It turns out JJ still has a heart murmur (VSD). The smaller of the two closed but one remains. I’m disappointed. I’m not sure what disappoints me more: That I caused this or that I’m letting it getting to me. I was not as strong as I should have been after the stroke. It’s like I chose to be a silent voice in the decision-making; I didn’t even bother to tell most of the doctors and nurses I was pregnant. In some instances I assumed they knew even when there was no ground to make such an assumption. For instance: After I was rushed through the paramedic entrance of the E.R, I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant. I kept going in and out of consciousness, sure, but I was able to tell them my birthday and I think I even said my social multiple times. Things are blurry.
I had many scans already by the time they were rolling me in for an MRI. I woke up shaking uncontrollably and they layered blankets from a warmer on me. They asked general questions: Name, birthdate, address, while we were out in the hall waiting to enter the MRI room. The male nurse asked if I had metal on or in me and if I was pregnant. I recall very distinctly saying “Yes, I am pregnant. Around three months.” I remember saying this as if… “well, duh.” I wonder now what would have happened had I not woken up right as they were rolling me into the room. Did no one read my chart? Everything was put on pause. Doctors had to be called, orders re-verified and I had to basically give these people the same information that was already on my chart– or it should have been there. Why was I so clear-headed in that moment? I remember getting the iron shield over my still unnoticeable belly, someone sliding me into the white tunnel and then feeling like I was in a barrel while a bunch of feral children danced around me, beating the barrel with sticks. And then I guess I passed out.
I took every drug they offered over the next month and cried when they denied me doses. I think I was becoming addicted to morphine. I have no idea if that’s possible in a controlled setting but I was so doped up I couldn’t keep both my eyes open at the same time. I didn’t really want to experience what I was going through. Who does? The loss is so incredibly sudden that it’s like…
You can only look at it in pieces.
I think back all the time and try to figure out exactly when it was too much forced ignorance for JJ to handle. I remember my second embo and the pain I was in afterward. They went in on the left side and when you have hemiplegia/hemiparesis, you’re not supposed to get shots on that side. Of course, this was a needed procedure but it’s an example of how you try to avoid inflicting pain on that side. If a shot is extremely uncomfortable for a hemi- person, imagine a catheter being inserted through your groin on your affected side. It felt like someone had their thumb pressed so hard into my groin that it was breaking through skin with pressure alone. After an embo, you’re not supposed to move because, hello, you have a big hole in your femoral artery. After anesthesia, I’m a shaker. I could probably vibrate off the bed if there isn’t someone or a ton of blankets to hold me in place.
They doped me up so much that I couldn’t talk straight; they gave it to me every time I moaned, it seemed. I don’t think the nurse knew I was pregnant and I wasn’t about to tell her. I couldn’t stand the shaking, the pain in my groin was too intense to focus on staying still and my head was pounding. To top it off, I was starving. When I think of JJ’s right-sided weakness, PVL and his heart murmurs, I think of that last embo. They gave me Vicodin that night but JJ wouldn’t let me take it. I kept throwing it up (just like Skas wouldn’t let me take Lortabs when my kidney stone was passing during his pregnancy); but JJ had no issues with the Dilaudid. To make it worse, the embo was unsuccessful. They discovered my AVM ran deeper than they expected and it was out of reach so they aborted the procedure halfway through. I would learn that night that within a month, a man with a saw would be cutting into my precious head.
I see the list of things “wrong” with JJ (I don’t see them as “wrong” at all) and I wonder how much could have been avoided if I was less selfish by even one degree. I probably could have been weaned off the morphine sooner if I didn’t whine so much. I probably could have survived the headaches with the liquid Tylenol. That stuff was pretty strong too– but then again, what if that’s what caused the murmurs? It could have been literally anything. The stroke alone is enough to be the culprit for any or all of these things; who knows if it was the radiation from scans and embos, the craniotomy or one of the many, many, many meds they gave me in between…
There are so many factors to consider when you are in that situation. I was under a lot of stress, I had to make a decision that was not only best for me but the baby as well. The month between my first release from inpat rehab and my second admission to UHS-SA for the craniotomy was proof enough for me that drugs were totally the way to go. In the span of that month I had many breakdowns and I mean of every variety. Sure, most of these were angry; fits of rage so violent I probably could have frightened Iran into complying with any nuke deal I wanted. And of course I’d become so lost in the furor of my head that I would lock myself in closets and wish it were possible to “accidentally” die by uncontrollable crying. But there were the times that I would laugh so hard that I would lose all control of my bladder. I peed everywhere I went. It was embarrassing. It got to a point where once I started to pee, I no longer tried to stop it. It’s gross, I totally get this, but I couldn’t predict if or when or what type of weird emotional outburst I would experience. I should have worn diapers, seriously.
I couldn’t smoke pot because I was pregnant (but it was perfectly legal to take morphine?). I’m an emotional person (I’m a cancer, we are sensitive people); I’ve always had my best friend M.J to get me through the rough times and I had to reject her during one of the most turbulent episodes of my life. That month between brought me to agree with my doctors that the stress was not healthy. Any time I had a concern that I would voice, I was always hushed by the magical words:
The more mommy stresses, the more baby stresses
By the time I came to fully agree with this statement the surgeries and appointments were already scheduled. But I felt some relief in knowing that all the time in the hospital while I selfishly indulged in the tingle of Dilaudid soothing my head, with that little voice struggling for its doubt to be heard, I was not entirely wrong for “keeping the stress away.” Let’s face it, the hospital was letting me get high “for the pain” and I was taking advantage of it to avoid dealing with the stress of what I was going through.
I will always look back with regret and guilt but the truth is, I have no idea if I should measure another slice of guilt pie or just walk away with what’s already in my hearts belly. I’m thinking the latter. Of course I could have/should have done things better, wiser but I didn’t. JJ won’t suffer because of it, he just won’t find everything as simple or easy as they may be for most everyone else. His life may have a bit more of a challenge to it than, say, Skas, but it’s also likely to carve a more shapely and defined character out of him. It won’t make up for the decisions I didn’t make but I can learn from this and work hard to make better, less selfish decisions.