I was aware of the feeling, mentally, that I was listing to my left side, I was sliding along a sandpaper rough surface unable to right myself while thinking, this was a lousy way to die. I don’t know how long this sensation lasted until I tried to get out of bed and fell to the floor. My brain was in a fog and unable to comprehend what was happening as I attempted to stand up before falling again. During the second fall my leg hit the wall alerting My Jane of the situation. She recognized the signs of a stroke and called 911 immediately. I was still not able to diagnosis my condition as my brain had lost the ability to recognize that my left side was paralyzed and unresponsive to commands. While My Jane continued to talk to me I gradually became aware of the fact that my speech was a pretty good impersonation of Marlon Brando in The Godfather. The ambulance arrived and the EMTs went to work checking me out. My moment of terror occurred when Gregg (a friend of ours) asked me to raise my arms. My right arm rose on command but I could only watch as my left hand continued to lay on my left thigh no matter how intensely I willed it to rise. The left arm seemed to be completely detached from the rest of my neurological system and fear almost overwhelmed me. I did not lose hope however, because I believe in miracles.
Now, I was being placed on a gurney and wheeled to the ambulance. Gregg caught me up on what was happening with his family including showing me a photo of his 18 month old baby girl on the way to the hospital. It was good to catch up with our friend.
After a stop at the closest hospital for some tests I finally arrived at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Cedar Crest in the Neurological/Surgery Intensive Care Unit. Heather my first nurse greeted us at the door to my room and began connecting me to the bank of monitors while asking me the series of questions I would be asked many times; “What is your name?, When is your birthday? What day is it? Where are you?” I had just passed the quiz when my first doctor, Megan came in to inspect me and ask the questions again. Let me say here that I always passed that test. I did have some issue with subtracting 7’s beginning with 93. I wanted to tell Veronica or Elaine (whichever one asked me to do that exercise) that Math was not one of my strong subjects before the stroke so I might not be too good at math after the stroke either.
When Heather was done connecting me to stuff I felt like an electronic component in a multi-media system.
During the third night I began to think I might miss that light on my index finger when I was home because it would be difficult to find that finger in the dark.
Galloping hordes passed through my room over the next four days providing the most outstanding medical care as I rapidly grew stronger and better able to use my left side. At supper the first night I had regained gross motor skills on the left side enough to try to use my left hand to assist me in eating. It was a challenge hitting what I aimed at due to the diminished fine motor skills I possessed. One time I reached for the butter but ended up with my fingers in the whipped cream on the pudding and another time I spilled pudding on myself because my hand was unable to hold the bowl level. Watching all of my efforts prompted my brother to suggest a game of “Dutch Blitz”. This is a very fast card game requiring quick reads, quick responses and excellent fine motor skills. I tend to win at this game often so my brother thought this would be a good opportunity for him to beat me. You can see that I was already receiving much sympathy from my family! I smiled at his suggestion with an almost even smile as my facial muscles had returned nearly to normal. My progress was amazingly fast and I left the hospital under my own power five days after being admitted. We believe in miracles in our family!
We also believe that the excellent care I received had much to do with my recovery. I cannot do justice to the many health workers who provided amazing care for me. From Heather to Caroline to Bonnie and Jen, my nurses in the ICU, who were fabulous. The technicians were tremendous led by Stephanie who pricked my fingers because she, ‘just like doing it!’ and Jen and Bonnie who were caring and efficient.
The staff was very good and very young. One night I watched the night shift arriving and I turned to my brother, Chuck, and said, “The night shift is arriving and there is no adult supervision.” We did discover a few folks over thirty years old as days went by but this outstanding collection of providers was very young.
I was also impressed with the international flavor of this amazing group. First, my lead Doctor immigrated to the United States from China. He not only speaks great ‘doctor’ he speaks Chinese, Mandarin, Japanese and English. I can barely speak English. I’m sure glad there were no immigration laws stopping him from coming to the United States. I might not have had such a good doctor if he had stayed in China!
The countries of China and Taiwan may not be able to get along very well but at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown Stephanie from Taiwan was called on by my Chinese doctor to do some tests on my heart. When she told me her name I asked, “Is Stephanie your real name?” She replied, “No but it is easier for you to remember.” You’ve gotta love that attitude! I’m glad we didn’t stop the immigration process for folks from Taiwan due to fears that a terrorist might sneak in to the United States from that Asian country. If she had not be allowed to immigrate I might not have had such a great technician testing my heart.
One of my night nurses was a young guy named Sae who was a member of the Hmong people who had fought with the CIA in the illegal war in Laos during the Vietnam conflict. He shared his story of being born in a refugee camp and fleeing with his family to the United States in the 80’s. His family became farmers in California before his Dad went to a technical school to learn welding. His father who didn’t read English well brought the book work home so 3-year-old Sae could do the lessons for him. Sae is currently working on his second degree in medicine. I’m sure glad we didn’t shut down the Immigration and Naturalization System (INS) in the 80’s due to fears that an evil communist might sneak into the country from Asia and do us harm. If we had done that I might not have had such a great nurse caring for me.
Another night nurse was Sylvia who immigrated with her family to the United States from Syria when she was three years old. She loves to travel and we shared stories of our adventures around the world. She is heading for Scotland and Ireland this summer for the first time. (I asked her to raise a pint for me! She promised she would a couple of times.) I’m sure glad we didn’t shut down the INS twenty couple years ago because we were afraid a terrorist might sneak into the United States from Syria to do us harm. If we had done that I might not have had such a wonderful nurse giving me exceptional care.
The nurse whose servant heart most affected me was Rency. She immigrated from India with her family at the age of twelve. Rency comes from a family line of nurses and is an exceptional care giver. She cared for me like I was her own grandfather during the most critical portion of my recovery and I am forever grateful to her. I’m sure glad we didn’t shut down the INS fifteen years ago due to the fear that a terrorist might come from India. If we had done that I might not have had such a caring nurse watching over me.
My brother, Chuck and brother-in-law, Jeff (who had been My Jane’s chauffeurs during my hospital stay), brought My Jane and me home from the hospital for a celebration with cake decorated by the two of them. They don’t decorate cakes very often but they decorated this one with love overflowing.
Life is uncertain and scary stuff does happen! We can choose to live in fear of bad stuff happening always looking for someone evil to blame or attack. Or, we can choose to accept that life has positive and negative aspects while we make the best of each negative and celebrate each positive. As for me, I choose to cherish the gift of life that has been given to me by the One who has also created every other person sharing this earthly journey. There is only one eternal power who has created each human being from the same source of eternal love. Let us not allow fear to be our guide, for fear can only destroy. Let us celebrate, instead, our oneness in the creative love that overcomes all hate, fear, jealously and greed. That would be the greatest of all miracles. And, I believe in miracles.