May 25th, 2017 was the date we were introduced at work. I experienced the most excruciating headaches I’d ever experienced. This was followed by a wave of dizziness telling me something wasn’t right. Calling my manager on duty I relayed what had just happened. She asked me if I wanted to go home or needed help; I replied I needed help. At this point I made my way to the time clock, signing out of the phone. Just as I finished keying in my ID I heard the request for help in my department, thinking, “Good luck with that.” as I was the only person providing coverage at the time. Turning away from the time clock I blacked out for the first time in my life and this began my break with sequential memories.
It would take me over a month before the rest of what transpired would be known to me. During that time events around me mentally occurred to someone else. The ones I have were of being someone else in a completely different reality. My first conscious memories were of being in Intracranial ICU of Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Georgia as the staff attended me. I still had no clue as to what had happened to me or it’s severity. The physical trauma combined with the medications I was on had me still a bit disconnected with my surroundings and the total experience. Events during this time are disjointed. I know they transpired but I was fading in and out as the most severe issues were busy being handled by my body working to heal. There were trips to the MRI for follow up scans, attending physicians asking me to squeeze their fingers, the constant questions of “Do you know where you are?” and “Do you know who the president is?” seemingly rained down upon me like constant mortar shells.
I’ve always been a joker, and once I became cognitive enough to realize these questions became repeated ones I began jokingly answering them to the point the staff had to tell me this was serious and they needed the correct answers to judge my recovery. The president question brought about replies of me wishing they’d stop reminding me and remembering who our president was. I had to be told where I was since in my mind my last location had actually been at work. Time passed and I began to realize what I had held to be reality and certainty in who I was and where I was were hallucinations sparked by my mental pathways misfiring and creating a reality away from the trauma and pain. “Memories are malleable” I told my neurosurgeon during one of his visits. He told me my realization of this was a sign I was breaking through and on my way to recovery. Relearning how to eat, speak had all been accomplished at this point.
My nurses all told me “you heal very well” as I began thinking there was no reason to change my outlook on life. I’d much rather be joking, laughing, smiling than wallow in contemplating how bad things seemed. Curling up in the corner crying would not change what I had gone through. Deciding where to go from here was the true question that demanded an answer. My first thoughts were of a co-worker who learned his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been the only full-time associate in the department and wanted so badly to let him be there for her during her treatment and recovery. Me not being able to work would not allow me to be a buffer for him to successfully maintain a balance between work and being there for her. This was the first time I cried because of my stroke. Not for me, but for them.
This story is far from over. The details of my recovery, my return to work, moving forward with my life remain to be told.