Post-Stroke: Popping Bubbles

Of late I feel like I'm blowing a great deal of bubbles trying to pop each one instantaneously. These bubbles represent barriers that continue to control me mentally and physically. It’s amazing how one moment things go smoothly, and the next things come crashing down that I’m perilously trying to pop that bubble.

For instance, I felt that my short-term memory was bouncing back, therefore I decided against my physician’s advice to do speech therapy. I’m sharp when I work but when I shut my computer off, my brain turns to mush. So, I’m trying to chase that bubble before it begins to reverse. My memory was put to test over the holidays when I hit my head which resulted in a knot across my head. Gradually, my head began to pound and my memory of how it happened disappeared. I couldn’t remember if it was helping my parent’s during Thanksgiving or if I hit my head getting in a car or hanging something up. It’s all possible scenarios, but I can’t remember.

On Tuesday night my head was in agony. When I went to bed, it didn’t matter what position I slept; the pain gradually got worse. Wednesday morning, I woke up and I felt good, so I foolishly thought the problem was over. I started my morning with a four-hour class with my company. As time went, I felt like my head was going to explode. The trooper that I am, I waited until the class was over, so I didn’t miss any information despite everything that was physically going on. After my meeting, I immediately called my neurosurgeon to see if it was something worth looking into. I was directed by her to go to the nearest ER for a CT scan to make sure that I didn’t have any bleeding. I had to alert my co-workers that I had to leave. All of them were understanding and concerned. A senseless seed was planted in my head that I would become that co-worker that you couldn’t rely on. Another one of those bubbles I’m trying to pop.

When I arrived at the ER the waiting room looked eerie because it was oddly empty despite what the news outlets were telling us. They got me back within two minutes and went through their quick line of questions which requires a quick answer. Since I couldn’t remember how it happened, I told the nurse one version and then the doctor another because each one was plausible. The nurse who was rather rude made sure to point out the inconsistency with my story. I wanted to scream that I don’t remember, and I answered the question to the best of my ability to match your quick questions that required a quick answer, or you would get irritated. It made me feel like a criminal or making up this whole situation up. To give you more context of my anger, this is the same hospital that I went to when I had my stroke and ruptured aneurysm. When I arrived, they treated me as if I was there seeking drugs. It’s the same hospital that I had to yell at the doctor to get me a CT scan. The same hospital that felt ashamed after they discovered I had blood coursing through my brain that required a transfer with parting words that I might die. For this visit, after the disgruntled nurse left the room the physician looked at my history, and with compassion knew that this could serious. With memory of my last visit, I made sure to state, I’m only here for a CT scan which was ordered by the hospital downtown (same hospital group). Regardless, they gave me a migraine cocktail of diphenhydramine, Compazine, and Toradol along with IV fluids. For some reason it made me feel jittery which I don’t understand because the cocktail is Benadryl, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory meds. After what seemed like an eternity, a gentle man walked into my room and wheeled me back for my scan. My PTSD promptly kicked in. I listened to the tech tell me to stay still. I took a deep breath and did the best to calm myself down. Once I was wheeled back to my room to wait. I noticed that there were plenty of new patients being wheeled in from the EMT’s. Each one was said to have COVID and getting worse. The sound of their labored breathing was haunting, and I prayed for a good outcome for them. I also felt bad that they were dealing with the rude nurse who did not have any patience for the elderly patients who had trouble hearing. Her loud voice and irritation got to my nerves.

At last, the doctor came in and let me know my scan came back with no issues. My clip was in place and my VP shunt did not shift. She derived that the combination of the large knot on my head and lack of memory equaled a concussion. She told me to rest as much as possible and gave me a doctor's note to take the week off. I was quickly discharged and still felt jittery when I got home and didn’t get any rest. The next day I did not heed the doctors' orders and logged on to start working. Again, it’s a bubble I need to pop. It’s rather amazing that the headache went away, so I do owe the migraine cocktail some thanks. After I was done working, my non-working memory went back to a fog and I finally fell asleep.

I made a video the night after the ER visit. I thought it was essential to point out to seek medical advice from a professional and not ask forums if they should seek medical attention. This has been a source of contention with me, and I don’t know how to emphasize the danger in giving people medical advice. I could have logged on and asked people what to do and received various answers. I however did what was best for me for peace of mind. Even though the thought of going back to a hospital, especially now seems unfavorable, I again want to emphasize to call a doctor. No one, unless you are lucky enough to have a doctor as a friend, should take medical advice from anyone else. Again, more bubbles I’m trying to pop. I have echoed this in several videos and blogs, that it’s understandable to query what ails you on a forum because naturally you are scared and hope someone has some insight. Or worse, perhaps the healthcare is not available, which breaks my heart. If you are on the other end that wants to empathize with someone, state your thoughts but always disclose to see a doctor. This saves the person seeking advice and the guilt you may have if you gave the wrong advice. I have on numerous occasions talked about mental health, but I always state to seek the three powers- therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist first.

So, with all this said, it seems like when things are favorable, as result of popping a lot of bubbles. Sometimes I’m not quick enough so I take two steps back. As frustrated as I feel with all this, it’s important to continue to take steps forward even if I continue to go back. Do I crumble and cry when this happens? Of course! It was more obtrusive in beginning, however after nearly a year, I cry less and have become strong in areas I have never dreamed of. Do I have moments where I want to scream? Yes, but I it feels good to scream. So, while I say that I’m busy popping these bubbles, they represent me problem solving. Which I never thought would be possible. I know that I’m logical, determined and strong-willed, but with the circumstances that I have endured this logic is thrown out the door at times.

One area that I’m perplexed is the direction or path that I want to take. I’ve echoed this in several blogs about ideas here and there, but at times I doubt how much of an impact I can make. You see, I look on forums, read stories and the bubbles continue to blow. I want to pop each one of them. I see a gap for higher quality of care after discharge. I’m just one person, and I might not be able to fix anything, but I sure as hell will try my best to fight for everyone. Sometimes my stubborn side gets in the way of reality. Yet, I hope this is a reality that can happen.

I want to end this with a holiday statement. This world is hectic, crazy and unorganized now. Holidays will look different this year. While this can be depressing, remember and hold on to the memory that you fought a hard battle. You have been gifted with breath. You wake up each day. Treasure your loved ones, because life and love are the true gifts.


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