Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Living Life With/ Living Life Without Week One: The Stroke

So, let's just begin this segment by saying that back in the day, I was the consummate wild child, much to damn near every one's dismay. I was given my first wake-up call as January turned into February 1995. A nice case of spinal meningitis landed my ever-partying self in the hospital. It was a far cry from fun. Between the headache, neck ache, and overall feeling of malaise, I had to suffer through a spinal tap. I would like to do my public duty by telling anyone who reads this, unmedicated childbirth is a much more comfortable experience. Just throwing that out there. 

I tried to get my act together once I was discharged from the hospital after a few days. I started working my ass off to finish up the high school diploma that I'd been putting off. I started thinking about going to college, majoring in biology or the like, in hopes of getting intro medical school, or maybe going into the Marine Corps.

That all went headlong out the window the night of February 22, 1995. I was at my parents' house, taking a bath, gleefully reading Rolling Stone. At the ripe old age of 19, I had a stroke. Thankfully, my mom has been a registered nurse longer than I've graced this planet. I lost consciousness as they loaded the gurney onto the back of the ambulance.

Before the stroke, I was very active. If I got upset about something, it wasn't unheard of for me to go to the YMCA to swim laps, or take a jog. I loved driving my little manual transmission Chevy Sprint all over the place. I danced with my girlfriends, partied like a mad woman, and was very much go, go, go. I wrote all the time, whether it be poetry or stories or endless pages of doodles. I could even draw passably well. That all changed that night.

I wasn't supposed to be able to talk again. Looking back, that is absolutely hysterical, as I was telling off the speech therapist within a few weeks. I had to re-learn to walk, and a good indicator of how tired I am or how much pain my right knee is in is by my limp. If all is well, it is very slight, only to become more pronounced with fatigue and/or pain. The right side of my face is still a little bit numb, but that's never an issue unless I'm eating something messy. The kicker of it all is my right hand. My shoulder is good, despite being out of socket the majority of the time (I have double jointed shoulders). As you make your way down my arm, however, it becomes more and more useless with every passing joint. 

I used to be right handed. I had to teach myself to do everything with my left hand. I actually write even better now than I did as a righty, and without the tell-tale ink smudges on the side of my hand. I type faster with my left than I used to with two hands. I can tie my shoes and a myriad of other things that I used to do. I can even pull Ryli's hair up into a ponytail or pig tails. I fix things around the house when they are broken, and I even hang things on the wall using hammer and nails.

I thought that my life was over for the longest time after I had the stroke. I had this huge list built up in my head of things that I would never do or have without my right side working. That led me to a lapse in judgment that led me to getting two of the biggest "I'll Never..." on my list scratched off as done before I made it to the 18 month mark post stroke; marriage and motherhood. I actually am thankful for that, though, because it wouldn't have made me into who I am today. 

Flash forward twenty years, and my life may not be perfect, and I may have taken some pretty brutal knocks along the way, but it is all made me into who I am today. I have five beautiful children and I still have a lot of life left in me. They sat that doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. It may not happen overnight, but in the end, it is the truth. I may have pretty much lost my once dominant right side, but I can do so much now that I used to take for granted. There are some things that I wish I could go back and change, but there are reasons to be equally glad that they happened the way that they did.