Tuesday, May 08, 2012
A stroke of something
"You're not supposed to work here," the nurse just told me. "This is a hospital."
I'd just told her that, the longer I stayed here, the more I'd come to see her and her green-robed accomplices as little more than servants. I'd asked her for coffee--it's five a.m.
That's when she responded the way she did, tongue-in-cheek, because I am in a darkened room with the nothing more than a computer screen to light things up.
It'll soon be light out, but there's likely no better place to be oblivious to the outside world than a hospital. She's got that right. Somewhere out there, it's almost morning.
I'm here because on Sunday afternoon my right hand simply decided do its own thing. Suddenly it went where it wanted to go with no seeming prompt. Twilight-zonish. An odd kind of misty pallor came over me too, swamp-ish. I walked into the kitchen because I had the distinct feeling that something was way wrong, but I said nothing to my wife, who found my whacko silence more than passing strange.
In a few minutes, with the help of our neighbor (who wore a white shirt and shorts--I knew he was preaching somewhere), we were off to the Emergency, my dumb-ness enough to signal to my wife of forty years that all was not well. In the hospital, I staggered like a drunken sailor, took a bed in the ER, and then, for a couple of minutes, sort of lost track of where I was. My wife claims I was totally uncommunicative, even though I swear I remember much of what happened. I felt sort of like Melville's Bartleby--I simply wasn't interested in saying anything, even though I clearly was--and it was sort of cool--the absolute center of attention. Very strange.
It didn't take long and the local hospital teamed up, via big screen, with a regional hospital, where a doctor with a Dutch name (strange that I remember) made it very clear that I should be air-lifted to Sioux Falls. For an hour or so, I was perfectly mute about all of this until some nurse asks me a question and, for some weird reason, I decide to answer. Suddenly, my wife and daughter are thrilled, and the Sioux Falls doctor with the Dutch name says it was very kind of me to simply start yakking.
Nonetheless, off we go on a real Siouxland romp, my first ride in a helicopter, not all the high above ground I've photographed for years. I could see the Siouxland nicely, although I would have preferred our Tracker. I was strapped in like some GI from MASH, while my wife sat up front, co-pilot. For the life of me, I thought this odd little episode of my life was over--several times, I felt my right arm and it seemed once again my own.
A few tests later, and I was a place called "The Neuroscience Institute," where, once again, my right hand was doing zany things. I couldn't eat, couldn't write, and when I when my bladder clattered, my own right hand felt for all the world like someone else's. Very strange. Think of it this way--there was a two-second gap between command and execution, so that--sorry for the indelicacy--when peeing I had to check to see if it was the nurse helping me along. Nope. Just my weird hand.
Later, at three in the morning when, once again, duty called, this creepy uncontrollable hand, as well as the numbness that ran shoulder to thigh, seemed over. And it was. And it hasn't been back.
Today, Tuesday, I've got to learn how to do blood thinners because--and I'm told this in no uncertain terms--I'll be using them, as the Indian neurologist told me right off "FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE." Most everything he said was in upper-case.
I'm fine, but you can count me now among those of us who are now the victims of a stroke. I'm way too young.
On the other hand, it's poetic justice for escaping Vietnam. What got me out of the draft in 1970--at the height of the war--was a species of atrial fibrillation that, almost assuredly, led Sunday to that shameful right hand and the offending blood clots--tiny ones--that made their weary way to my brain. Now a-fib has come back to haunt me, as I always thought it would.
But the good news is, this morning, I'm a'goin' home. We hope. All's well that ends well.
I have been thinking about an old friend, Dr. Joel Nederhood, whose meditations my wife and I have been reading for some time, specifically one of them, where Nederhood says that he sometimes wonders how glibly we pass over the petitions of the Lord's prayer, specifically this one, "Thy will be done."
Ain't it so?--"thy will be done" is ultimate resignation to Divine Will. How many of us can actually say that?
But then like so much else here in this glorious creation, it's half a paradox, because "thy will be done" doesn't excuse me from blood thinners "FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE." "Thy will be done" includes the advice of a Bengali neurologist, who may or may not share the Lord's prayer.
If I want to keep my right hand my own, I've got to look out for myself too, which is to say, I guess, that His will has to be mine too.
And, after all, there is my wife of 40 years, who would just as soon my right hand stays mine too. And my daughter and son, and in-laws, and that granddaughter I remember seeing in Emergency on Sunday afternoon, tears coursing down both her cheeks.
Her will too, belongs to the Lord, who, I'd like to think, still may want my own right hand himself.
Anyway, soon enough, I'm going home. A hospital is a fine, antiseptic place, and nurses are simply wonderful. They're angels.
But I want to see the dawn.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:01 AM