Strokes are serious, don’t ignore the signs — Part 2

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Oct 132021

This is the second part of a column about the strokes I suffered back in 2009 (In real time)

October 12, 2009

On that day, 12 years ago, I wrote: “It looks like I have more damage to my brain. The latest MRI shows new damage to the parietal lobe. probably happened when I had a bad headache for 6 consecutive days. DAMMIT! Anyone want to go to Maine for a week? Not too bright to go by myself, but it’s the ONLY REAL vacation I’ll have all year!”
{NOTE: It was the last vacation I EVER had.)
A week later, on Oct. 18,  I went back to Yale for a follow-up. The doctor told me that I was fine and YES, I certainly could go to Maine by myself, nothing was going to happen. The following morning, bright and early, I drove up to Maine and settled in, grabbing my camera for foliage photos in all of my favorite areas.
On the first two days I woke up early for the most magnificent sunrises in the world from the top of Cadillac Mountain.
On the third day of vacation, I decided to mark some personal uncharted territory and drove inland. I didn’t see any moose, which was my quest, but the scenery was beautiful. While out there in unfamiliar surroundings I began to feel dizzy and ill. I looked at my photos in the camera’s screen and they were all blurry. I began to yawn, but could not complete it — an all too familiar sign. I was having another stroke.
The GPS I owned at the time was not fully charged and it didnt work if it was plugged in. I had no idea where I was and I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to get back to the vacation home on Mount Desert Island (The part of Maine where Bar Harbor is located)
I took a deep breath and made a request. “Dad, I need help,” I said aloud. My father had passed away several years ago, but I could always feel his presence around me, especially when I was in trouble. “Please help me get back to the house.”
I started to drive and it was as if he took the wheel. I don’t know how much time had passed, but before I knew it, I was back on the Island and from there I could navigate to the house.

Facebook was a useful tool back in those days. I put a shout-out on my page and friends and acquaintances immediately chimed in. A dispatcher from the Woodbridge (CT) Police Department offered to call 9-1-1 for me, but I told him I’d do it myself, I’d be fine.

I called 9-1-1, and within a few minutes, an ambulance pulled up. I thought I’d just go to the hospital, get checked out and come back to the house — which is what happened at the New Haven area hospital. I left the computer on the table along with my camera and after assuring the Paramedic that I, Indeed was the patient, I climbed into the back of the ambulance for a very short ride to the tiny Mount Desert Island Hospital.

Real Hospitals Go Above And Beyond

The ER doctor took my complaint of an unfinished yawn and stabbing headache very seriously, and decided to keep me there for a while. Since I didn’t have my computer or any way to communicate with the outside world, the hospital landline became my lifeline and my friend Kathleen became my voice back home in CT, relaying all of the updates as they unfolded, through Facebook.

The nurse went out of her way working with my doctor to find a medication that would relieve my headache. For the first time in days, I could relax and sleep without crying from the pain.

My hospital stay lasted for nearly a week, and I felt respected and cared for. A therapy dog  — a golden retriever – came in one day and made me feel so much better. I was missing my Baron every day and getting a “Golden fix” helped ease the loneliness.

By day 5, the wonderful doctors and nurses fought with the insurance company to get coverage for an MRI and MRA, even though I had just had an MRI in New Haven less than a week earlier.

The hospital was small and did not have room for a permanent radiology department. The nearest machine was a mobile unit kept inside a tractor trailer that traveled around the state. On Saturday, it happened to be on site in the hospital parking lot. The nurse brought me outside in a wheelchair and I was able to enjoy the fall colors and crisp cool air the the first time in days. I sat on a platform that lifted me into the trailer.

The procedures took a while and quite some time after they were done, the nurse informed me that they didn’t have anyone who could read the films on a weekend. BUT since it was nighttime in Maine, it was early morning in Australia, they e-mailed all of the images halfway around the world, where professionals with fresh eyes could read the films and relay what the problem was inside my head.

What they found was astounding — my artery had collapsed and there was minimal blood flow going to all the critical areas of my brain. They said I had to get back to CT immediately where I could see a neurologist for treatment. But they told me in no uncertain terms that I could NOT drive myself back home.

Ashley and my daughter after rescuing me with my ex from Maine.

My daughter rallied my ex-husband and Ashley, a former newspaper intern to take the trip to Maine and drive me back home. They arrived on what would have been my 19th wedding anniversary (Oct. 25) had I not gotten divorced.

I felt terrible that we didn’t have time to see any of the sights or enjoy a fresh seafood dinner while they were there, but all of the restaurants closed by the time I was checked out.

My ex and daughter drove back home in his car, Ashley and I followed in my CRV.

Come back NEXT month for what happened next.