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Category Archives: AGING

My Husband Had A Stroke… you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

He woke up at 4:45 A.M., screaming.

I jumped out of bed and asked in a panic, “What’s wrong?!”

He screamed again.

“Honey, what’s wrong?! Are you in pain?” I was thinking heart attack.

“Nooo!” he said, dragging out that little word.

I noticed he was sweating, but not profusely. I put my ear to his chest thinking I’d hear an erratic heartbeat – nope, seemed normal to my uneducated ear. My thoughts of a heart attacked lessened.

Again I asked if he was in pain.

Holding his head, he said, “I’m diz-zy. I can’t take it.”

That’s when I knew what it was – vertigo.

I’ve had vertigo once – never ever want to go through that again, but it doesn’t make you react the way Husband did. You may wake up, saying “whoa” or “what the fuck?!” but no screaming – at least from my experience anyway. So, why was he crying out like that?

He and I went to the main campus of Penn State University because of Family and Friends Weekend. We stopped at the Hampton Inn first then picked up the College Kid (CK) after her last class which was around 5:00 P.M. We swooped her up to stay with us overnight on Friday evening.

Back to Saturday morning when the scream happened.

The CK and I tried to get him up because he needed to pee. The bathroom was only a few feet away yet he couldn’t even attempt the try. In whatever he was going through, he did manage to squirm from a normal sleeping position from head of bed to foot, to laying across it. I encouraged him to calm down and let him know he was going through a temporary case of vertigo, but he was acting like a man baby – not hearing me at all.

I told him we have to call 911. “No!” he shouted. I was ready to slap him. Clearly, he was in a state of panic and in need of medical attention, yet he did not want help – like what were we supposed to do without emergency care? I knew one thing though – he was not gonna die on my watch – that’s for sure.

The CK said, “Dad, we have to call just in case something is wrong that we don’t know about. ” Man, how those words turned out to be so true.

While she kept her eye on him, I went down to the front desk and told Brandon (receptionist) about our situation. I could have called from my cell phone, but I wanted my face seen, and I wanted my husband’s name known other than just being a guest. Brandon called 911 and I gave him Husband’s name, my name, my cell number, and our room number for the paramedics.

I got back to the room where Husband was still writhing on the bed – eyes closed, holding his head, and very afraid. I dabbed him with a towel and before you knew it, the EMTs were knocking on room door 410 (for all you number playing folks).

They asked all the standard questions. When they asked for his medications, I gave a note with that particular information. I received a nod of approval for having it ready. Important lesson to everyone – know and readily have medical information handy.

Evangelical Community Hospital was only a four minute drive (if that) from the hotel.

We arrived at the E.R. where he was already being worked on. He had the sticky things all over his upper body, and he was still complaining about going to the bathroom. He was not allowed to stand – even with help, and he wasn’t allowed to relieve himself until after he had a CAT scan and then spoke with the doctor on call. Nurse Julie brought in a cart with a monitor attached. “What’s that for?” I asked. Well, apparently, that was for the doctor who would do the evaluation even though he was not in the facility.

After he was evaluated, he was given a container to  relieve himself. That didn’t work because he was not in a standing position and it was not practical. He was about to go, but not the way he’d hoped – poor thing was about to be introduced to a total invasion of privacy. Nurse Julie announced she would have to catheterize husband, and lifted his gown. At that point, the CK couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. “Ut, I don’t wanna see that; time for me to go!” The nurse and I chuckled then she went to work. I saw a rubber tube inserted into Husband’s penis that went in his bladder. Poor thing. His vocals were very different this time; more like a manly kind of grunt, showing all teeth as opposed to screaming like he wasn’t in control of his own body.  I felt bad for him and thought he would squeeze the life from my hand. There he was – room already spinning and now experiencing a foreign object going into his most manly part. However, he was instantly calmed as the liquid left his body. I’m being very graphic because these are all real things that one will go through. You need to be prepared.

