December 24, 2021
This is gonna be a hard one, y’all.
Oh trouble set me free
I have seen your face
And It’s too much too much for me
Oh trouble can’t you see
You’re eating my heart away
And there’s nothing much left to me
Dear Goddamn Diary;
On the morning of the 24th, excited about Christmas, I woke up and went out into the living room. Nervously, I mean, I was always still nervous that Tim could have another stroke. Or be dead on the couch when I got up. Or be paralyzed on the couch when I got up. But I was trying really, really, REALLY hard not to let any of that worry show.
So I was relieved to wake up and find him just waking up, getting off the couch and ready to take a shower and go to work for a few hours before coming home early for Christmas Eve Present Wrapping. For the first time in a few years, he’d actually ordered presents for people (as opposed to me getting presents from “both of us”) and while he hadn’t yet wrapped them, he was going to that evening.)That was maybe about 7 AM… I know this because I woke up specifically to fire the kiln, and I always start the kiln at 7 (mostly so I don’t have to change my alarm, first world problems, haha).
7:05 nothing much going on, getting coffee, hear Tim in the shower (it’s a mobile home, you can hear everything, everywhere).
7:25 come back to refill coffee in kitchen, can hear Tim turning off the water and shutting our very loud shower door.
7:35 I’m back in my office, other end of the house. Do I hear yelling? I get up and walk, reluctantly, towards the bedroom. I don’t hear Tim in the house. I stop in the living room, listening. You know how a house with nobody in it just… sounds different than a house with someone inside? I look out the front door, I look out the back door. What I heard was super muffled, I wonder if it came from next door. I start walking back to my office again. I’m not going to go searching for him, I’ve been on him like a hawk for three days, he is a grown-ass man and he doesn’t like me fussing over him so much. I need to trust. The doctors said he was fine to work and drive. I need to relax, I’m such a fucking stressball all the time. I mean, jeez, girl, give it a rest.
I hear yelling again.
I run to the bathroom, which, yes, the door is closed. But not locked. Not that I think I would have noticed if it had been, I would have gone right through it anyway. He’s in there, on the floor. One leg almost in his jeans, stuff from the edge of the bathtub scattered all over the floor. He must have hit the side of the tub on the way down (days later he had a large bruise there, so, yes). He has no expression on his face but he lifts his right arm up as if to say “help me up.” There’s no way I’m going to be able to help him up. I can tell he’s paralyzed on the left side, completely. This one isn’t going to be toss him in the car and head for the ER, this is a full-on “call a bus” moment. He waves his right arm at me again, and grunts, irritated. I pull on his arm, pulling him over about a foot, and say “see? I can’t help you up, I’m going to have to call an ambulance.” He just looks at me, no expression. “I’m going to my office to get my phone, and I’ll be right back. I know you can’t nod, I know you can’t talk, but I’m going to tell you everything I’m doing so you won’t be worried,” I say.
I run get my phone, run back to the bathroom so Tim can hear what I’m doing, and call 911. I explain what’s happening, where I live, and that GPS will probably lie to them at the end so this is where to turn. Is he breathing? Yes. Can he talk? No. Can he move? No. Is he bleeding or injured? No. They’ll be here in 20 minutes.
I look at Tim, put my phone down, and lean over and take his good hand. “I’m going to put on pants,” I said (I was wearing pj’s). “Then I’m going to move the dining room table so they can get a stretcher in here.” It looks like he’s trying to shake his head “no” but I’m not sure why. “I know you’re probably scared, and not sure what’s happening,” I said, “but I need to get that table out of the way for the paramedics. And I need to put on pants. I’m going to change, and I’ll come back in and check on you, and then I’ll go move the table. You won’t be alone for more than a minute. I’m here.” He let go of my hand.
I changed. I checked on Tim. I moved the table. I texted his brother Billy that he was having another stroke. I checked on Tim. I texted Jenn. I checked on Tim. I texted Denise and Tarrant, asking for a ride to whatever hospital we were going to… I didn’t think I could drive. I checked on Tim. I went outside to wave to the ambulance because I could see them at the end of the drive but they weren’t coming up.
Then there was about a 15 minute flurry of excitement while they got the stretcher in, got him on it, got him checked out. There was discussion of where to take him, and it was decided to take him to Shands instead of back to North Florida.
