Stethoscope? Check. Trauma Sheers? Check. Clipboard? Nurse bag? Phone on the charger? Shoes by the door? Check, check, check and check. Finally, my favorite pair of scrubs laid out. I was prepared and excited. “Tomorrow, I’ll be taking a full load of patients”. I was six weeks into my orientation as a new nurse. I was receiving great feedback from my coworkers, my preceptor and manager. I felt ready!
“Warm Greetings”. The alarm theme song on my phone that woke me up the next morning. I got out of bed and started to stretch. Was I awake? I couldn’t tell. What a strange feeling. Was I having one of my many panic attacks? I didn’t feel anxious. What is this? Walking over to restroom, I looked into the mirror and saw drool coming from the corner of the left side of my mouth. I must have slept very well! But, am I still asleep? “Babe, can you get up? I don’t feel right” My husband was not thrilled, he’d been dealing with my panic attacks for months now. Eventually he made his way to the kitchen to start up some coffee. What on earth is this? I walked into the kitchen to ask if he would check on me in a bit, I was going to go to the restroom. As I walked back to the room, I found myself bumping against the walls of the hallway. This is where things get cloudy…
I remember going to the restroom. I remember my husband in the doorway at some point. I remember becoming frightened by how strange I felt. “Babe, am I slurring?” I slurred. “Yes”, he looked concerned and puzzled. “Call 911. I’m having a stroke!”
It wasn’t until we were in the Emergency Department of a Hospital facility that was unfortunately not a stroke center, that I found out I was actually on the bathroom floor and my husband had to pick me up and bring me to the room.
“We are 99.9% sure you did not have a stroke” the big wig nurse said to me while I was infarcting (having a stroke). I was only 33 years old and had no precipitation factors. But, my left side became more numb. My mother and baby sister visited me in the ER. “Honey, do you feel this?” My mother touching my different parts areas of the left side of my body. I couldn’t feel her touch. I was in and out of sleep. I was so tired.
I was moved to an overflow, area. This meant I didn’t have an actual room. I was in one huge room, closed off by curtains. Sharing a bathroom with the other poor souls that found themselves fresh out of luck and apparently not critical enough for a room. Throughout the day I went from a supported walk to being pushed in a wheelchair to get to the restroom. “MS (multiple sclerosis)? Myasthenia gravis?” My nurses questioned with me. What is this?
The next morning, an old doctor with an old-school physicians’ bag, abruptly entered into my curtained off, make-shift room. “Why didn’t you get TPA (tissue plasminogen activator or the clot buster medication). You had a stroke!”. I had a what? A TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram) would reveal that I have had a small hole in my heart since birth. A clot could have traveled through it, traveled to my brain and, well, stroke. I would repair this heart about six months later.
The eight days following my… stroke were spent in the hospital and then an acute rehab facility where I went from wheelchair to being hoisted up with a lift so I could attempt to run in the hallway. Eight days, I experienced the love of family and friends and the support of complete strangers. My middle sister came from California and helped take care of my kids, so my husband was freed up to be with me. One of my closest girlfriends came to my rehab facility with her family to create a quick birthday party for my littlest. My brand new coworkers came to visit and made me feel like a part of the crew. I could go on and on of the many stories of lunches brought to me in rehab and late night visits, flowers, and lotions that made my rehab room the place to be. The prayers, and the meals sent to my family. I experienced the love of God who gave me peace beyond my understanding.
“Will I be a nurse again?” Was slowly answered the during the 5 weeks in outpatient physical and occupational therapy.
I survived. I recovered. A partial numb tongue, RLS (restless leg syndrome) just on my left side, difficulty getting words out when I am, (what’s the word?) tired, a crooked smile (though you’d really have to be looking for it) and the overwhelming awareness that I am not as ‘in control’ of my morality as I thought… these are my residual effects, my “deficits”. I also have the beautiful experience of what it is to be a patient, what it is to be scared and unsure of how illness is going to change your life. I bring more to the table as a nurse than I did before.
L I F E is S H O R T and unpredictable.