After the ER, he was admitted to ICU (and stayed there for 2 days), which scared me, but it was explained that he had a minor stroke. This was determined after numerous tests, CAT scans, and a MRI. The doctor said it occurred in the cerebellum part of the brain, which controls equilibrium hence the aggressive case of vertigo (Bam! Just as I thought!). I asked the doc why did he get so emotional? He was upset and blaming himself for “messing up” our weekend. What’s wrong with him? I thought it was because he thought he was going to die (and I’m not ruling that out either), but whenever someone asked about his welfare, he’d just break into tears, which explains the emotional part of the brain. Deep.

Upon further explanation, it stunned me to find out this was not his first mini stroke – he’s had several! As the doctor spoke to me, in hindsight two signs were visible. I noticed a couple of months ago that he was holding his mouth in an abnormal way. I thought maybe his mouth/teeth were bothering him. When I questioned him, he shrugged it off. I never considered  a stroke and left it alone because his mouth eventually went back to normal.

Another time I noticed him stumbling (equilibrium was off), and I asked, “Why are you walking like that?” He said he was “just tired.” Both signs of mini strokes I missed. When you normally think of strokes, you think of the debilitating ones that leaves your face distorted and one side of your body useless – unless you are in the medical field or had it happen to you or someone you know then you could pick up on it right away. In my case, I was alert enough to notice a difference in his body, but not relate it to stroke symptoms.

So, for three days, Husband was fed through IV, and barely opened his eyes because of the vertigo. He was given medicine for nausea (because of dizziness) and to slow down the vertigo. It was only on Tuesday that he was able to open his eyes for long periods of time – thanks to medication. When I asked why he screamed the morning of, he said he thought he was falling. Imagine you wake from sleep, on your way to bathroom when all of a sudden you begin to fall and never land…. I think I would scream too.

During his four day stay, he was eventually able to keep his eyes open on day three and hold a complete conversation, sit up, eat solid food and walk to the bathroom with assistance of a walker. According to the doctors and nurses I spoke to, they all said the same thing about men not being able to handle illness, and I know mine did not handle this well. He’s never been hospitalized so this was a major blow to him. The staff was even impressed that, he at age 62, had never been hospitalized.

To keep this from happening again, he now has to swallow an aspirin every day of his life to help prevent blood clots. He is now prone to having another stroke if he does not stop smoking, which is “non-negotiable” according to Dr. Weber. Other contributing factors are: dangerous cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, stress, wife named Tillie….

Now, I’m not in the medical field at all, I’m just a simple chic from the ‘hood who enjoys sharing her God given gift of writing to inform and educate. This story is to make you all aware of how important it is to pay close attention to yourself and your loved ones – especially the ones you live with and look at on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you notice something that’s not quite right, take action. Each second wasted is the loss of blood cells – if we hadn’t called the ambulance when we did, Husband would have lost vital blood cells and could have died or had a severe stroke. Now that I have told you how I missed the signs, you have no excuse. I’m giving you what I missed – a twisted mouth, a loss of balance here and there when nothing is in the way. If you suspect something (and this may sound corny, but it’s a sure sign), tell them to repeat “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, ask who the president of the USA is, tell them to smile, and if that smile is crooked, get to the Emergency Room right away – don’t let them tell you what they don’t want to do – you be the decision maker and save their life because a panicky person cannot make rational decisions.

I’m a firm believer that prayer in numbers work. We thank everyone (and there were lots of you) who were genuinely concerned and prayed for Husband’s health and our safe traveling mercies back home. You showed this through phone calls, text messages, and visits – one of Husband’s friends drove the 3 hours from Philly with his girlfriend, just to see about him, which was quite touching. We are very fortunate to have such caring people in our lives.

Once the CK was returned to her dorm that same weekend, and I went back to the hotel room alone, I realized that I could have lost my husband. I looked around the room at his things and thanked God I didn’t have to go home without him.

A week later, Husband is progressing well. He uses a cane now, but still does everything he did before just on a slower basis. Doctors said he should recover completely and he appears to be on his way. A lot of tears were shed during this time.

This stroke stuff ain’t no joke, y’all and I’m telling you because we just lived through it. And if you don’t pay attention after reading this – you’re a fool.

Psalm 30:2 Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.

Thanks for readin’ my writin’ y’all.

