One of the stories that I continue to think about is when my 15 year old walked into the room where I was lying. I looked at her and couldn’t say anything. I knew who she was. All I could do was point at her. The bed was elevated. She entered at the foot. With my arm straight out, I pointed at her. “You’re the man” style. Being 15 she pointed back as she navigated the crowded space around to my right side. The two nurses were on my left side where there was only room for them. As the 15 year old moved to my side tears poured down my face and she said “You’re going to be alright. It will be alright. Why are you crying?”
I had all kinds of thoughts in my head, including the realization that my father had died when I was 15 and that someone -ME, I – needed to grab that kid and hold her tight and tell her everything would be okay. Someone needed to reassure her. And I had no ability to get words, real words, out of my mouth, they were are garbled, hard to understand, mush words, at best. I so wanted her to know I loved her and I couldn’t say it. And the tears poured down my face.
I managed to breathe deeply and focus very hard to force out “I don’t know.” She was holding my hand and began to stroke my hair which made me cry more because I knew I should be doing that for her, comforting her instead of her comforting me, and she squeezed my hand 1,2,3 like when she was little “I-Love-You” and I squeezed back 1-2-3-4 “I-Love-You-Too.” Later she told me I had forgotten how to count because I squeezed four times. I had to remind her it meant “I love you, too.”
Before they started the IV with the “clot buster” medicine I had to sign the consent form. There is a brutal speech about how it may kill you. I had the pen in hand and the neurologist stopped me signing the form, made me look him in the eye to make sure I understood what they were saying to me. What real choice did I have? When I signed my usual scrawl was just an up an down squiggle that any 3 year old could have made. It only reinforced the decision to “sign.”
They told me to let them know if I got a headache as the medicine was going in. I did. They stopped the medicine to do another CAT scan. It allowed them to continue but at a slower pace. Later the neurologist told me that the scans allowed him to see the clot that was in the area that controls words dissolve. I would be fine. It would take time but I would be fine.
And he said my 15 year is amazing. We had been in the ER the Saturday evening before the stroke so she knew my medicine list. On the day of my stoke, when I had no words, she explained everything to the doctors who needed the information calmly like she did it everyday. He was knocked over by her grace under pressure.
Much later when I was telling the story to someone in her hearing she said, “Have you met me? I’m a preacher’s kid. I don’t fall apart.”
And I said, “Well, not for that.”
“Yeah, not for that, then.”