Times like this reveal a lot about who you are and who is with you.
Early Sunday morning, I went through a very disturbing experience. I got up to use the bathroom, then couldn’t go back to sleep and couldn’t understand what was going on for me. I knew that I was meant to drop my dog at the sitter’s in the morning, but couldn’t remember when or why. I had already lost track of the fact that I was supposed to be at work at 10 a.m. I just knew that I wanted to go back to sleep. I did a very unprecedented thing: I drank a beer at 2 a.m. I think I just wanted to sedate myself – if there had been some stronger sedative around, I think I would have taken it.
Around 8 a.m., I thought it might be getting close to time to take my Toni to Lori’s house, so I tried to call her – but I couldn’t remember how to make a call with my phone. I even became convinced that I was unable to speak – that I could not generate sound. My reaction was a mixture of numbness and growing panic as it got clear to me that something was going very wrong in me. Around 10 a.m., a text came in from Lori asking if I was going to bring my dog over. I finally did remember how to reply to a text message – and did it the way I always did, by voice-to-text. But, very illogically, it did not become clear to me that I was generating speech – rather, I thought it was the phone generating the speech.
After a couple of texted exchanges with Lori, she got worried about me and called me. When I answered her, I was totally amazed that she could hear me talk. It didn’t take long for her to get even more worried. “I think you’re having a stroke.” I thought right away that she was right – and it made sense of a lot of what I was experiencing. The dilemma that raised was: I’ve always heard that when you are having a stroke you need to get to the hospital as soon as possible – every minute counts. But I couldn’t just call 9-1-1, because that would require leaving Toni alone – and she is going through a very hard period of separation anxiety when I leave. Lori and I finally arranged that she would drive in from the suburbs, pick up me and the dog, then keep the dog when I went to the hospital. I knew that I was putting the dog ahead of my own well-being, but I couldn’t come up with a better way. I was greatly relieved when, later, the doctor who was admitting me at the ER said that a lot of the heroic measures you see people taking to arrest a stroke were no longer relevant to me because whatever I was experiencing had been going on for several hours.
Hours later, I was being interviewed by one more doctor – who was admitting me to an inpatient unit. I was unable to answer many of his questions – it was clear to both of us that I was very, very disoriented. When he said “At this point we are thinking this is probably not a stroke”, it precipitated a very poignant moment. Given that he and I both knew that something was going very wrong inside of me, looking back it feels like he and I were both close to tears as I asked, “Well then what is it?” And he answered, “I don’t know – we’re going to try to find out.”
More to come…