Anyway, here, with a few additions and updates, is that article I wrote when I got home from the hospital. Enjoy my pain!
As I sat there on the couch on my day off, watching The People’s Court for the same reason you probably watch it — sexy plaintiffs — my left hand began to tingle. This was followed by a bit of a headache, and a slight inability to move the left side of my body.
I won’t try and convince you that I’m some sort of courageous hero by telling you that I was not afraid. But, I was never truly afraid. As you’ll find throughout this tale, I can be somewhat idiotic when it comes to my own well-being. I hope that this revelation doesn’t cause you to reclaim your concern and pity. I appreciate it. But I can be stubborn and outright stupid — hence my third stroke.
You see, I’d had these same symptoms two weeks earlier.
The first stroke came after a particularly successful Saturday morning house cleaning. When I felt the tingle coming on, I thought to myself “Damn it! I’m having a stroke! I don’t have any coverage, and I can’t afford an ambulance!” I promptly took two aspirin, hid any visible porn and laid down next to the phone — just in case.
Soon, the feeling went away. I was left a bit weak, but I felt OK. I chalked it up to whatever, and walked to the nearby grocery store for granola.
Later in the day, it happened again, but it didn’t last as long, so I let it go.
The following Monday at work, I mentioned it to a few people. They didn’t seem too concerned, so I took this as a cue that it was nothing and moved on. Thank God for that external validation that allowed me to ignore two strokes!
(Sadly, the same thing happened when I found out I had kidney disease. I had to be physically dragged to the emergency room. I have a long-standing belief that if you ignore these symptoms they’ll go away. Or at least you’ll avoid further medical debt! Hilarious side note: people don’t know anything. During this time of unconfirmed sickness, I was given such stirring medical advice from non-medical professionals as “Do some jumping jacks!” and “You should drink more water!” Sigh.)
So, here we are again at the day of the “big” one. Wednesday morning, People’s Court, and then the tingling began. Only this time, it never went away. Now a smart man would have immediately called for help, but I did what I’ve always done in time of great strife and crisis — I tried to sleep it off. I spent the whole of Wednesday trying to sleep off a stroke.
Again, I must ask that you agree that I have exhibited stupidity, but don’t hold it against me. I am in dire need of someone to take care of me, ladies!
The next morning I hopped (read: wobbled and crawled) out of bed, called my mother to tell her I’d had a stroke, limped down the 130 stairs in my apartment and made my way to the emergency room… by public bus!
I’m either really awesome or really retarded. Hold your votes until the end.
With the help of the earth’s rotation and a few calm breezes, I was able to swing my nearly dead left leg the three blocks from the bus stop to the emergency room.
Once there, the care immediately kicked into high gear. They strapped me to a fat-guy wheelchair, and started taking my blood pressure, taking my blood and taking pictures of my brain, arteries and heart.
Soon, the calls and text messages began. I found it really amusing that people would try to call a stroke victim and expect him to answer texts, but I was glad that people cared enough to try.
My Ma and my Old Man arrived soon and sat briefly. The Old Man was tired and still a bit sick — he’d been in the same hospital only a few weeks earlier. I felt really bad that they had to see me this way, especially since I probably could have avoided this through clean living and positive thinking. But who am I, Captain Fantasy? Life has a way of sucking, and sometimes that suck materializes as a busted blood vessel in your brain.
Eventually, I was in my own room, forced to lie nearly flat in bed and connected to an I.V.
So far, everyone at the hospital had been so nice and considerate to me that my mind began to drift into devil’s advocate mode. What was their game? What was their angle? What did they have to gain by keeping me alive?
I cannot begin to tell you why these thoughts were occurring to me. That is, other than stupidity.
My blood pressure was extremely high. When I arrived at the ER, it was in walking-dead territory. Eventually, it came down, but it remained really high for the duration of my stay at the hospital.
Some guests arrived and were happy to see that I was not a vegetable. I got flowers. The nurse attached a bracelet to my wrist that labeled me a “Fall Risk.” This meant that I wasn’t supposed to get to the restroom or anything else without help. For the sake of argument, let’s say that I played along.
The results of the tests started to come back, and were showing that my (third) stroke was minor… really minor. They couldn’t find any damage or any clue that I couldn’t avoid all of this in the future.
I spent the first night trying to be comfortable in the hospital bed and watching “Adult Swim.” The Boondocks always pleases.
The next day brought more tests and more calls from well-wishers, and I was finally allowed to sit up and walk around a bit.
You think that it would be awesome to lay down all day and watch TV, but it gets boring really quickly. Luckily I only had to do it for two days.
So, here we are. I have to take lots of medicine to keep my blood pressure down; I have to avoid fried foods and sweets. It took a stroke to finally get me to the hospital and take care of myself. It probably won’t take as extreme a measure in the future. I should regain all of my proper movement over time, without any sort of therapy.
As for my mental well being, well…
I have to learn to stop sweating the small stuff, as the book says. Yes, things suck. Yes, I’ll continue to write about them for your amusement and unfaltering loyalty, but I will no longer brood, or mope, or fume. I promise that I will not use my mind to kill myself, like a Scanner.
(OK, this last promise has been harder to keep than I thought it would be. Geez, people can be annoying! You know why monks can be so calm and quiet and chaste? Because they move AWAY from people that suck! It’s rough out here, especially for a guy that is as easily annoyed as me, but no more strokes so far… Good start…)
I was given a harsh lesson that could have been a lot harsher, and I am going to take steps not to repeat it. For my efforts, I have to sit home and watch television for two straight weeks. Damn.
(Little known fact: That initial two weeks became a month because the day I was to return to work I had another stroke! On the right side! There was about a week when I couldn’t write or type. It was hell! Then — and I swear I’m not making up all of this— I lost my sense of taste and stopped making saliva and tears. I got an eye virus that rendered any sort of natural light insanely painful, and I was forced to take steroids directly on my eyeballs.
I’m not playing the “It’s not easy being me” card. I’m just saying that sometimes it can be a bit rough. If you’re lucky, you get through it. That is all.)
J’Mel Davidson is the only Birmingham Weekly writer to ever have a stroke and still make his deadline. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org