Skip to main content


                                “The Day of the Stroke”
                  (Or, "Unstuck In Time". Remember what I said about linear.)

By five o'clock of that first day, I felt... let's see... wrung out? Nah. Hit by a semi? Eh. Stomped on by adolescent bull elephants? Not even close.

I felt as if I'd been stuck in a human-sized blender, set on “frappe”, poured into a Blue Angels F-16 piloted by a guy whose wife had just left him for the pimply-faced grocery boy. THEN I was expected to “entertain” his relatives (it was his home town, recall; the home town we'd moved to from Los Angeles and NOT ONE relative had bothered to so much as call to welcome him him back, much less over for dinner, lunch, a hot pocket, nothing) who had showed up at the ICU when their work day was over.

I was, as they say, one hot mess. Which is, I suppose, relevant to why I wanted to slap his 66 year old Aunt across the face so hard she would actually SHUT THE FUCK UP. It does NOT explain why I lost my best friend of over 24 years. (Chapter 9.2.)

Details? Here they come.

Along about 2 p.m.  a slender Asian man came to Kimit's ICU cubicle, and motioned for me to come out of the cubicle and join him. I came out, and saw him sitting at the nursing station. (Guess what? He was sitting in the only chair! Which meant he was... A doctor, give yourself a nickle.) Again, he motioned for me to come over; I should have stayed in the relative safety of the cubicle, because Dr. I Have No Idea What His Name Is Because He Never Introduced Himself so let's call him Dr. A (no, not for “asian” but that would fit. Not that I'm a racist but... [that'll make much more sense and actually be funnier in a later chapter]).

What Dr. A had in his hands was an X-ray., from the MRI of Kimit's head: Dr. A pointed to the left hemisphere, right along the division of the sides, and I hoped, I reeeeeeeeeally hoped, that someone had accidentally set a cup of coffee down on the X-ray because if that image was the image of the actual  damage I was... well, this close to completely insane anyway, so why not just jump off the precipice? If an X-ray like this wasn't a good enough reason to lose all rationality, nothing was.

So, I was in free fall when Dr. A said, “This is the photo of the leakage, you can see here, yes? It is hemmorhagic stroke,  rare. You see?” He looked up as if he expected me to clap hands and cry “Yay, Dr. A! You successfully took a picture of my husband's EXTREMELY DAMAGED BRAIN!! Wahoo!!”

But... wait... just a second... Leakage? “Leakage?? What's 'leakage'?”? I asked Dr. A. He told me, so quietly it was as if we were in a house of worship, or a library (Let's go with library.  The other one is too scary. Hah. More scary!! JUST what I needed!): “You see, yes? Your husband has had a hemorrhagic stroke, and that means he has burst a blood vessel, and that is why he cannot move his right side and blipter burgle carpal tunnel twing twang walla walla bing bang.”

The bees were back (and they were rhyming!) but only until I heard this: “.... and it is my opinion that he will never walk again.”

Blink. Blink blink. I straightened up. I looked around. The nursing staff was all, and I mean all, looking at me and Dr. A. I made my decision, and bent down so that my lips were nearly in Dr. A's ear canal. I whispered in the smallest voice I can muster (and people who know me know that when I am utterly, absolutely, completely livid with rage, I get very very quiet):

“Your opinion is unacceptable, and if I ever see you near my husband again I will make sure that you will beg all the gods that are or ever were or ever shall be for a much quicker exit from this life than I shall arrange for you. Have I made myself clear?”

Aaaaand... he ran away. No, really. Dropped the chart, the X-ray and he vamoosed. And I never saw him again.

This was but the first of many such incidents in this journey, and it is 100 per cent true.  I scared a lot of doctors. And RN's. And nursing assistants, phlebotomists, food service, housekeeping staff and a great many of them never came back; they daren't, as no one could be sure that I wouldn't make good on that promise to make them beg for the peace of Valhalla or Heaven or Margie's Wash&Fluff. And when's the last time you read 'daren't'? I didn't think so.

It was a very good supposition on their parts. I'm from L.A.. My Dad was from  Brooklyn. We took shit from NO ONE.

However, for purposes of full disclosure, I had neither the connections or nerve to actually have someone eaten from the feet up by dingoes.

I just had to make them think I did.

All the RN's knew was that I'd said something to make Dr. A flee but I had no time for their curiosity. I needed to be back in the cubicle. I needed to be holding my husband's left hand. The good one, on the good side, the side with feeling. The side near the huge window.

The“Bink!” machine carried on “bink!”ing, and slowly, slowly his BP was coming down. It was still in the area of  “DO NOT DROP SO MUCH AS A TEASPOON, PLEASE!” else he be jarred into another stroke,  but it was crawling downwards. Three hours passed. The nurses tiptoed by us. I don't think I took my eyes off the “Bink!” machine for the entire time. Wait, no, I did: I noted that one of his IV's was occluded (blocked), popped out to the desk and told the charge nurse, 'His (whatever medicine, I don't recall now, but I sure as hell did then) line is occluded, fix it, now, please, no, not at change of shift, now” and I went back into the cubicle.

A nurse came into the cubicle within 60 seconds. The line was occluded, and I presume that she cleared it with heparin or saline or sardine oil, I don't know, but I saw that the IV line from one of the 5 bags to his arm was now running like a top, so I returned to staring at the “Bink!” machine.

