Part 1 here
All of the signs were there and I noticed something but I didn’t know what. I made comments, informed my doctor and family and yet, none of us knew what was ahead. As I sit here now hoping to remain focused and finish the draft version of this post, I cannot imagine having predicted that a stroke was in my future 5 years ago. People still ask me why I didn’t sue el Jefe. As my doctor he should have known the signs of stroke, right? Maybe. According to this site most pregnancy related strokes happen during or after delivery but according to other sites, there is a rise in strokes during pregnancy. One would think an ob/gyn would need to know the signs of stroke and to be honest, I exhibited and relayed to him classic signs of stroke. But how was one to know? Pregnancy is one of the most naturally paranoia inducing things a woman can experience. I don’t blame el Jefe for assuming I was experiencing paranoia and dismissed my worries. It doesn’t excuse him but…
I woke up one morning, 13 weeks pregnant and alone with Skas who was 3 at the time. I heard him watching TV in the living room and remembered I was pregnant. I was incredibly horny and after one quick orgasm figured I could squeeze out another before making breakfast. I never got to finish that second orgasm.
I remember my toes beginning to curl as I reached the point of climax and then I heard or felt something in my head pop. I instantly felt removed from myself, like I was on autopilot. I remember thinking that I needed to orgasm. I needed to finish…and so I tried. As my head filled with blood and an unnerving tingle coursed down from my left shoulder to my toes, I tried to finish having an orgasm. And then I woke up in the middle of a struggle; half on the floor and half on Skas’s bed which I was trying to lift myself onto. How did this happen? I don’t remember anything except finding myself in that position. One morning weeks later I would tell an occupational therapist that I sat on the edge of the bed before falling and blacking out but to be honest, I think I imagined that part. I don’t remember anything between frustration at not being able to orgasm and struggling to climb onto Skas’s bed.
I wasn’t completely confused but I was lost. It was kind of like in the movie Land Before Time when Little Big Foot’s mom died as the Earth split open, separating him from his family. There’s this fight going on that you’re afraid of but you’re on the front lines so you have to deal with it even if it’s only to watch the destruction (the rupture:raptor being fought by your instinct:mother to help you survive). You watch helplessly, making futile attempts to assist in the struggle but eventually all is lost and you can only try to bring comfort as you recognize your own defeat while your world splits open.
So I watched as if from a distance as I fought to do the one thing I felt was important and that was to stand. After giving up, not understanding why it was so difficult but knowing there was something else that I should have been doing, I decided to drag my heavy body out to the hall where I felt a Rubbermaid bin full of dirty laundry would somehow benefit me. Something happened in the roughly 5 foot drag there because I “woke up” on my stomach with drool drying to the side of my face. I felt a hard knot in my stomach and remembered I was pregnant! I quickly understood that though I was showing, a baby did not feel like a hard rock stuck between you and the floor. I somehow pulled my arm free and marveled briefly over the strange feeling of not being able to identify it was my fist pushing into my belly.
I fought to bring myself upright with the assistance of the bin. I don’t recall how long it took but I did get into a sitting position. I scooted towards the bedroom, feet first, and reached for the frame of the door with both my hands. I remember this very clearly, mark it. I don’t remember thinking much of anything other than needing to get up before Skas became scared. He asked at one point if I needed help and I calmly told him no, to just keep watching TV and I’ll get breakfast soon.
With both hands gripping the door frame as tightly as possible, I tried to pull myself to my feet. My left hand released and I fell, head first, into the door frame. This is when I began to lose it. Something was definitely wrong and it had to do with my head. I knew it was a stroke but I didn’t know what a stroke really was. I knew my left body was lost to me but I didn’t know why it wasn’t working. I knew I had to be calm for Skas but I didn’t know how to do that and still get help. I didn’t want the help, I was scared and embarrassed and ashamed.
I don’t know what happened. Skas tried to help me once calmed after hearing me cry out. He brought me tissues from the bathroom, squatted beside me and talked to me while I laid there on the floor not knowing what to do. He wiped my nose and face. I was oozing a mucous like liquid but it wasn’t quite snot. It was like some sort of membrane. It was clear, sticky, gooey, and endlessly stringy. He was now calm and caring while I hid my fright. I composedly asked him to get my pants from the bedroom. We were able to get my right leg in but my left leg was too heavy for either of us to lift so we gave up. I forgot I used my last income return to pay to get our phones turned back on so I had Skas get my laptop, open and turn it on Facebook for me. I messaged Kasper for some reason and this is what I sent. You can see typing became increasingly difficult the more I tried (it took numerous attempts to log in). Also, I look at the time stamp here and now notice, I woke up hours before. I remember thinking it was either just after eight or almost 9 when trying to decide if I had time for an orgasm. Yes, that’s right, I literally told my husband I fell and couldn’t get up, just like the old lady in that damned commercial I made fun of for too many years (Karma is real, people).
It makes me cry to think of my 3 year-old watching his mother lay in the hall of their apartment resting a cheek on the flat surface beneath the keypad of her laptop, trying to remember how to spell and type the words she had trouble thinking of in the first place.
