Happy Anniversary, Me!

Well, I’ve survived another trip around the sun! It has now been exactly three years since my stroke. I’m doing much better, thank you for asking.

It’s still not perfect, what with the limp, and occasional bout of extreme emotionality or difficulty recalling words. But the fog has lifted. I seem to have figured out the right drug dosage for the leg spasms at night. And I’ve gotten much better at remembering to use the calendar to keep track of things I need to remember. So life is pretty good! However, I doubt I’ll ever get an office job again. Only work-from-home for me. Speaking of which, leads on legitimate flex-jobs are always appreciated!

Three years. That’s about the normal time for length of stay on an air base, so of course, as a military BRAT, it’s been high time for some sort of change. I may not have the classic “itchy feet” syndrome of BRATs, but I usually go through some sort of major(ish) change every 3 years. So, (spinning the wheel), TA-DA, pink hair it is!

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Yep, for the last couple of months, I’ve been dying most of my hair pink. I wonder how long I’m going to keep it up. But I learned how to heat set the “temporary” dye color. That shit ain’t going anywhere! At least not very fast.

And since I’m well past the “increased risk” zone of another stroke, apparently neither am I. This makes me very happy. But I can’t really explain to you all the complex emotions this makes me feel. I could be dead. Not like “I was in a fatal car crash”, but like “there are still people who DIE from strokes.” My family doesn’t get this. They tell me I’m nothing like my cousin, who was younger than I was when she died from a heart attack, less than a year after my stroke. True, I had insurance, and live less than 15 minutes from a great hospital that deals with a lot of strokes. She didn’t. And to my family, the fact that I had insurance makes all the difference. That’s a twist of fate. I’m supposed to be reassured by a twist of fate.

And it’s not like the near-death experience has made me the “live every day to the fullest” kind of person, either. If anything, most of my days feel like I’m in a terminal, waiting for a much-delayed flight. I feel like I’m trapped in molasses. It takes me days to actually get something done. I have to notice that it needs doing, then notice it again another 3 or 4 times, before I can summon the energy to actually do it. Spontaneity seems to be a thing of the past. “Hey, let’s go out for breakfast/lunch/dinner!” is no longer in my vocabulary. I can plan to do things, but frequently can’t find the energy to actually do them when the time arrives.

So I make do. I buy four tickets to events so that Phil can always take our daughter and one of her friends, and I’ll be able to go, too, if I can. I cook when I can, but take-out is always available, or the pre-made meals from the deli at the grocery around the corner, and I keep freezer meals on hand for when even that’s too much. Phil is willing to do all the freeway driving when necessary (I’m looking at you, 4-hour trip each way to Nevada City for Camp Qwest). I declutter when I can, and lower my cleaning standards when I can’t.

And I keep in mind some of the people I met at the rehabilitation center. The ones confined to wheelchairs now, and I am thankful that I don’t need someone to wheel me around and keep me cleaned up. The ones unable to form ANY short-term memories, and I am thankful that I can, and can put that calendar to good use. The ones unable to form words or recognize items or people, and I am thankful that I garble words or slur slightly only on occasion. Mostly, I am thankful that I am here, and I may just be able to see my daughter grow up.

Wow, this has gotten a lot more morose that I’d intended. But it ends on a better note. That’s my life now. Some of it sucks; some of it just makes do; and there are still bright notes in it. And that makes it all worth it. So happy anniversary to me!

I’m Still Alive

The Motivation

If you see any, please send it around my way. I seem to have lost mine.

I’ve been frequenting http://www.strokeboard.net/ recently, and been hearing people tout Baclofen, which is what the docs in the rehab center had put me on originally. I’ve been having some trouble recently with the spasticity in my leg, so I went back to my doc and talked to her about it. We’d switched to Tizanidine for some reason, but we couldn’t remember why, so we decided to switch back and see how it went. But I needed some antibiotics too, so she prescribed those too. And I switched and added the antibiotics all at the same time. I think that might have been a mistake.

Two days after starting the new drugs, I started feeling the fog descend again, along with nausea and dizziness. I asked the doc about it, and she seemed to think it was the antibiotics, not the Baclofen, so I suffered through. Sure enough, the nausea and dizziness departed at the end of the antibiotics. And the fog lifted. But not entirely.

