July 2020, a month to remember

29 Jul

As this unusual July closes, I wonder where to even begin? I feel that I have to write something to commemorate this season of chaos. I was in the hospital. I convalesced at home. And I went from someone who used to fear MRIs to someone who had 4 in about a month. While the memory of this time is (more or less) fresh in my mind, here’s roughly what happened:

During one weekend in mid-June, I began holding onto the walls of the hallway outside my bedroom. I started running into everything- my arms would bang into doorways, my feet would bump into doors. It’s the kind of thing you write off at first, but as it continues you know something weird is happening. I decided to take Monday off work, but the odd behavior continued, so that Tuesday morning I went to the local hospital. I recall my Mom physically helping me walk to the entry of the ER, so my condition must have really degraded at that point.

That week in the hospital is mostly a blur, and thank God. I’m grateful for not remembering some things, and I regret that some things- like a disturbing memory of my having a seizure as I entered a cat scan machine- are still vivid. I remember going in for an MRI, and fearing the narrow confines of the machine. No, what makes the experience nightmarish is not the inherent claustrophobia, but the sounds, the constant screeching of photos being taken of the brain. I told myself, this is like that long flight from Seoul to San Francisco. It’s long, it’s awful, but you need to endure it to get through to the other side. You want answers to your condition, this is what that entails.

And I got answers. My brain did, in fact, bleed. Doctors told me I experienced a “shower” or small burst of many little strokes. I was relieved to have an answer. I remember yelling out, in my half-conscious state, “I’m not crazy! I knew something happened to me!”

You’re in an unflattering hospital gown, there is a needle in your arm at all times for the constant delivery of medicine, and your blood pressure is taken on a very regular basis. I’ve never liked having my blood pressure taken- I don’t like the constricting feeling. But what can you do? I remember feeling unclean. For that whole week, I couldn’t brush my teeth or wash my face. I didn’t shower. In between medical tests, I was mostly bored and restless. I wanted to go home and clean up.

Once I was discharged at the end of the week, my at-home recovery began. I saw at-home health therapists twice a week and practiced balance and coordination exercises in the evenings. Once that concluded, I moved onto hospital outpatient physical therapy at a different location. I made a full recovery from the stroke, but a new physical condition emerged: crippling back pain. To this day, 6-7 weeks after the hospital stay when it started, I still feel it, though it has mostly improved.

All in all, I feel older. Having pills in a day-of-the-week pill box. Being cognizant of which activities cause me physical distress and which ones don’t. Most of all, being aware of my own mortality, on top of the current pandemic, which still rages. I’ve been very lucky. I don’t appear to have gotten COVID-19. Is my stroke related to the pandemic, or a freak occurrence? I believe the former, but my doctors are leaning towards the latter. We shall see.

I’m 39 and otherwise very healthy. I’m glad to be alive, and to be well. I still hope to not go to the hospital any time soon, so I’m still wearing a mask AT ALL TIMES. I’m also enormously grateful for the care of the staff at my local hospital, who made me feel like a person and not just a number. Shortly after my discharge, there was a surge in hospitalizations there, and I think often of those kind hospital employees. I hope they stay safe.

I don’t know how to end this except to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me during this time, and to those who cared for me throughout, especially my close family members. Please continue to be well.



2 Responses to “July 2020, a month to remember”

  1. mediaeconomicsgroup July 30, 2020 at 11:02 pm #

    What a frightening experience. Glad that you are doing better. Wish you a speedy and full recovery.


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