December 18, 2021

December 18, 2021

Dear Goddamn Diary;

Pray God you can cope
I stand outside this woman’s work
This woman’s world
Ooh, it’s hard on the man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the father

Today felt like the longest day in the world (in retrospect, if I only knew then how many times in the next three months I was going to say that?). Here’s what I posted on Facebook, and actually not even until about the 20th, when I had time and bandwidth (again, if only I knew how many times I was going to say, in the next three months, how I had no time nor bandwidth).

Huh; as I get ready to copy/paste, I’m not sure how to do this. Write about what was actually happening first? Or put my Facebook post first? Or put the Facebook post but intersperse it with what was actually happening? I wish I could change font/typeface on these posts, and flip back and forth between what was happening and how I wrote about what was happening, but I don’t think there’s a way to do that that’s not going to bork up my website [ breaks for WP research ].

Here we go. I’ll intersperse, and I’ll try to mess with (but not mess up) the formatting so you can easily tell what I’m writing now vs what I was writing then….

On Saturday morning, my alarm went off at 7 AM to remind me to go and start the kiln. I got up, hit “start” on the coffee maker, and as Tim was already up, he said “I’m gonna go get in the shower” and I mumbled “I’m gonna go start the kiln”. He went into the bedroom, I went outside and over to the studio. On my way back, I took a lovely picture of the amazing sunrise to share with y’all, like I like to do.

Now, Tim was already up that early on a Saturday because he’d slept on his recliner the night before. And the night before that, and about the two or three nights before that. He’d been weirdly sick all week. He came home from work last Monday, with the strangest chills I’ve ever seen. For the rest of the week, then, he had a fever, or he didn’t have a fever, or he was hot, or he was cold. He absolutely could not regulate his body temperature. He wasn’t sleeping, he couldn’t concentrate, was it Covid? Was it another round of Diverticulitis? Was it the flu? He would either take the day off of work, and stay home sick, or he’d work most of the day and come home early and mope around, being sick. Did he want me to take him to a Doc in a Box? No, not yet. Did he want me to take him to the ER? No, not yet. Would he finally maybe get a Primary Care Physician, maybe see a GI Doc? Maybe. Every night I kind of half-joked, “OK, I’m going to get into pajamas now, unless you think there’s a chance I might need to drive you to the ER. No? OK, well, I’ll get into my pajamas then. But I won’t have any whiskey, just in case.”

This is where at the time I was writing this to post on Facebook, I didn’t want to get too much into why Tim was sleeping on the recliner (he said it was because he slept better there, snored less, was less congested, but who among us hasn’t thought, when faced with something like that, “maybe it’s me”?). I always thought it was me.

And I didn’t want to get too much into how irritated I was at how he’d been behaving while not feeling well, because, well, I didn’t want to seem heartless. In retrospect, looking at the three months after this, I don’t genuinely think anyone who watched me go through what I went through would think I was heartless, but… brain weasels never make any sense.

When I got back into the house, my coffee was ready. I poured a cup and decided, instead of going into the cat room, where my laptop was, I’d sit with my phone in the guest room and give Tulip a little attention. We’ve been having cat issues, so she’s isolated right now. I guess I was in there about half an hour, maybe less, when I heard Tim in the hallway, opening the cat room door. “I’m in here,” I called out, and he opened the guest room door. He looked… terrible. His little face was kind of screwed up, in a pained or irritated way, and he was standing funny. Had he tweaked his back in the shower? He looked at me like he was trying to speak, and something clicked in me. The way he was standing. How his face looked. “Are we going to the ER?” I asked. “Uhhhhrrrr,” he said, out of one side of his face. He flapped his left arm, like a bird with a broken wing. “Ifink ah hrrrrrrr,” he said. Have you seen Peter Boyle dance in Young Frankenstein? It looked remarkably like that, but much less funny. Fuck. He’s having a stroke.