I think.

That’s the problem. I think I made too many changes at once. I can’t tell if the fuzziness I feel is new or not. I seem to have more difficulty prying my ass out of this chair, though.

Time to see the doc again.

<sigh> Am I ever going to get a break?

I Survived!! (Originally published 12/7/2012)

My daughter turned 8 the other day. She knows I’ve had a stroke, and am not capable of doing as much as I did before. So I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday. She wanted a sleepover for 10 girls. After I stopped laughing, I told her she would have to choose. She could have that many people, and more, but we would have it at a place like Pump It Up, or she could have a sleepover, but she could only have 3 girls over. She choice the smaller sleepover. Then she decided on the theme: Secret Agent Slumber Party.

Now I went to various party stores, and looked for spy party themed stuff like cheap magnifying glasses, and maybe some hats and trench coats. Nothing. Not even plates and cups and napkins. Finally, it was getting close to time for her party, and it occurred to me to ASK her what she meant by “Secret Agent Slumber Party.”

Well, you know, you use the blankets and stuff to cover yourself up. Then you creep out and find someone, and you spy on them!

Later that night, I told my husband. He busted out laughing! When he finally could catch his breathe, he said he could just see the little purple lumps (my daughter has a purple fuzzy blanket we claim is made out of muppet skin!), lumpfing along, trying to be all stealthy and shit! When he told me, I laughed until I had tears running down my face.

So we had three little girls over. We had pizza. We decorated the cupcakes I had made earlier (cakes baked inside ice cream cones. (Bad idea! They worked fine, but the moist cake made the cones stale within as hour! Don’t do it! You’re welcome.) We watched a movie, with popcorn. We opened presents. It was pretty good, even if it didn’t have anything to do with Secret Agents or Spies.

At 10pm, one girl’s Dad came to pick her up. The other three climbed (UNBIDDEN!) into their sleeping bags, all arranged on the floor, with pillow pets everywhere! At 11pm, we went to bed ourselves. At 11:30, I saw the bedroom door open, twice. There was a crying little girl in the hall. So we called her mom to come pick her up (she lives only two minutes away). At 1am, the remaining two girls woke up. They talked quietly for a while. At 2:30, they were loud enough to wake me up, even with earplugs! I have no idea how my husband slept though it. I got up and told them to go back to bed. At 3:30, they woke my husband up. He got up, and told them to go back to bed! At 4am, they woke me up again! I got them off the floor and made them sleep head-to-toe in the bed. They finally got back to sleep around 4:30. And slept late. Till 7:30.

Then we all got up. The little girl who’d called mom at 11:30 came back over. We cooked huge stacks of chocolate chip pancakes, and blue berry pancakes, and bacon (BACON!!)! Aaaaand they each ate one pancake. Except my daughter, who’d had cereal already, before we got up, and wasn’t hungry.

And then…it was finally over! I had survived! The girls were gone, and the house was back to normal. Everything was quiet again. Peace!

“Mom, next weekend, can I have another sleepover?”

AARRRRRGGGHHH!

The Stroke (Originally published 12/4/2012)

So I had a stroke. You wouldn’t believe how strange it feels to type that. I had a stoke. And nobody knows why. I have none of the classic risk factors. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink excessively. I’m only 48. There is no personal history of stroke. Hell, the only person I know of in my family to have a stroke is my Granny and she smoked like a chimney and ate fried food every day…and she was in her 80’s to boot!

So I had a stroke. It was weird. We’d gone to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz the day before. I’d driven home because my husband was tired. Put our daughter to bed. Spent some time on the computer. Gone to bed. Normal stuff. I woke up at 5:30am to pee. Everything was normal. Then, I woke up at 8:15am, and couldn’t quite wake up, like I was still half asleep. My eyes were burning, like I’d gotten lotion in them. I tried to wipe them, but my right shoulder wouldn’t work, like I’d slept on it wrong. In trying to get up, I flipped the pillow onto my husband, and ended up sitting on the steps to the bed, braced against the wall. I thought about a tv show I’d seen, where the actress experienced a stroke, and she asked someone to look at her face when she tried smiling. I smiled. The right side felt funny. She had tried to raise both hands. I raised both hands. The right one didn’t make it off my leg. My husband, awake by now, asked me if I was ok. “No,” I said. “Call 911. I think I’ve had a stroke.” He tells me that all he could understand was “Call 911.” He called immediately. The paramedics were there in minutes.

