The doctor was able to thread this thing towards her brain and watch on a monitor. Turns out there were two clots. He got through one but not the second one. Then there was a research study involving some experimental medication. My wife tolerated that for a while, but began vomiting three hours into the administration of the medication – which meant it had to be discontinued. Oddly enough, that was devastating to me. I was hoping for some miracle-type outcome.
In between all of this activity were the phone calls. Her family. My family. Friends. Colleagues. I gave permission to people to spread the word. I couldn’t call everyone. Besides, retelling the story and providing updates was exhausting. By 8:00 PM she was resting comfortably (as comfortably as you can in an intensive care unit). The stroke was in the right hemisphere of the brain, meaning her left side was impacted. Language expressiveness is located on the left side of the brain, so she could still talk, which was a blessing. Her left side was paralyzed though. Ann could only wiggle her left toe. That was it.
I left the hospital at 8:30 and crashed in bed when I got home…only to be awakened by a phone call at 3:00 AM. What was this? You know what you start thinking when calls come at odd times of night. Who died? This time, though, I would know the answer. When I grabbed the phone, Ann was on the other line. I couldn’t believe it.
“Tony, bring in the paper and a cup of coffee when you come in.”
“What, Ann, it’s 3:00 in the morning.”
“That’s okay. Just remember the paper and stop for coffee.”
This conversation was making no sense.
We hung up and I was still confused. How did she get access to a phone? Is she better? What was going on? Were mocha lattes from Starbucks on the approved list for patients recovering from a massive stroke?
I called the nurse on duty in the ICU. She was very apologetic.
“I’m sorry, I heard her on the phone and tried to get in there and stop the call. She was disoriented. She was talking about going downstairs and making coffee. This type of confusion is really common in people admitted to the ICU”
So, there was a phone in the patient rooms in the ICU. I hadn’t noticed. She was stable, but this wasn’t evidence she was dramatically improving. And, to my surprise, mocha lattes were okay.
The next day, September 2, started the most difficult journey for Ann and for me. There was physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. There were additional shattering illnesses and conditions that developed and demoralizing complications. The impact on family life was substantial. Our daughter started high school on September 5, and this huge milestone went by unnoticed. Issues related to careers, money, and insurance. Then came the multiple invasive surgeries for unrelated conditions. How we got through it is unclear. We did, though.
I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but I will mention a few points in future posts. Suffice it to say, the living horror story took a long time to work itself out.