EVERYONE has a story, and I am SO excited to share this story with you today. Let me introduce you to my friend Kate. She is an amazing mother (our sons are close friends), a talented photographer, and a very creative spirit. She was also shocked several years ago when she learned that she had suffered a stroke at only 41 years old. Today, Kate is thriving despite the ongoing challenges of stroke recovery. She is doing so well that she even wrote the first GUEST POST in Still Chasing Fireflies‘ “What It Feels Like” series where she recounts the days immediately following her stroke. I am SO GRATEFUL that Kate is kicking off this series on the last day of Stroke Awareness Month with a very important message, a message that just might save your life. Please share Kate’s post with everyone you love!
Kate’s self-portrait today
I hope Kate also inspires you to think about your own story. What is YOUR story? What moment in time will live with you forever? What experience have you had that others may not understand? Please consider sharing it with us!
Here is Kate’s story.
One of Kate’s brain scans
It was mid-morning, Friday, November 9, 2012. I was still wallowing under the sheets when the heavens slapped me with a streak of sunbeam on my face beckoning me to get up. I knew it was about time for me to get out of bed, but the sheets were warm and the sickness had been going on for 2 weeks then, transforming my once sanctuary of a bedroom into an infirmary. But soon the situation would change. I would no longer be living in ignorance because the mysterious affliction would be given a name. And the name would change me forever, kidnapping me from that bliss of an unconscious life to an overdue time of reckoning.
I had yet to feel the temperature outside that morning, but peeking through the window I saw the trees sway as the technicolor leaves danced in the wind, so I imagined it was crisp and cold. The sky was sunny and bright and inviting, so for all intents and purposes, the day should have been a fine day to be productive. But I was unable to rid the pounding in my head. No reason to get out of bed that morning, I argued, figuratively and literally. I had several real and invented problems at the time but the throbbing, stabbing, heavy head was not an invention.
The problem with my heavy head was that I had fallen down the stairs thirteen days prior and the accident left me with an extremely painful and lingering headache. I was told by an emergency doctor that I had sustained a concussion and the hospital sent me on my way with prescriptions for both a painkiller and a muscle relaxant. And so I waited for days for the headache to get better.
With no thematic movie music to signal that the moments ahead would be more exceptional than the moments before, my right arm inexplicably went limp and fell on the mattress. I looked at the right hand on my lap, so completely conspicuous from the left, and it had been rendered lifeless, spiritless, without sensation and feeling like nothing but a cold piece of meat. I picked up my wrist with my left hand and the fingers hung like dead, dangling tentacles.
In a desperate attempt, I violently shook my right arm with my left hand, trying to bring my right side back to life. How many minutes I violently shook it, I do not know. Five minutes? Ten minutes? 30? My memory is blotchy. Whatever the amount of time it was, the sensation finally came back, but it was not the same. My body was no longer one. I envisioned that it was cut right down the middle, connected only by faulty wiring. Even though my anxiety lessened, the moment was almost too much to bear.
And so later in the afternoon when my speech slurred, Eric read that a possible side effect from the muscle relaxant was slurred speech. It made total sense to us. So I continued to stay in bed, hardly interacting with anyone into the early evening until my stepson, Henry, came into my room to say goodbye. He was leaving for his mother’s house for the weekend and as he left he said, “You sound kind of strange.” He was annunciating something that I was already saying to myself.
Kate’s self-portrait a few months after the stroke
The evening came in quickly and all I wanted to do was sleep, so with no announcement to anyone, I slept. That night was the first night that I did not tuck my six-year-old son to bed. There were no kisses, no hugs, no I love yous, no alarm clocks, no clean teeth.
I have no idea what time I fell asleep that night.
The next morning, I got up very early and immediately showered. At that point, I still hadn’t mentioned the paralysis to anyone, including Eric. As I showered, the warm water stung my skin on my right side like prickles from a cactus. Suddenly, I felt a new sense of urgency. Suddenly, something was undoubtedly wrong.
Suddenly, fear gripped me.
Eric had woken and gone downstairs. After a quick shower, I grabbed my robe, went downstairs and met him at the kitchen table. I stood against it, grabbed a pen and tried to write something. The result was pure gibberish. I wasn’t able to put down anything logical, or even illogical, on the paper. Since last night I had already been suspicious about my ability to write because someone had texted me and I wasn’t able to text them back.
“I can’t write,” I slurred. “Something is wrong. I can’t write.”
Denial is a powerful thing.
At least I know what I’m scared of now. At least it has a name.
Kate (and Kate), using her story to help others
Kate would like to thank Eric Sorenson and Dawn Hosmer for their editorial assistance with this post. I would like to give Kate a HUGE thank you for sharing her story and for helping me to get this very exciting new adventure on the blog off to a powerful start! If you have a story (and you do) and you are interested in sharing, please reach out to me! You don’t have to be a writer to guest post. I can help you! Think about it!
You can read more about Kate and her journey on her personal blog, The House of Revelry, at http://thehouseofrevelry.blogspot.com.