Then: Martha came back. It flitted through my mind that I had had no idea where she'd been, but it was like everything else: only Kimit mattered. She could have been having lunch and dinner or smoking or playing bocci ball on the big lawn where the statue of St. Francis stood (I am a Jew, but I figure if a Catholic hospital has a statue of a guy, and the guy is covered with birds, it's the animal saint). I didn't know nor care. But there she was. It was around 6 p.m. I went on clenching K's left hand, and listening to the binker machine. She said something; I don't know what.

She repeated it, in that hectoring tone middle school teachers get when a particular student is having a creative moment, which of course needed to be quashed with a well timed hectoring comment, and this time she got my attention. “Sam, what are you doing, eating his arm?”

“What?” I asked.

She said, “You should go down to the waiting area, they have a TV and recliners, try to get a few minutes of sleep. You won't do him any good if you get sick, or too tired.”

Martha was being nice.

Boy, did that put me on high alert. I waited for it: It, you know, the other shoe.

I didn't have to wait long.

She said,. “You know, now that I think about it (oh, fuck, here it comes, my brain said), you shouldn't lean back in one of those, because I wouldn't be able to haul your big  butt out of it!”

Right on cue. And then she smiled. Hands waving like insane doves, she chivvied me out from the left side of my husband, and shooed me out of the cubicle. “Oh, Sam,” she said to my face, which must have looked exactly like you think it would look if someone said something like that to you and your spouse was lying in a bed in the Intensive Care Unit.

“I was just kidding,” she smirked. “Go on,  get some rest, you look terrible!”

I swear that this woman could have taught “Counting Coup” to the Apache. I walked out of the cubicle and down the hall, through some doors, and to the waiting room.

They didn't call it “Family Waiting Room” for nothing. There were twenty or more people there.

And five of them belonged to Kimit's family. Two aunts, a cousin, a woman I did not know, and the guy whose name I only knew as “Milton”, who'd driven them all here. (That was Milton's only job, I think. He was "Aunt Dodo's" boyfriend, which would have been funny if they made support hose for scrotums. They waved me over to where they sat, in incredibly uncomfortable chairs around a tiny coffee table.

They wanted details. By now, most of you should know that I was A) utterly terrified, B) completely terrified and C) really, really terrified. And tired.

But, before I could say more than a few words, which were something like “Stroke. This morning. I...”  that's when K's youngest Aunt, who was about 66  (“Aunt Dodo”, and yes, I picked this nom de moron for that particular purpose), interrupted nearly immediately to give a speech about her gingivitis surgery six months ago and “Oh, the pain! I was in SO much PAIN, thank God for Milton, he came and made my meals and the surgery, goodness, it was just SO painful, I can't even begin to tell you...”

And that's when my brain detached, and allowed me to have a lovely flight of fancy: I imagined that I stood up, stepped over the tiny coffee table and smacked Dodo so hard across the face that she actually shut the fuck up.

But no, I let her go on and on about her rotten gums and her diseased gall bladder and the hammertoe restructuring and her deviated septum and her dry skin and hemorrhoids and blah blah blah.

I realized that no one was even looking at me.

I got up and left. I went back to the cubicle. Everything was okay, Kimit's machines were all pa-dinging and Martha was gone. I didn't care where, all I cared about was that I went to Kimit's left side, which is where I needed to be.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I must say, I really, really, REALLY admire (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    your restraint.  My mouth has a tendency to become unguarded by my brain when I'm stressed, and some exceptionally harsh (but truthful!) things come out.  Both "Martha" and "Aunt Dodo" (actually, there are places where women actually have names like "Dodo," and "Oodie", can you believe it?) would have been treated to some very unvarnished truths about their complete lack of empathy, sympathy, and common courtesy.

    However, I would like to award you the "Best Thing Ever Said to a Doctor with the Beside Manner of an Overripe Grapefruit".   And again, I would TOTALLY have helped you hide the body AND given you an alibi.  (I'm pretty sure I worked with Dr. A - or at least, his twin brother - and I swear they have to take a class in how to be an unfeeling asshole.)

    Keep writing!

  •  can't thank you enough for this, I may be living (0+ / 0-)

    it sometime in the future. My DH's darling father had (I think?) an anomalous venous growth on his brain go blooie. He was talking on the phone to one of his daughters when "something feels funny", and then no response. She got there in about 10 minutes and found him unconscious on the floor. He lingered for about 3 days, nothing to be done, Canadian best medical care, until the nearest kids took the decision. We couldn't get there quickly enough, from 2 states away. No flying, and DH was too ill to drive. Very difficult.

    Nobody had any idea any such thing was lurking, no signs or symptoms, just completely out of the blue. So, who knows what's in my husband's future. Or my son's. sigh.

    It's easier to think about when you have an example before you, so thanks so much. I look forward to future installments.

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 12:24:21 AM PDT

  •  You Guys (0+ / 0-)

    Okay, this is the second shot at a comment from me (Kos ate my last one. Just gobbled it up. No idea where it went. I have to remember to cut and paste before posting.)

    I cannot find words adequate to tell you all how buoyed I am by your words. I am also so very, very sorry about those of you who are going through like experiences with loved ones now.

    It's insane. But, ha ha, in a chapter not too far off (I have to get Chapter 9.2 out soon), Martha will be the object of an EXTREMELY public smackdown by me, and good old Dodo will... well,  you'll see it when it comes.'

    But it is good, so very good, that my cathartisizing (yes, I make up words all the time) all over the place might be making others feel  better about what's happening to you, too.

    (And thanks for the help, enufisenuf, I really might need your services.)

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site