All of a sudden, everything was divided into two columns in my head. Shit that mattered, and shit that didn’t. What didn’t matter? Well, everything that wasn’t getting him to a hospital, really. That we’d been arguing. That I had been feeling unsupported and as if I were a constant irritation to him. That we had a family matter that seemed impossible to be on the same page about and it was causing stress on our relationship. What did matter? Getting him medical help as fast as possible. Being there for him during a medical crisis. Making sure that if this situation spiraled out of control, that I was here to hold him together, and that eventually I’d have people to hold me together, however this played out. Step One, though? Medical help.

He can walk? OK. But he’s stubborn. I have to be pretty authoritative or he’s going to argue with me, and so help me god if he argues with me I will knock him unconscious and tie him to the roof of my car like a Christmas tree. “OK, honey, I want you to get in the car. I’m going to get some pants on (I was still in my pajamas) and I will meet you out there.” Went to the bathroom. Changed. Hair in ponytail. Got my phone, charger, wallet, knitting, water. Don’t forget a jacket, I told myself. Texted my friend Jenn to tell her what was happening (and felt really bad about just busting out with it and not having time to be all “hey, so, I have some bad news” first). Totally forgot the jacket. Got out to the car.

My brain immediately flipped back into “get to hospital mode” that I was always low-level ready for last year with Heath. I didn’t even really have to think about what to bring, it all just fell into place like a sad old habit. Except for forgetting the jacket, haha. Turns out I was so hyped up, so adrenaline-filled, that I didn’t need a jacket, I was radiating heat. I was like a small sun.

The TV in Tim’s little ER “room,” after we transferred to North Florida but before he got an actual room, had something seriously wrong with the Closed Captioning. My mind started to wander and for a moment I had a second of “am I the one having a stroke? I can’t even make those captions out at all….”

I knew I wanted to take him to Starke. Shands ER was going to be at least a 40 minute drive, and North Florida would be 45-50. The ER in Starke would be 20. (Why didn’t I call an ambulance? Because it would take an ambulance a good 20 to get to me, then get him stabilized to drive, then another 20 to the Starke ER — I didn’t feel like we had those extra minutes. I was fine to drive — I get very focused in a crisis, and tend to not fall apart for quite a number of days after. He wasn’t bleeding, he wasn’t convulsing, he wasn’t having any symptoms that would cause me to try to have to do any sort of CPR while driving, so I made a judgement call. Everyone – EVERYONE – at the hospital told me that I 100% did the right thing. They were all extremely supportive of my decision.) They were all, also, at the Starke ER, basically just waiting for someone like us to walk in. There was nobody else in the ER. We walked right in and went straight back. They listened to his symptoms – he was talking a bit better although very slurred, and weak on one side. They agreed it was “stroke-like symptoms” and asked us if we’d like to start on TPA (tissue plasminogen activator). It’s kind of like… Drano, for blood. If given soon enough, during an ischemic stroke, it can reopen blocked arteries, reducing the severity of the symptoms. Science! It’s fucking magic!

This was just the start of months of consulting Doctor Google and my medical-field friends, trying to learn and understand complex things so that I could interpret and explain complex things to the people who care about Tim. It was now my job to be the bridge, the conduit between Tim and everyone. I didn’t know how long it was going to take, how far this journey would go or down what path it would lead, but I had to be …. ready. Ready for anything to happen. Ready to hear anything. Ready to take care of anything. Ready to get through anything. I suspected it was going to be tiring, but … whoooooo boy. I didn’t know the half of it.

So, so far, we have a lot of really, amazingly lucky things going for us. He came to find me. I knew what was happening. Neither of us panicked. We got to the hospital where they were able to see us right away, they believed us, they had the right treatment, there was nobody else there and we basically had the entire ER staff helping us (they were all very excited to use the TPA). And more luck? They had recently been bought by North Florida Regional Medical Center, so they were able to give Tim a really fun lights-and-sirens ambulance ride to a bigger hospital, bypassing intake since he’d already checked into the Starke ER, essentially a satellite ER.

