreme for that!
But I never did feel like what I think a “stroke patient” feels like. The stroke hit my balance center, and not my language or thinking. Thank God! After the fact, I’ve read a lot more about what could have happened.
In fact, my most fearful moment of all was when I’d been home for five days. The doctor had gotten the results of my blood test, and my Coumaden levels were a little high. He asked me to skip my Coumaden dose that evening, and get my blood drawn again in the morning. Coumaden is a blood thinner, keeping me from getting any more clots. Too much, though, and you are at risk for bleeding.
However, when I went to bed that night, about five hours after skipping my Coumaden dose, the right side of my neck was hurting horribly, feeling a lot like it did when the stroke happened. I quickly imagined all the blood in my body clotting there. I went downstairs and split a pill in two and took half, but I had a very bad night. I took Percocet, which didn’t phase it a bit. I was afraid to get up, for fear I’d faint again. You see, now I knew what a stroke can do, so I was a lot more scared than before, when I hadn’t thought much about them.
But I did wake up the next morning with my neck feeling completely fine. I’m still getting a very low grade headache, but I’m quite sure it’s from the vertebral artery dissection and not a migraine. And Tylenol actually works for it most of the time!
Now I’m back to that difficult decision. When am I healthy enough to go back to work? Am I tired because of lying around so much, or does my body just need rest so it can focus on healing? In other words, should I push myself, or should I do the opposite?
I’m kind of doing a cross between the two. I’m driving myself to the clinic to get blood drawn. Yesterday, I did the grocery shopping with my son. It did wipe me out, so I took a long nap afterward. I’ve started cooking dinner for us, but I’m cooking things that have lots of leftovers, so I don’t need to do it every night. Tomorrow, I’m going to go to church and see how I do. I’m thinking that I can definitely go to work. I’m aiming for Tuesday, since I have to get blood drawn on Monday. The big question is how long I will last, or if I’ll have energy to go to work the next day!
So the answer to the question, “Was I scared?” is No, I really wasn’t — but that may have been because I didn’t really understand what was going on! One thing’s for sure: I feel loved and protected and cared for — by God and also by my friends and family. I know I was upheld by many people in prayer. And I am going to be okay. And this whole episode went much, much, much better than it might have. Thank you, thank you, everyone who prayed for me.
In fact, right now I’m listening to a new Peter Furler CD, and a song is playing based on Psalm 23. These words seem perfect:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.”