Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 2nd One -- Part I -- Back Again

Marty and I had developed a really bad habit of eating supper in the living room while watching the somewhat inane but funny television show "Everybody Loves Raymond". It was our 30th wedding anniversary and we were celebrating in the emotionally and physically fatigued manner befitting the end of the holidays. We were just getting over a long trip to Dalhart, Texas and Angel Fire, New Mexico.

We had celebrated Christmas, Marty's mother's 80th birthday and snow skied in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It was an epic voyage and an appropriate celebration of Marty's survival from her ruptured aneurysm. It had not been a particularly relaxing return trip out of the mountains and to Waco so celebrating wasn't on anyone’s priority list. Rest and relaxation with mind numbing comedy seemed to be the best way to celebrate this anniversary.

We had been to the doctor that day to see Great and Wise because Marty just didn't feel well and I was worried and anxious, a condition which had become all too familiar. Marty had been having vague symptoms of something, I just didn't know what, it is really hard to explain, I just felt like things weren't right. The good doctor checked Marty over and said she seemed okay but her blood pressure was a bit elevated. We settled in for our fabulous supper of grilled chicken and I felt a bit better just being relaxed in our home.

We finished eating in peace, silently. Marty was to my right in a large recliner, I glanced at her, then I looked again as I saw her slumping to her left. Marty's face was slack, contorted, drooping in a way that could only be one thing. She was drooling just a bit from the left side of her mouth and she tried to talk but couldn't. She had a look of confusion, but confusion mixed with terror. She intuitively knew what was happening, but didn't, all at the same time. On a scale of worst moments in our life, it was at the top, we both knew it was another stroke.

I took the empty plate from her lap, the food gone. I called 911 and tried to tell the person on the other end of the phone what was happening as calmly as I could. I simply could not believe I was standing there, asking for emergency help while the beautiful brain of my wife was starved for blood. Police arrived first; they do that in our community, quickly followed by an ambulance.

Marty began to revive a little as the EMT's did their thing, taking blood pressure, checking oxygen saturation levels, asking Marty questions, asking me questions, looking at her eyes, listening to her heart, all while she sat slumped in her chair. The slack in her face began to slowly recede and Marty began to recover a bit. I was afraid, confused, angry, anxious and probably on the verge of exploding. It's what I wanted to do, just blow up, blood, guts, and soft tissue everywhere, paint the walls of our house.

There was no question we were headed back to the emergency room at Providence Hospital. I just wanted them to hurry. They gently loaded Marty onto the gurney and rolled her out of the house. I had seen this before, I hated seeing it again. I had lived 50 years without seeing anyone I loved being put into an ambulance. Now it was happening again. I watched as they loaded Marty into the back and closed the doors. I stood outside of the ambulance watching through the windows in the doors as they hooked Marty up to IVs and locked her gurney into place. For a brief moment I thought I would just open the doors, push the EMT’s aside, unhook my wife and leave. I wanted, I needed control, I had none.

The upside of going to the ER in an ambulance with stroke symptoms is you get seen quickly. There really aren’t any down sides. They had Marty in an exam room with a doctor by the time I got there. It's a short trip from our house, less than 10 minutes, and in that time I called both of our children and Sue, one of our Persons (see earlier post).

The ER doc immediately ordered a series of tests, most importantly a CAT scan. Marty could no lover have MRI's because of the metal clip in her brain, so a CAT scan would be the most definite test to identify a stroke. Because Marty had previously experienced a cerebral hemorrhage the docs really did not want to give her blood thinners or clot busters. We were really kind of caught between a rock and a hard place; the best treatments for strokes were not really available to us.

Marty symptoms kind of waxed and waned while she was in the exam room. One minute she could still move her left arm and left leg and she was completely lucid. In some ways, at some moments, I could hear and see shadows of Marty before the first stroke. She was funny, she was sarcastic, she was cracking wise and she was trying to entertain. At other moments you could see the classic stroke effects, her face drooped, she was confused, her left side was limp, and her speech was slurred. The doctors, including Great and Wise who made a dash to the hospital, were fairly certain it was a stroke, but the CAT scan did not show bleeding (good), but it also did not show any signs of a stroke, yet.

Marty was stable, it was clear we were dealing with another catastrophic event, but she was stable. After several hours we were joined by Matt, Erin and Sarah, all making mad dashes from their parts of Texas to be with their Mom. It was another case where we just didn’t know, we just really didn’t know what was going to happen next.

They moved Marty to the Intensive Care Unit at Providence. We went to ICU as a precaution and because there were no other rooms available. Just so you know, the first of the year is a particularly sucky time to year to go into the hospital, it's much too crowded.

I went with Marty to the ICU and the nurse there promised me, swore to me she would personally care for Marty and watch over her all night. By this time it was about 3 in the morning. My children and I once again left Marty, once again we went home to try and sleep, once again I looked at my wife and hoped and prayed I would see her again. It’s hard leaving.

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