Denise came and got me, I was running around trying to pack anything I might need to stay in a hospital for… I don’t know, at least 24 hours? I cried the whole way in, on the drive. “It’s not that I want him to die,” I kept saying, “it’s just that if he’s paralyzed for life, if he’s unable to work, he’s going to want to die. It might be … kinder, for him, if that’s how it plays out. He might rather die than not be able to live like himself.”
When Denise dropped me off, all they were waiting for was my permission to do surgery. The clot was too big this time for TPA, they’d have to go in through the groin and pull it out. Did I give my OK for that? Well, duh, of course I do, do what you can to save him. Do the best you can to give him a good quality of life.
I’ve drunk your wine
You have made your world mine
So won’t you be fair
So won’t you be fair
I don’t want no more of you
So won’t you be kind to me
Just let me go where
I’ll have to go there
This was the emergency surgery waiting area. I only wound up staying there for about an hour, and then I was on to the waiting room outside of the ICU unit he’d be on, Neurological ICU.
I started to take notes and write text to the family. Eventually I compiled all my texts from the day and posted them on Facebook, after initial family notifications. This was one of the only times I didn’t edit for making it seem less bad than it was, between texting family and posting on Facebook.
Oh trouble move away
I have seen your face
And It’s too much for me today
Oh trouble can’t you see
You have made me a wreck
Now won’t you leave me in my misery
Well, this is not the best Christmas Eve Day I’ve ever had.
Tim has had another stroke. I am with him at Shands, but they’re not letting me into his room in ICU until his Covid test comes back, in another few hours (!!!).
I heard him yelling for me at about 7:45 this morning. I found him on the floor in the bathroom, he had clearly fallen while getting dressed. He was obviously in the process of having, or had just had, another stroke. This one was much worse. He was completely paralized on the left, and was having trouble speaking. Not just slurred, he couldn’t get to the words at all. I checked to make sure he was or wasn’t paralyzed, and when I saw he was, but that he was breathing, I called 911. They got out as fast as they could, in the 20 minutes I was guessing it would take. They brought him into Shands. My friend in town, Denise, drove me in. I held it together fine over the weekend, with his first stroke, but this was a lot more upsetting and I didn’t trust that I’d be good behind the wheel. Denise got me to Shands by about 9. When I got in (a story of itself, Shands is much more Covid-cautious than North Florida was – makes me wonder if they have some patients here with the omicron variant) they were waiting for me to give permission to get him surgery. He had a large clot on the right side that was not going to be responsive to another TPA, it was too big. I okayed his surgery, and they whisked him right in. The surgery only took about an hour, and the doctor said it went well. They removed the clot, his gaze is getting much better, although he still doesn’t have mobility. Like I said, though, they’re not letting me back into his room, so this is pretty much all I know at this point.
I will keep everyone posted. Obvs I don’t think we’ll make it for presents and lunch tomorrow, but if you’re all up for it you should definitely go ahead with plans.
No news, I’m still just sitting here in the waiting room. Oddly, a guy came down and sat across from me, then asked if I’d keep an eye on his coffee and gingerbread cookie while he went to the bathroom. I was like, “Ooo, are they going to do tricks?” and we started laughing and joking about the gingerbread man drinking all his coffee. Turns out the treats were for his wife, a nurse in the ICU who couldn’t come out to get them right now because she’d just gotten a new patient — possibly Tim? What would be the chances?! He had to get to work so another nurse ran out to get the treats, and he assured me that if it is his wife looking after my husband, he’s in good hands. He also asked if I’d mind him praying for us, and while I’ve never been religious, I do find gestures like that sweet when they come from a true place of love. Anyway… just wanted to check in and say… absolutely nothing is happening.
I accosted a poor nurse who came out to talk to someone else, and she went and got Tim’s nurse… who is… wait for it… GINGERBREAD COOKIE MAN’S WIFE! I practically feel like they’re family now, lol. She was very nice, very apologetic for not getting out sooner. She says that he’s doing well, as well as can be. He is awake, he knows who and where he is, what is happening, and he’s starting to regain his mobility (!!!). He can speak and answer questions. He knows that I’m out here, that I haven’t abandoned him. I will be allowed to go in as soon as his Covid tests come back. I suspect this is the hospital that has some omicron variant patients, and that’s why they’re being like this.