I decided, when following them to the ER, I should stop at home first. The original panic, “GET THIS SHIT TAKEN CARE OF” adrenaline was wearing off, and I needed some food, wanted my jacket just in case, and needed to figure out how to tell Tim’s family. I didn’t want to be That Person who posts about a medical emergency on Facebook without calling important people first so they could hear it from me…. but I also didn’t really know anything yet.

I wasn’t planning on posting ANYTHING to Facebook until I reached his parents and siblings, my mother, and my aunt and uncle. I also didn’t plan on posting anything on Facebook until we had some Answers. All we knew so far? He was reacting well to the TPA. They were getting him to a larger hospital. Even if he had another stroke in the ambulance, he’d at least… be in an ambulance. There wouldn’t be anything I could try to do because that part was out of my hands. Now my responsibility was to… the long-term care, not the short-term. That included taking care of me so I could take care of him, and notifying the family. But who to call first?

I mean, my first, gut reaction to something like this is “call my dad.” But my dad isn’t around. Call Tim’s dad? What if Linda was the one that answered the phone? I wasn’t going to call, chat with Linda, and then ask to talk to Bill and tell him first. Also, I … I needed to talk to someone who could be … I hesitate to say “impartial” but I mean, someone who wouldn’t lose their shit, because then I’d lose my shit. Not that anyone in Tim’s immediate family is a “lose your shit” kind of person – good lord, they’re practically all of them first responders. But Tim’s mom is about the sweetest person that I’ve ever met, and I was afraid that if I spoke to her, although she’d be frightened for Tim, she might ask about me first, and how I’m dealing… I didn’t know how I was, and didn’t want to talk to someone I’d feel safe enough to cry around, to do it. So. First responders. Billy. I’ll call Billy first. He’ll be able to put on his paramedic hat immediately, even if he’s not at work, will stay calm, which will keep me calm, and he’ll be able to tell me how I should notify the rest of the family. Bless him, he offered to tell the rest of the family, so that I could focus on Tim. I spent the rest of the day texting back and forth with him, telling him what the doctors were telling me, and he told the rest of the family.

I was going to have to follow behind, so since our house was on the way, I decided to stop and get breakfast to eat in the car, my jacket, and to take a moment to text Tim’s brother, Billy. Billy is a paramedic, and I knew that in talking to him about it, I’d be able to keep my shit together. I texted him to find out if the number I had was still a good number (yes) and to let him know that Tim was having a medical emergency, and I needed advice on when was a good time to let his parents know (immediately). I admit it, I quaked at the thought of calling Tim’s mom. I love, love, love Linda, but I knew that if I heard her voice, I’d fall apart. And I couldn’t afford to fall apart. Billy, amazing man that he is, took point and became my funnel, my wingman. I communicated to him, the rest of the day, and he communicated to that entire rest of the family. Bless him. That took so much off of me, I can’t even tell you. I absolutely love everyone in Tim’s family — they are a blessing, each and every one of them.

I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I should be crying but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping but I can’t stop thinking
Of all the things I should’ve said
That I never said
All the things we should’ve done
Though we never did
All the things I should’ve given
But I didn’t
Oh, darling, make it go
Make it go away

I was assessing Tim for the entire 18 minute car ride from our house to the ER in Starke. Is he having new symptoms. How is is vision. How is his breathing. How does his heartrate feel. Tap my leg once for yes, twice for no. Is he losing or regaining any feelings or abilities. Does he have a headache. Can he move his arm or hand. He was typing on his phone, since he couldn’t talk, phone resting on the hand he couldn’t use much and typing with one finger from his other hand…. I joked that he’d better by damn be writing down how awesome his wife was. This is what he wrote –

The rest of the day was a lot of sitting around and waiting. Waiting to move to a room, waiting for me to be let into his room, waiting to see what the doctors might say. Honestly, I don’t remember much more of that day other than being exhausted, Jenn bringing us dinner from Chopstix, and then eventually being home. And this post is already close to 3500 words, so if I look at my photos and notes from that day and remember lots of things to add, this will be heading into RIDICULOUSLY LONG territory.