 

 

 

What Double Hip Recovery is Really Like

Monday, June 23rd will be three months since my double hip replacement surgery. The first thing I must do is thank God for progress – something I say to anyone who asks about my recovery. When I think on these past three months and how my life, my mental state, my faith in God, and my renewed appreciation/love for my husband has evolved, I am so grateful.

Since surgery, I have experienced just about any emotion you can think of. Initially, I felt helpless; having to depend on Husband to do even the simplest task for me. As time went on, I became overly impatient; like the healing process wasn’t happening quickly enough even though I had been told by my in-home nurse and physical therapist that I was progressing extremely well during the first few weeks, and then later by my surgeon and out-patient therapist the same. There were times I thought I was depressed until I learned the real meaning of depression, which didn’t fit me. I do understand (now) why the nurses frequently asked that question. You can easily be suicidal or depressed if you don’t have a reliable support system. It was during those times when I just wanted to get up and go, knowing I couldn’t, and drive anywhere or run up and down the stairs like I used to – that’s when I wanted the implants out of my body. I cried because I could feel them when I’d rather not. For months I was frustrated sleeping on my back with a pillow under my knees (to relieve pressure from my hips) because it was impossible to sleep on my sides. I wanted to walk the way I did before experiencing the pain I endured. I cried some more because I wanted to be at the point of not noticing the difference in my body. “When am I not going to feel ’em?” I would ask Husband who couldn’t answer. “I just want to not know they’re there.” So, not only was I tripping; I was taking him on an emotional trip as well. However, I am encouraged in knowing I’ll eventually get to the point of feeling normal.

I thank God that He kept me alive and I survived surgery because as my doctor said, “You didn’t just have one surgery, you had two major surgeries.” I never thought about it that way. Today was the first time I looked up an actual hip surgery, which was something I made sure not to do prior to having it done. I couldn’t believe my small frame sustained the skin slicing and all the sawing, banging, and hammering that was involved – just the surgical instruments alone made the operating room, I’m sure, resemble a well equipped tool shed.

And when I think of where I am now, I praise God for keeping me infection free and with no signs of blood clots – all things associated with recovery. In real time though, three months ain’t long for what I’ve gone through. But, within that time, I was able to gauge my own progress by charting how long I used the walker (two weeks), when I could drive (seven weeks), when to leave the cane behind (9 weeks), when to wear sensible heels (ten weeks), and be able to side sleep on either hip (eleven weeks; no more sleeping on my back! I’m a side sleeper once again, y’all!). I frequently journal my progress, figuring I could help the doctor with estimations when a patient asks, “When can I do….” No one could tell me exactly when I would be able to do any of the aforementioned, which is why I tracked myself and decided when I felt comfortable enough to do them all.

I’ve progressed in ways that I can literally do a well-informed infomercial; however, still with all the progress I’ve made, I continue to have struggles. When I get tired, Husband tells me I look like I’m walking on stilts – and the ironic part is, I actually feel like I do. Sometimes, when I get out of bed, I forget about the titanium, which is good because it lets me know I’m healing properly. I have a tendency to rub my outer thighs now because they feel slightly different. And that’s another thing – my surgical lines (don’t call ’em scars because they’re not) have healed very nicely. I haven’t done anything special or bought a bunch of nonsense creams to remove marks. I kept the area clean and used Shea butter. I’m thankful that the doc had steady hands too; no zig zag lines on these hips! However, as I sit and write this, I know I’ve been sitting for far too long (it takes hours to write a blog). I can feel the titanium, letting me know I’m gonna regret not taking a standing break. And because I didn’t, I’ll most certainly be walking like I’m on stilts, and I say that with a :), which brings me to this – when folks see me for the first time, they are surprised that I’m walking sans assistance. One person told me they didn’t know what to expect – thought I’d be with a walker, looking all decrepit and whatnot. Really?

Another positive aspect of recovery is the well wishes I received from so many people (I am so blessed). I received so many cards that our mail lady asked Husband if someone died. I had visitors, Facebook messages, text messages, phone calls, and two edible arrangements sent. This is funny because one of seven “Sheilas” I know sent an edible arrangement – no surname included. I contacted six who said, “That’s nice but it wasn’t me.” The last Sheila I contacted was the one who sent it. Chuckles.