Overall I’m feeling better than I was half an hour ago, talking to his nurse helped. She says things are moving a little slower than normal (Christmas Eve! I forgot!) so he might not get an MRI until later this afternoon, or tonight. She was very appreciative that I told her he gets motion sickness very easily when lying straight back, so that he may need anti-nausia medication or to be sedated before his MRI. She says she’ll let his team know that I’m out here and am willing to answer any questions about everything that happened at North Florida this weekened. I also have his medications with me, and the notebook he was writing in about when he had headaches and what time he took what medications.
Hey, guess who doesn’t have Covid, so I’m allowed in his room?! He’s hungry, cranky, very tired, but he knows who he is, where he is, why he’s here, and he’s holding his phone with his left hand and scrolling through TikTok or Instagram or something.
He has not been assessed for swallowing yet, they can’t find anyone in the Speech department to come in – the few people who have not left for Christmas are either with other people or can’t be found, so it may actually be later tonight before he can eat. But he’s getting IV fluids, so even if he’s not getting cake and ice cream, he’s at least getting nutrition.
What else…? He’s moving both sides, the only weakness I can see is in his face, a little stiffness on the left side of his mouth when he smiles. He’s searching for words a little, but again, he’s very, very tired. He keeps trying to fall asleep, and then trying not to fall asleep so he doesn’t miss anything. Both I and his nurse encouraged him to take a nap just now, after she checked his vitals, because she’ll be back again in an hour to check – so he might as well sleep now for a bit. Right now he’s watching The Office through very, very closed eyes. For a second I thought he was cross, but I just realized he’s squinting at the TV because he doesn’t have his glasses on (I did bring them with me, along with his phone).
So, visitors — he is allowed two visitors at a time in the room, and four visitors total while he’s here. I’m one of them, so I’m going to kind of triage who gets to come in and see him. If anyone from his family comes down, for instance, they get visiting rights first and foremost. Visiting hours are pretty much 24/7, but you have to practically run a gauntlet to get in. Unless three of Tim’s family comes down, I’d like Jenn to be one of the four people — she’s practically Tim’s bonus wife. 😉
I think that’s all for right now. He’s stable, napping(ish), and there’s a couch in his room that folds out into a bed if I want to take a nap. I brought my laptop (although I phreaking forgot my mouse, AGAIN, so I have to use the touchpad and I haaaaaaaaaaaates it), I have snacks with me, and a charger for both our phones… So I guess now it’s just… sit and watch Tim sleeping through TV?
I’ve seen your eyes
And I can see death’s disguise
Hangin’ on me
Hangin’ on me
I’m beat I’m torn
Shattered and tossed and worn
Too shockin’ to see
Too shockin’ to see
How did I even get home that night? I’m pretty sure Jenn drove me home. I don’t remember if she came up to the room or met me downstairs… or even if I’m remembering it wrong. Fuck, maybe I walked home. I don’t even remember. The only thing I remember is thinking, all day, “this is it. This is where everything changes. It wasn’t a random stroke he can walk away from. Nothing is ever going to be the same, even if he has a near-full recovery. Everything is about to get very different, and I have to prepare for…. well, for anything. Anything from almost full recovery to months of rehab to full medical care at home for the rest of his life to partial recovery to death. Anything. Anything can happen and I have exactly zero control over this speeding train.
Oh trouble move from me
I have paid my debt
Now won’t you leave me in my misery
Oh trouble please be kind
I don’t want no fight
And I haven’t got a lot of time
Lyrics by Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)
Here. Have a bonus picture of the paperwork I filled out for his nurses on the floor.
One thought on “0”
As for that “getting to know me” paper – all true.
As for that night, yes, I did drive you home. FWIW, I can’t remember if I came up to the room either. I think I did, but maybe I’m remembering one of the other times I went up to Tim’s room. In any event, I drove you back out home, and we each had a cider while standing outside, looking at the stars, and talking about how everything had just changed some unknown amount and that there would almost certainly be no going back. And that no matter what, no matter the road, you would not be walking it alone.