So, let’s see….. onset of symptoms around 7:35. In the car by 7:50. At the ER by 8:10. TPA started by 8:30. Then we were on the road to North Florida by about 9. I got to the ER in G’ville by a little after 10, and we were in the ER until we could get a room in the ICU, close to 4 PM. Covid is a risk but he was still allowed two visitors in the room at the same time, so absolutely bless Jenn for bringing us dinner from Chopstix! Can’t say the staff wasn’t jealous, haha.

Since then we’ve been in the ICU. He had to stay there for 24 hours, under observation, because of the TPA, which can cause bleeding. But after that he could be moved to a regular room for another 24 hours (except they didn’t have an open room – I haven’t mentioned how absolutely insane it was at North Florida, so crazy busy – so we were supposed to be moved yesterday, a couple of times… but he’s still there as of me writing this).

I’ll skip most of the hospital stuff — this is already long, and I’m sure you can all imagine anyway. Let’s just get to the end result, the diagnosis. Tim, who can never do anything half-assed, had two small strokes at the same time. I KNOW. I was like, MY DUDE. THIS IS NOT A HOSPITAL BINGO CARD GAME YOU ARE TRYING TO WIN, NO EXTRA POINTS FOR MULTIPLES. He had a small stroke on both the right AND the left side, which is relatively unusual; we had some answers yesterday and we’re undergoing some more tests later today to try to get to the bottom of all of that. But the important thing is that the TPA did it’s magic, that we got to it in time to get the TPA, and that Tim is so goddamn lucky right now I can’t even contain the enormity of it. He could be paralyzed. He could be unable to speak. He could be paralyzed FOR LIFE. And instead, he’s up there, reading a book, listening to some podcasts, complaining about the hospital food and wanting to just be home already, and making an entire new host of bad jokes.

I will say one more thing about that day – Newt was hella mad at me for not bringing her daddy back with me when I got home. Usually she face-plants into me and purrs and drools – I can’t tell you how many time she’s woken me up, drooling into my ear or onto my chin. But no. Not that night. She wouldn’t even give me smooches.

Oh, and one more thing about the day. This day, December 18th, would have been my dad’s 80th birthday. I’ve missed his calm presence and his unshakable faith in me a lot in the last twenty years, but really… never more so than then.

Give me these moments back
Give them back to me
Give me that little kiss
Give me your
I know you have a little (hand) life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I should be crying but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping but I can’t stop thinking

Lyrics to This Woman’s Work
Kate Bush

Like a journal, these posts are a place for me to be more honest about what was happening than I was on Facebook, or Caring Bridge, at that time. Some people already know some of this, some don’t. Everything expressed here are my opinions, my feelings, my emotions, my truth, and should be taken as such (and so should not be taken personally). This is going to be as open and honest as I can make it, and some of it may be unintentionally hurtful, raw, or hard to read. You’re not required to read, or comment on, any of this. 

5 thoughts on “0

  1. (((((BIG HUG)))))
    SO familiar. Yet so different. I felt I was writing some of this, from inside your head & inside your heart. You were more fortunate than I was to have the kind of support group you have around you. Bless them all.
    Don’t get me wrong, I had support but it was after the fact & just what I needed. What you went through for 3 months was different, more intense, but condensed usually is.
    Keep writing about it. You are doing so well.

  2. I was referred to your blog by Kristin Annis as I’m currently going through this with my husband. We’re in day 15 in the ICU and I am completely lost. I both look forward to reading the rest.. and not.

    1. I’m so sorry this is something you’re going through. If you ever need anyone to vent to? I know we don’t know each other, but boy howdy… if I can be here for you to talk to, like other people were there for me….? Really. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

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