From my estimation, I may not be completely healed until a year or so post surgery, which will be March 31, 2015. At that time, I’m hoping to move about without feeling the implants and walking better than I was before surgery. I’m just guessing, y’all – I don’t know for sure.

One thing I’ve discovered in this journey is that I’ve helped by sharing my story and that is my goal. Many of you are experiencing similar medical situations. I’m glad to be in a position that allows me to honestly answer your questions. I’m telling you, this hip thing is so widespread and common that either you’ll go through it yourself or someone you know will. If this post has been helpful to you or if you enjoyed reading it, please let me know by responding or hitting the “like” icon.

Thank you for reading – pass it along!

My Double Hip Replacement

You are about to read an honest account of how it all went down.

In January of this year, I went to Rothman Institute because my lower back and lower extremities had been paining me for quite some time (so much so, that I was seriously contemplating retiring; didn’t feel as though I could go on in that way until 2017 – had sent away for my estimate and everything). After taking x-rays, I met with the doctor and the consultation went a lil’ something like this:

The doc pulled the x-rays up on the computer screen for both of us to see: left hip, right hip, pelvic area.

“Did she almost fall off the chair?” I asked myself. “Is this lady drunk?”

“You need to be on the table now!” she blurted out.

With eyebrows frowned and confusion in my head, I asked with attitude, “For what?”

“Hip replacement!”

Before I knew it, “What the fuck!” had escaped my lips!

My mind was racing with the following thoughts:

Don’t you have to be old for that? I’m too young! I got a 15 yr. old kid – we got things to do! My mom and dad didn’t even have hip replacement! For real though, Jesus?!

And then the real truth; I am in a lot of pain….

“I want it done,” I said.

And that is how it went down. The doctor explained that I had no cartilage in either hip and I was walking bone on bone – no cushion whatsoever, which explained everything. Bone had begun to grow on top of bone, causing bone spurs to form when cartilage is completely gone. When that happens, you can develop a limp when you walk – I did. I was really messed up with excruciating pain. Bones grinding together with no shock absorption – unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my entire life; however, I had been dealing with it. I continued on with my daily life: work, church, soccer mom for the kid, shopping and whatever else needed to be done until I could do it no longer.

February 2014, my husband and I met with the surgeon. He walked in the room and said, “Okay, where’s the 51 year old woman with the 80 year old hips!”

Doink! A comedian! That broke the ice and put us at ease. During the interview, we asked a host of questions (every time we thought of something, I wrote it down, including the lawsuits commercials). The surgeon was very thorough in his explanation of procedure, tools, and all things related. He asked how did I get to such a bad state. I told him I didn’t know; I needed him to tell me. He asked if I played sports or if I was ever injured. “Nope, was just a regular ole tomboy growing up – that’s about it.”

I asked if I could have both done at the same time. He said he would suggest it because he’s never seen so much arthritis in someone my age. He also explained that the pain I was experiencing then would be gone but replaced with surgery pain. I told him I could endure that because it would be temporary. That alone should give you an indication of how much pain I was actually living with. If he could’ve scheduled me for surgery the next day – I would’ve agreed to it.

During pre-op when you meet with several doctors, they all asked the same question, “How did this happen to you? You’re not old or overweight.” Well, maybe I am by five pounds or so, but I realize each one had to repeat the same questions for background information – but my answer remained the same, “I do not know! I need you all to tell me!” They couldn’t be sure whether it was hereditary or just the way God made me.

But there is something Wayne and I realized throughout the entire process; and I’m switching course here, but just stay with me. There was plenty of paperwork to complete and interviews to be had. And the one thing that we were so proud of was that we were there as husband and wife. I felt like I was signing my life away and when asked if I had an advanced directive, I said, “No. Now what?” They asked if I was married. “Yes, that’s my husband sitting right there.” If anything happened he would be the one to give a directive on my life! I looked at him and said, “You literally hold my life in your hands.” And it was the truth. If we weren’t married, the man I have been with for years, the father of my child, would not be able to make a decision for me if I couldn’t. He would be skipped as my next of kin- my siblings would have more say than he, and mind you, I come from a large family. Now what kind of funky sense would that make? Here I am with this man for over two decades and he can’t make a medical decision about my life when we make household decisions together and decisions involving our child? The man who would be, and is currently, my caregiver would be silenced in the eyes of medical services. To the naysayers about marriage, go through something like this and see just how important marriage is and how little you will matter by not being Mr. & Mrs. He’s my husband and I’m his wife. We are a team. Those words changed the entire tone of the room.

