Stroke

Purging some more demons. You thought we were done, didn’t you? You thought we were onto the crazy hallucination posts. Honestly, so did I, but when I started to give the backstory to the first crazy post-surgery post it quickly snowballed into something that needed to be its own entry. So bear with me one more time, please.

Something is wrong. So wrong.

“I had a stroke. I had a stroke.” I don’t remember this, but apparently, it was the first thing I said to Matt–before The White Ship conversation–when they tried to put me on the phone with him. They put me on the phone? Like from the operating room? I can’t figure the logistics of that at all. It was the first thing I said to my mother when she saw me after surgery and I do vaguely remember repeating those words over and over again. I had a stroke. I had a stroke. Only to be redirected again and again. “Katharine, why are you here?”

“I had a stroke?”

“No, why are you here?” A nurse asking? A doctor? Someone from the neuro team?

“I had a brain tumor?”

“Yes, and they operated and you had a major hemorrhagic event during surgery.”

Ok, readers who are on computers rather than phones, open up a second tab and go to google. Type in “hemorrhagic.” Did it just auto-complete “hemorrhagic stroke?” I thought so.

For whatever reason, NO ONE in the hospital ever used the word “stroke” in the 6 weeks I would remain in the hospital after my surgery. I eventually went to Rehab in a ward full of stroke patients. They all got to use the word “stroke.” I, on the other hand, was told again and again by nurses, staff doctors and members of the neurosurgery team that I had a “major hemorrhagic event.” In fact, the only time I heard that word was when I wasn’t meant to hear it. It was my three month follow up in September 2012 at the Rock Star Neurosurgeon’s office. We had just finished our meeting. I was walking out of the office and he was speaking into his dictaphone. “Patient suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that affected her left side . . .” Eyes wide open, I looked at Matt, standing in the hallway with me. “I KNEW IT WAS A STROKE!” Of course, I refrained from shouting until we were out of the office. I had my word. Sure, I had kind of taken it clandestinely, but I had my word. Stroke. I claim that word. Stroke. I’ve claimed it and I’m using it as the title of this entry as a giant middle finger to everyone who told me I had a “major hemhorrhagic event.”

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or unappreciative. I don’t regret the surgery. I don’t blame anyone for the fact that I began hemorrhaging during surgery. It happened. The Rock Star Neurosurgeon and his team stopped it. I lived. I’m here. But why the jargon? Why the jargon just for me when every other patient got the word? Which brings us to . . .

May 9, 2012

My left side was almost completely unresponsive. My left arm and hand were curled against my chest into a position I began to fondly refer to, once I became more lucid, as “the claw.” Matt says that my eyes didn’t track and would move in two different directions. That’s why it felt like I couldn’t look at him after surgery. Ok, that must have been pretty flipping (I really want to use a stronger f-word, but will restrain myself because my aunt reads here) creepy for anyone who saw me! Bald, stapled, tubes draining blood and other fluids attached to my head and eyes moving in different directions. Sounds like the Exorcist.

It makes me think of the Kenneth Branaugh 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that came out when I was in college. Yes, I’ve read the book, too, but I was film major at the time and it was the imagery of the film that made an impression. The Helena Bonham Carter character is killed by the Monster and re-animated by Dr. Frankenstein. She is bald and stapled. She looks at Dr. Frankenstein, clearly knowing something is wrong. Something very bad has happened. She agonizes and then she chooses, picking up an oil lamp and lighting herself on fire. For what wasn’t overall a particularly good or bad movie otherwise, that scene made me extremely upset. I cried in the theater and then again at home. I refused to ever watch it again and I haven’t. Precognition?

They still had me on Ativan. I assume it was meant to keep me calmer. I’m not sure what other drugs they were giving me, but there were A LOT. Antibiotics, painkillers. Sometime in those first 24 hours after surgery, I had 2 or 3 minor seizures, so anti-seizure meds were added. I get to be on those in perpetuity. Awesome.

I went out with some friends last night to mark the two-year anniversary. They’ve been reading here. “So did your kids see you like that?” they asked me last night.

Yes. I’m pretty sure they did. The eldest was almost 7. Middle son was newly 5. Youngest was recently 2. What they saw and remember will be their own stories to tell eventually. I suspect the youngest will come to remember almost nothing (although he still calls Riverside “Mommy’s Hospital” whenever we drive by). My middle guy is a wonderful strange little bird of a child and, of all of them, is the only one who showed obvious effects of being traumatized in the months that followed. Of course, we also moved and he started Kindergarten, which were difficult events in and of themselves. It’s still hard for me to come to terms with this little guy coming to see Mary Shelley’s Frankenmommy in the hospital and then being dropped off at afternoon preschool by his grandparents, but I’m pretty sure that happened several times.

It’s the eldest that I wonder about most. The eldest who is a mirror image of me physically (well except for the him being a boy part), mentally and emotionally. He also has a keen memory and will likely hold onto confused impressions of these weeks for the rest of his life. He doesn’t talk about it and this kid talks incessantly about everything, but kid memory is different, so I won’t speculate as to what he does and doesn’t remember. As I discussed with my friends last night, someday he will want to put the pieces together and I will be there for him when he does. Someday, I will let him (and the other boys) read this.

Wow, I got off track there, didn’t I? Funny thing about demons, they breed like essays behind closed doors and then they come flying out when you open them!

 

3 thoughts on “Stroke

  1. Shari

    Hi! My name is Shari and I came over from the MckFacts blog. Your story really is amazing for what you’ve told so far. I look forward to more entries. This really has encouraged me. I do not have a brain tumor, but another medical anomaly that I fight daily. Thank you! This doesn’t go unappreciated.

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  2. Pingback: Mother’s Day | The Missing Month of May

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