After no response from Kasper I asked Skas to get my phone sitting in a stack of prepaid phones on the second tier of the desk. I don’t know my line of thinking but when he brought me a prepaid phone I knew it was the wrong one and asked him to climb for my Blackberry; maybe I remembered I paid the bill? I eventually ended up talking to Kasper on the phone; he was already on his way home. After hearing my voice through my tears and Skas finally crying in the background, he called 9-11 even though I told him not to worry, “just come home and I’ll eventually be fine.” That’s a terrible habit, by the way. You get so used to being without healthcare that it becomes embarrassing to need the help even when you get “lucky enough” to qualify for Medicaid because you’re pregnant with a kid you can’t afford.
After relief at hearing the sound of sirens and even smiling as I told Skas help was finally coming, I confused the firemen by having Skas lock the top bolt– one that can only be locked from inside. I thought I was telling him to unlock it. Kasper arrived and after hearing I was locked inside, he talked Skas into hiding under the kitchen table so he could kick the door down. He was immediately taken into custody for B&E; they left Skas crying under the table while Kasper was questioned and men crowded our apartment to help me.
They asked about my face and I didn’t know what they were talking about.
Is it always like this?
Not only was my face going in two different directions but something was stuck to it, they thought it was paint. All I could think was why the only hot paramedics in town had to come the day I was on my floor with no pants on, a weird looking face and furry fucking legs. This city’s paramedics are usually unattractive but this day there was this gorgeous, muscly, blue eyed blonde staring at me, asking my name and birthday while a handsome Mexican gentleman gently slipped my pants over my legs. They strapped me to a board and carried me out. On the stairs while discussing which hospital I should go to (why they didn’t take me to the stroke center at the hospital literally across the street, I have no ide), they tipped the board and I reached out for the abs of the blonde supporting the underside of the board. He promised “[he] got [me]” and I remember thinking, completely ill-timed and inappropriate:
I bet you do
I looked over the railing behind him and saw tons of flashing lights and, it’s embarrassing now to know my reaction but, I smiled. I felt important because of the attention instead of realizing this amount of attention meant whatever happened to me was not something minor on average. I then found out whatever was on my face wasn’t paint but toilet paper. I peeled it off painfully; it was like a clump of plaster . I lifted my hand with the paper in it and declared my findings proudly.
I was excited to ride in the ambulance because it was my first time. I only remember the bumps and thinking our tax dollars never went to roads that needed the most work. I was in and out of it. I woke up to a man taking off my underwear in a room full of nurses and watched him stuff them into a tiny bio-hazard bag (wtf?). He cut open my gray muscle tank and as they began examining my nude body I answered questions about me, including one about a weird red mark on my chest that I’ve always had but was now a bulging mass of veins hidden beneath bruised skin. He called this telangiectasia. Suddenly Kasper was there holding my hand and I signed over my medical rights to him. They commented on my alertness and then I woke up outside of an MRI room. I reminded them last minute I was pregnant and discovered this was not me reminding them but telling them for the first time. My body began to shake then and they rushed to cover me in warm blankets. I was left in the hall, draped in heavy blankets, unable to move, while they searched for a doctor to confirm the request for the test.
They placed me on a narrow slat and put what felt like a fencer’s mask over my face. They pushed me into a white tunnel where they proceeded to have Lord of the Flies boys dance around me, beating their sticks against the machine. I woke up in a bigger room surrounded by computer monitors. A man was in the middle of a conversation with me. How long was I chatting with him? We started to flirt…while he shaved my groin. His boss kept yelling at him because I kept laughing and neither of us knew why I was laughing so much. I was his most entertaining patient. If I had known that while I struggled with his instructions to lay perfectly still he was taking live images of my brain, I would have looked at those screens instead of his beautifully large brown eyes over his mouth cover. With dye that ran in through my groin and up to my brain via a catheter (cerebral angiography) those screens revealed the culprit behind my brain’s crash .
I woke up in another room with two nurses that really enjoyed their jobs. They took turns washing me, rotating my still body to wash places I preferred no one but myself to clean. She washed my hair, recommending I cut it before my surgery. What fucking surgery? And he lotioned up my legs (something I rarely did pre-stroke). They laughed at their inside jokes, apologized for what happened to me, then left me in the room to wait for someone to retrieve me. I got no answers; I barely got enough information to ask questions. I saw Kasper and Skas was with him I think, maybe… he had no answers other than I had a stroke and they thought it was an aneurysm like how my aunt died.
Later that night a neurosurgeon woke me to break the news. I was terribly confused but my mind was so empty that the confusion ran blind circles in a corner all alone. I was in a physical state of shock that would end up lasting for days. When he told me I had a stroke, I revealed I already knew this. When he asked me to move any part of my left body and I failed to do so, he nodded that I had confirmed what he hoped wasn’t true. I was not worried about my left side, however. I wanted to know what next? He revealed the cause of my stroke was not a suspected aneurysm but something far more rare. An arteriovenous malformation had ruptured and if I had plans to not only survive the pregnancy but make sure the baby survived as well, I was going to need my head cut open and have this pulsing, “breathing,” thing removed from my brain.