What is “a plan”?
A fabulous idea? A well-thought-out decision? An established work routine? A detailed project?
My life has always been full of plans, defined by all of the above descriptions.
I have been absent from social media (and much more) since October 26, 2016: the moment when all my “plans” were put on hold.
I had a stroke. A stroke.
I can’t believe, even at this point, that I’m saying those words.
Even though I always struggle to lose a few pounds and could exercise more, I’m a writer and spend a lot of time sitting at my desk on the computer. In the past few years, I’ve always tried to eat healthy, no sugar, no salt, no fried foods. I haven’t had any problems that would have prepared me for this. My only bad habit was not getting enough sleep sometimes, or not managing my stress very well.
On October 26, I slept in for a bit. I had a busy day planned, and was looking forward to making progress on my edits on Book 2 of my series.
I woke up at 8:30 a.m., stood up, and collapsed onto the floor. My right side was paralyzed, although my conscious mind didn’t realize it at that moment. I’m a tosser and turner when I sleep, and I guess I thought I had slept wrong, that my arm and leg were asleep. I pulled myself back onto the bed and went back to sleep.
Much later that afternoon, I woke up and got out of bed. I was able to walk, although shakily, into the hallway, and then hit the floor again. As I lay there trying to determine how to get back to my bed, I fell asleep again. Another two hours passed before I was awake again, still on my back on the hallway floor. This time, I knew something was wrong, but the word “stroke” never entered my mind. Somehow, I was able to drag myself back to the bed, and before I could figure it all out, I was asleep again.
I finally made it to the hospital later that night. Most of the next thirty-six hours of my life are gone from my memory, although hopefully not forever. Once in awhile, I do remember bits and pieces, but I was diagnosed with an ischemic stroke – superior left temporal lobe. My arm and leg were very weak, but no longer paralyzed. But I couldn’t speak. I could understand the conversations around me, but I couldn’t answer the questions the doctors were asking me. My mouth didn’t work. And those of you who know me know what a disastrous situation that was! I tried to write notes on a pad, but I couldn’t write, either.
I spent a week in the hospital under the care of the most wonderful doctors and nurses who kept my spirits high, and who celebrated with me as I was able, slowly but surely, to speak again. They are my heroes.
The weeks that have passed since have been very hard, but I’m not complaining. I could have come home in a wheelchair, unable to take care of myself, or with serious disabilities that would alter the rest of my life. God’s hand was on me, that’s a fact.
Since November 2, I have been to more doctors than I ever wanted to see in my life. I have had some tremendous help from skilled and talented therapists. My speech therapist, Jenny, has saved me! I’m still having language problems (aphasia), some short term memory problems, and a few physical (muscular) issues, but I seem to be getting better every day. The doctors and therapists say “Slow down, be patient, it takes time.” These are not my most endearing qualities, but I have come to realize now that I have no choice. My body with heal at it’s own pace. They say it may be a year or more, but they expect me to recover. (Thank God for that!) So, it is what it is.
The tests have not yet indicated what caused the stroke, but they think it was atrial fibrillation. I am now wearing a device planted in my chest over my heart that sends an EKG to my doctor’s office every 24 hours, monitoring my heart for the irregular, random heartbeat that will confirm that diagnosis. (Technology is incredible.)
The reason I’ve bored you to death with all this is three-fold. First, I wanted to explain where I’ve been since October.
Second, I wanted to share this life-changing experience. Someone who reads this might recall it if they have a similar situation; be able to recognize what is happening so they can get help right away. There is a clot-busting medication that can be given if they catch a stroke in the first three to four hours that can prevent too much brain damage. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize what was happening to me, and I missed that window.
This has been an incredible learning experience for me. It is one thing to know that you should take care of your body so you can live a healthy, fulfilling life, but it definitely takes on a different meaning to look at the same subject from the other side of the equation after an experience like this.
Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, stroke kills 2 times as many women as breast cancer. Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths. On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes. About 75% of those are people 65 years old or older, but the remaining 25% happen to anybody at any age. It can be the result of an injury, plaque in blood vessels, a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain that deprives oxygen to the blood cells.
If you don’t know much about a stroke, I invite you to educate yourself on the subject. Take some time for yourself and your health, and read about high blood pressure, stroke, and atrial fibrillation.
Visit http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/ or http://www.stroke.org/ or https://www.stroke.org.uk/ to learn more. Read about children, teenagers, conditioned athletes, and men and women of all ages who have had strokes. Realize that it can happen to anybody.
The third reason for this blog today is because I wanted to see if I could “write” again. This is the first time I have tried to write anything since my stroke. I hope my words make sense to you.
As I continue my recovery and deal with the physical and emotional toll that this takes on me, I realize this has changed my life in many ways. It has strengthened my faith, it has given me a new definition of “hope,” and has given me a close-up look at what I am able to achieve every day.
I want to thank all of you that have stayed with me on Twitter and Facebook. I am grateful for your messages of love and support.
Thank you also for retweeting my book in my absence. I have the next two volumes of the series written and have received the edits back from my editor. As soon as I am able to get those done, I will be publishing.
Thank you to my close friends who have kept in touch all this time, encouraging me and caring about me on this journey. You know who you are, and I love you all. You feed my spirit.
And thank you for taking the time to read this.
Today, and always, I am #grateful.
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