Two big burly guys hustled in, joining the “I’ve Seen Crickett Naked” club in the process, and asked me all the pertinent questions. No, I couldn’t smile. No, I couldn’t raise my right hand. No, I can’t squeeze your fingers any better with my right hand. No, I don’t smoke. No, I don’t drink much. No, I don’t have family history of stroke. They couldn’t get the gurney in the bedroom, so they put a robe on me, supported me over to the gurney, and started getting me out of the house.

Half way out, things changed. The paramedic didn’t believe me. I grabbed his fingers with my right hand and squeezed, hard. His eyes got big, but said since they had come out, they were taking me in. I agreed. Good thing, because the symptom came back before we could even leave. He put an IV in, after several attempts, and we took off. He told me that in all his time as a paramedic, he’d never seen someone “resolve” like I’d done.

I remember seeing trees out the back window as we drove, and not much more. I remember the same questions over and over. And then we arrived at the E.R., which wasn’t bustling nearly as much as I thought it would be.

I found out that peeing at 5:30 (remember that bit?) was a good thing. It meant that the stoke had to have occurred after that…which meant I was on the edge of the 3 hour window to receive the clot busting drug TPA, That may have made the weeks to follow easier.

After the TPA, they hustled me into the Cat Scan, to see if I had a brain bleed. They gave me Benadryl (I have an alergic reaction to iodine), and got ready to shoot me full of a dye so they could take pictures of my brain. They warned me that it would feel hot. Especially “in my privates.” Boy, they weren’t kidding! But it blew out my I.V., and I started cussing them like a sailor because the I.V. was BURNING! I resolved again, because my cursing became highly intelligible in the midst. Oh yeah, they got the pictures anyway. They put me in the MRI machine, twice. They had to elevate my legs or they would spasm and make me move too much.

I resolved 5-6 times that day. I could feel each time that it happened. I could feel my speech start slurring, and my arm control would fade away. I hoped each time the symptoms went away that maybe they wouldn’t come back. But they kept coming back. At one point, I could only focus one eye. At another, my hormones went haywire, and I cried deep, racking sobs for no reason.

My husband showed up, but could only sit by my bedside. My sister and her husband drove down, but could only tell me that I was doing better than could be suspected. They picked up my daughter from the neighbor who had volunteered to take her. I can only imagine how it must have felt for the three of them, watching me, seeing the symptoms come and go, and not being able to help. It was bad enough to have no control my own body. To sit and watch it happen to someone you love must have been terrible.

Eventually, the symptoms came, and didn’t go away. I had no control over the right side of my body. My right arm wouldn’t work, and neither would my right leg. After about 6 hours, they moved me from the E.R. to C.C.U. They wouldn’t let me eat anything, because they were afraid I would choke. They had a blood pressure cuff on my right arm for 24 hours straight, taking a reading every 15 minutes. Let me tell you…you haven’t LIVED until you try to sleep with that thing attached and going off every 15 minutes. Between blowing out the I.V. and the pressure cuff, I had some monstrous bruising on both arms. I told the nurses that I didn’t mind a bit…it meant I was still alive to see them!

At one point, they put me under, and slid a camera down my throat, to give me an echo-cardiogram (I think) from the inside.  They were looking to see if I had a hole in my heart that might have thrown the clot. It was definitely a good news/bad news situation. I didn’t have any hole…but that crossed 1 line on the increasingly smaller list of reasons this might have happened.

Twenty-four hours in C.C.U., then 2 days in I.C.U. The indignities I went through! Bed pans, portable commodes, starting my period. But they took good care of me. I only wish I could remember their names! But after 3 days in the hospital, with Phil sleeping in the pull out chair in the room, I was discharged. Phil transported me, oh so carefully, to the acute care rehabilitation center that they highly recommended. But that’s a tale for another day.

Know the signs FAST!

Facial distortion – can they smile with both sides of the mouth?

Arms – can they lift both arms and hold them at the same height?

Speech – can they repeat a simple phrase without slurring?

Time – If they have trouble with any of these things..CALL 911 immediately!

These simple test can save a life. They did mine.