Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chronicle of a Stroke, Day 3

Originally posted on January 17, 2011

January 7, 2011.

In the wee hours of the morning - maybe 3 or 4 AM? - the nurse came to put a new IV in Al's arm. I'm not sure why, but he already had 2 in his right arm, and they were both bothering him greatly. So the nurse decided to try his left arm. I was glad he wouldn't feel that one as much, but I was relieved at the same time to hear him say "OW!" I knew his arm wasn't completely dead!

Around 5 AM, the nurse came in to take Al's vitals, and at this point, he awakened easily and was using fairly easy speech with full sentences. I was thrilled to hear his voice! He was also able to lift his leg and feel more in his left arm. Throughout the day, we waited for confirmation that he could be moved back out of ICU (although, to be honest, I was thankful for the private room and quiet environment.) However, the stroke team decided that Al should still spend another night in ICU for further monitoring.

However excited I was about his alertness, I was still scared. My fear for his life was dissipating, but I was still afraid the unknown future. I was slowly starting to realize what a stroke does. It doesn't just cause temporary numbness and tingling. Al had lost most of the feeling and mobility in his entire left side, and some of that had returned, but I had been hoping that it would all just gradually return, like a sleeping hand or foot slowly wakes up again. But that isn't how it works after a stroke. The brain has to create entirely new pathways to communicate with the affected side.

As Al began to feel more awake, he told me he felt like he could just get up and cruise around with a walker. But what he and I didn't fully realize was that even though he thought he could tell his left side to move, his brain simply wouldn't obey. As one physical therapist put it, "His brain is ignoring the left side of his body."

I went home once again to get a shower and make a few phone calls. I was pleasantly surprised to find my house entirely clean. A few of my neighbors had rallied to take care of the mess that had been left behind in our post-holiday rush. Shortly after arriving home, my friend Jan came by with all my laundry, fresh and clean. Oh, the blessings of friendship!

Back at the hospital, later on in the afternoon, I was trying to doze and I prayed that I would fall asleep quickly. The thought crossed my mind that maybe this was one of those awful nightmares, and I would be so thankful to wake up and have Al sleeping next to me in our own bed. And he would be perfectly healthy. Sadly, I soon realized that this experience had far too much detail to be a dream.

As afternoon drifted into evening, I made sure Al had dinner and his beloved bottle of Sprite. I asked him about 48 times if he was OK and if he needed anything else. Then I finally convinced myself to leave. I went to pick up my children at my friend's house at around 7:30, and when she learned that Al was still in ICU, she offered to have them stay one more night. It was an arrangement that everyone was happy with, and I went home to sleep. I was tempted for a few moments to just head back to ICU and sleep next to Al a second night, but as I stopped by Phil and Michelle's house to pick up a few things, Phil convinced me to go home to sleep. I had to admit that my own comfy bed was much more appealing than the recliner at the hospital. I took a Unisom and was able to sleep straight through until 8 AM. To be honest, I could have slept longer, but I wanted to get back to my hubby's side.

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