My sister mentioned that we are in love all over again. I might agree. I’ve never been the type to tell a man, “I love you,” but I have said it every dang day since my surgery – that and “thank you.” No matter what we’ve been through in our marriage, we’re at this stage now. The first day home from the hospital, I cried because it was beyond difficult for me to climb the steps. Once I got to the bathroom, I cried again being too afraid to get off the toilet without the lift. But right there with me, literally giving me his shoulder, saying, “I got you, babe. C’mon, I got you,” I knew I was okay. And when I had to shower using the chair he was right there washing my lower legs and feet (I could reach everything else), and afterward he cocoa buttered the same. I could not do this without him and I’ve thanked him every single day since, which is something coming from a woman who used to adamantly say, “I don’t need you!” Circumstances obviously changes and God has a way of shutting up the stupid from your mouth!

At this point, my loving husband has gone from being empathetic to a drill sargent. “Get up! Gotta keep those hips moving and that blood circulating! Did you exercise yet? Get up!” Needless to say I can’t wait for him to leave for work.

When my co-workers gave me a sendoff, they told me they had no idea of what I was going through. That’s because I didn’t tell anyone. I put up a brave front. It wasn’t for them to know. I was there to do a job; not complain about my health, but when I shut my door, no one knew what I went through behind that closed door. And when asked about me wearing heels. That was my preference. It would’ve been no more comfortable if I walked barefoot on cotton balls.

So, bring on all the jokes you can think of – heck, I’ve gotten a few good ones already and even some of my own. I’ll tell you something else too – I have a new appreciation for Steve Austin, Jaime Sommers, and Wolverine!

Hopefully, this has been helpful to you all because trust and believe, you or someone close to you could go through this same thing.

I can’t possibly continue this journey without God who gave me my husband. Make sure the person you’re with is the person you trust with your life.

51 with braces

I’m seriously considering getting braces.

I say that with a bit of trepidation for the following reasons: braces will eventually close the sentimental gap between my front teeth – the gap I’ve come to embrace, love, and more importantly, remind me of my mother’s gapped-tooth smile before dentures.

But, I don’t want my gap closed. It’s the characteristic I love most about my face, my smile.

Why braces now, you ask?

Reason #1: I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the other gaps in my mouth. My teeth are doing something I can’t explain. Ah, maybe they are, maybe not – could be they’re just getting older like the rest of me. I can’t say they’re shifting and I can’t say for sure the other gaps are getting bigger, but when I examine my teeth closely – and I mean thisclose to the mirror, I notice a difference. I wonder if an orthodontist would put braces on the top row of either side of the gap from left to left and right to right without touching my center teeth… I would look like a fool, right?

Reason #2: Retirement! If I retire at age 55, so does my dental coverage, which means I gotta get it in before then. Let’s say, I have to wear braces for the next two years. I don’t have problem teeth; they only need to be pushed back and gaps (top and bottom) closed. It’ll probably take me those two years to pay my portion of the bill – at least that’s how it was for the kid’s braces.

Speaking of the kid, she asked, “Why do you want braces at your age?”

I immediately took offense. “You think I’m too old for braces? You think you’re the only one who can have a beautiful smile?”

She was like, “No, but you’re gonna be 61 by the time you finish wearing your retainer…”

Why’d she give me eight years to wear a retainer?

As I explained to her in my other blog, “Conversation with my kid…explaining that awkward stage,” there is something that folks in their 40’s & 50’s would like to change about themselves, and that includes me as well. You’re never too aged to improve upon yourself – another teachable lesson for the kid.

My mom had this saying back in the day that I used to question only because I was too young to understand. She’d frequently say, “If I live and nothing happens…” then she’d add whatever she needed to add. I now get it that time is not always on our side.

Well, this is my saying, “If I live and nothing happens, I’m gonna get me some braces!”

Please “like” if you enjoyed this post – thank you.