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Category Archives: death

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.

 

 

 

DEATH OF A SPOUSE

A co-worker of mine has been mourning the death of her husband for little over a year now.

She mentioned how she has been crying continuously for over 365 days. She was teary eyed even at the beginning of our conversation.

“Why are you still crying everyday at this point?” I asked. She knew I wasn’t being insensitive; just my curious mind at work again.

Her answer: she still expects to see her husband, hear his laughter, smell him, and have him take care of things. She wonders why it happened to her family. Why was the love of her life who was only 46 years old taken from her?

All understandable points, and from that conversation comes this blog.

Halloween, October 31, 1993 – 22 years ago today when I was 31 years old, my mother died (I can say that word now). I thought my world would end; thought I wouldn’t be able to go on. After all, my mother was everything to my dad and my five siblings – she was our nucleus and the first we’ve ever lost in our close knit family. When I think back to that time, I remember how my mother consumed my thoughts every second of every day – did you understand what you just read? I said “every second of every day.” Can you imagine someone in your thoughts to that degree? Well, I did it – can’t say for how long though, which is probably why I didn’t properly mourn until six months later (finally broke down emotionally and took a month off work).

My father died 12 years later in 2005. I cried like a baby when he was in the hospital. I remember asking my nurse sister, Trish, “How long can he last like this?” A day. A week. A month. As long as his heart is strong, maybe longer than that. I cried harder. I prayed his heart would give out because I couldn’t stand to see him suffer as he was. I drove all the way home from Einstein Hospital with tears in my eyes; soon as I wiped them, they welled up again and at some point, I just stopped wiping and let ’em flow. Only God kept me from being in an accident. So, unlike my mom’s death, there was no waiting period for my dad. My grief was immediate.

We respond to grief differently even within the same family as I just demonstrated. We also grieve in our own time.

But unlike Z, I still have my husband so I don’t truly know the depth of what she’s feeling, although I can imagine. I get why she still cries. To be with someone you’ve shared a life with, had children with, went through some stuff with – I get it.

It’s inevitable that we all will experience the death of a loved one, but I want to focus on the death of a spouse. I don’t want to imagine my life without my husband and I’m so sure he feels exactly the same way. I’ve thought about life without him and I don’t particularly like the outlook. Even though we get on each others’ nerves to no end, we still do not want to live without each other. He’s already proven that he would be a total mess because I’ve seen his reaction when I went through hip surgery. I wasn’t even in the operating room, yet he was already freaked out, telling me he wouldn’t know what to do without me. And I feel the same way. We’ve been married for 17 years – we got time invested; he’s a habit to me and I’m a habit to him.

And now the questions.

If something were to happen to either of us, what would we do after the funeral? Once all the phone calls and text messages stop, and the cards no longer come in the mail? How would we deal with coming home expecting to see the other one when it’s not going to happen. What do I do with his car? His clothes? All his things? How long do I do nothing before I do something? At what point will the urge stop to buy birthday and father’s day cards? The unfinished or non-started household projects? And the two of us sharing financial situations – how to do deal with being the only one handling everything? All fearful and real thoughts.

There are so many things to consider and the questions keep coming, for instance, what do we do about missing our spouses and their presence? Privately and at family functions? How long do we grieve them; you don’t know if you’ve never lost one, right? And when should you begin dating (if that’s what you choose to do)? Will people look at you differently and expect you to live differently? When do you have sex again (well, that is a real consideration folks – don’t frown at me because I said it)? How do you stay strong for the children and then parent them by yourself? How would a mother raise her male child/children without their father? And how does a father handle a female child without the wife’s input? And what about the dog, cat, and the bird, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, paying the bills, reassuring each other in difficult times, which brings me to this as I’m typing – your spouse will not be there to help you deal with their own death. What do you think they’d say?

I could go on forever with this subject so let me stop here.

Death is a difficult and unwanted part of life that no one looks forward to it.

Z, I understand your tears and I thank you for allowing me to share part of your story.