Journeys of Different Kinds

I began writing Sonderbooks 10 years ago this month! (Wow! I just realized that!) It began as an e-mail newsletter of book reviews. I noticed quickly that I got the most reactions from reviews that included my personal thoughts about the book. Later, I made a website,, and finally in 2007, I added a blog. I figured the Sonderbooks blog would be for the book reviews, and I added this Sonderjourneys blog for more personal thoughts. At the time, I was thinking of all the traveling and picture-taking I did while living in Europe. A blog would have been a perfect way to talk about all the castles I visited.

However, I don’t travel so much any more, and when I do, it’s often book-related. I decided to blog about this year’s ALA Annual Conference on my Sonderbooks blog, since the whole event was about books.

But Sonderjourneys is a good place to blog about life journeys. My last entry was my Christmas letter at the end of 2010. As you can tell, I was hoping that 2011 would be a happy start to a new life as a divorced woman.

And, yes, it has been good. Early on, I had some rather annoying trouble with ovarian cysts. Didn’t feel much like blogging about them. But ALA Annual Conference was fabulous, so I put that in the Sonderbooks blog. I did finish my book and have been sending it out to agents. I also finished a second book that includes my passion for math — a book about using math to make codes with colors and patterns. I’m very happy with it, but I still want to find an agent who likes my fiction, so I’m starting by sending out the novel.

I’m also super pleased to be back at the library. I’m enjoying the big beautiful regional library where I work now. I’ve been learning all the resources in the Virginia Room at our branch and researching my own genealogy and having a lot of fun with that.

And I’m particularly looking forward to going to my brother’s wedding the last week of the summer in Oregon — or at least I really hope I can go!

Because last week I had a stroke.

So I figure that recovery may end up being a fairly big journey. Time to blog about life again.

First, yes, I am young for a stroke. I’m 47. Here’s a wikipedia article on vertebral artery dissection, which is they think what started mine. They’re not sure what caused the vertebral artery dissection.

My personal theory involves wondering if something got started on the trip to ALA. My headaches (which I’ve had all my life) were doing unusually and amazingly great until I went to ALA Annual Conference. Now, I didn’t get enough sleep during the conference. I also slept badly on the plane — with my neck at a bad angle that set it aching. And then I carried around big heavy bags of books. I remember that hurt more than it felt like it should have — from my shoulder all the way through to my neck.

Anyway, I started with a lowgrade headache that lasted four weeks and wasn’t affected by anything I tried taking. A few things like Vicodin allowed me to sleep, but then the headache would be right back where it started. I found that working through it seemed to work better than staying at home lying in bed — if only for the distraction value. When I laid in bed with nothing else to think about, I felt worse than when distracted by questions to answer and the like. But some days, it was hard to face work, and it was always hard to get out of bed with a headache.

So last Monday, I went to work with that same lowgrade headache. The pain wasn’t any worse than it had been, but I was finding it very difficult to concentrate. I was thinking about asking to go home (but not wanting to use the leave), but went ahead and had dinner and was sure I was going to make it through the day.

Then — just sitting calmly at the Information desk, in between customers, simply talking with my co-worker — all of a sudden I was hit with incredible dizziness. The room was spinning. I could hardly see straight to close the windows on my computer of my e-mail. (I think I got one window closed and then gave up.) I put my head down, and my co-worker came back from answering a patron question and then helped me walk to the back room and lie down on the sofa. I couldn’t walk in a straight line and the room was still spinning.

I was hoping that lying down would take away the dizziness, but it just did not. Any movement of my head whatsoever sent the world spinning again. I was also in a cold sweat. After 5 or 10 minutes I got to thinking about what I’d been told about birth control pills putting a person at higher risk for stroke (I’d been on birth control pills for the ovarian cyst problems.), and asked my boss to call the paramedics.

When the paramedics came and asked me to do something that involved moving my head, I began vomiting up my dinner. This was not fun, and quite freaky. I’ve had hundreds of migraines in my life, but never with vertigo like that.

And riding in the ambulance was nothing as fun as it used to look on my favorite childhood show, Emergency! The movement made the dizziness worse, but they did give me a shot of an anti-nausea drug in my IV. The dizziness stopped right about exactly when the doctor came to see me in the emergency room, wouldn’t you know it!

They did a CT scan and an EKG. They did some neurological tests and I heard them say that markers for a stroke were negative. Everything came back negative. So we were thinking it might be some disturbing new variation of my migraines. I was supposed to follow up with a neurologist. I found a nice friend willing to drive me home. (Thank you, Marilynne!)

The next day, I was pretty out of it. Now I was not feeling like pushing myself. I still had a headache and felt pretty yuck. I didn’t even have the energy to make the doctor appointments I needed or get the prescriptions filled. Fortunately, I wasn’t having any more nausea or dizziness.

On Wednesday, I still wasn’t feeling great, but I did manage to call and learn that Tricare wanted me to make an appointment with my primary care provider before I could make one with a neurologist. So I made an appointment for Thursday morning. Another friend (Thank you, Kathe!) took me to pick up my car at work, and I told them that I would hope to come to work after the Thursday morning appointment. I got home after picking up the car and went to sleep, but otherwise did think I was feeling better, though I still had the headache.

Thursday was when everything hit. I’ll write more in another installment…

Life is interesting, isn’t it? I couldn’t have predicted any of this at the start of the year. But God does continue to feel near — in a way He never did before the whole awful divorce journey. One wonderful verse he’s given me is Hosea 4:17 — “Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” Sometimes, when God leads us into the desert, it’s so we’ll hear his words of love more clearly. May that happen here.


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