Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The flight and my stay at UNC...

I had never been in a helicopter before...always wanted to go up in one, but this was not the way I had pictured it happening. I vaguely remember hearing the doctors, my husband, and parents talking about another hospital, but I was so out of it that I didn't understand what they were talking about. All I was concerned about was water. I was so thirsty and all I wanted was something to drink, but I was having trouble communicating that. A kind nurse kept bringing me water once she and my husband figured out what I wanted. My husband later told me that the nurse was not supposed to give me anything, because they didn't know when and if they would have to operate and nothing could be in my stomach. The nurse gave it to me anyway, because they didn't think I would survive the night. That is ALWAYS wonderful to hear. Thank god my husband told me that long after I was out of the hospital!!!

I don't exactly remember when the helicopter paramedics came into my room,  but I remeber being put on a VERY narrow stretcher and being belted down. I kissed my husband goodbye and felt confusion take over my body. I was so scared, because I didn't understand why I was being wheeled into any elevator, why was I on the roof, and why I was being lifted in to the helicopter? I remember the paramedic trying to talk to me, but giving up and talking to the pilot when I couldn't answer him. I had on headphones to block out the loud noise, but my head was so sore, so all the headphones did was put more pressure on my head. I have no idea how long I was in the helicopter, but it felt like hours.

Once we arrived at UNC, I looked for my husband and he was nowhere to be found. Now I was really scared. Where was I? Where was my family? What was going on? I was surrounded by a bunch of nurses who were all talking, I guess they were trying to explain what was going on, but I couldn't understand them. As they talked, they hooked me up to machines, inserted needles into my arm, and applied pads to my chest, so they could monitor my breathing, pulse, and heart rate. All the nurses were very nice to me, they kept smiling. After they were finished I was wheeled into another area for a CT scan, which confirmed that the swelling/ fluid build up in my brain had increased and caused a hemorrhage. The radiologist suggested I have an MRI, MRA, and MRV to determine how large the edema was. Later that day I had all the tests done. I was petrified, because I am claustrophobic. The thought of being placed in a large, loud box scared the hell out of me.The doctor prescribed something for me to take and the radiologist gave me a ball to squeeze if I couldn't take being in the machine any longer. Knowing I was able to get out if I needed to was all I needed to feel safe and I was fine for the rest of the tests. The tests revealed I had a hemorrhage and a blood clot. There was no midline shift, which meant that my brain was very swollen.

By the time most of the tests were over my husband had arrived from Virginia. I was very happy to see him as he was to see me. I slept most of that night. The next day, I woke up with whaat sounded like a loud screeching sound in my ear. I couldn't hear anything my husband or the nurse was saying to me. The screeching was too loud. The doctor ordered another test, which revealed nothing had changed, which was good., but bad in the sense we didn't know what had caused the screeching sound.

Later that day my brother and mother had driven down to UNC to visit me. My husband decided to leave for a little break. Pick up some more clothes, get something to eat, and just relax for a few hours without having to worry about me. My family stayed for about an hour. I was so excited to see them and try and talk to them, but it was very frustrating at the same time, because half way through a thought I would forget what I was saying or I would forget how to say the word. One of the strange things about the type of stroke I had was that I couldn't remember how to say words, but I could spell them correctly if I was able to write them down. While my brother and mother were visiting a friend and her husband came down to UNC to visit me as well. Shortly after my friend arrived my mother and brother left because they were afraid it would overstimulate me to try to have a conversation with four people. My friends stayed for about an hour or so, because I kept struggling to stay awake while they were there. I never realized how much energy it takes to carry on a conversation. Not too long after they left my husband came back. A little while later my sister called to talk to me, which was really frustating because I was so tired from all my visitors that I really had trouble rememebering how to form sentences or even thoughts. After a few minutes of trying to talk to my sister I broke down crying from pure frustation and my husband had to finish the conversation with my sister.

Later that day my cousin, who I hadn't seen in a few years, stopped by. I was so excited to see her. My husband decided to leave for a "smoke break", so we could catch up.  My cousin was doing most of the talking, while I listened. I liked this type of conversation, because I could just smile and nod. I didn't feel stupid or handicapped. Unfortunately that was short lived...Not too long after my cousin arrived I began to have trouble hearing. I didn't think much of it at first, when I wasn't able to hear her that well, but after a few minutes I felt deaf. I started to panic. My poor cousin didn't know what to do. So she ran to the nurses station to get help. When the nurse and my cousin came back I tried to explain that I couldn't hear, but of course that sentence didn't want to come out of my mouth!!! After what felt like eons, the nurse got in conatct with a doctor. Just about that time, my poor husband walked back into the room. Imagine his horror at the sight of me freaking out and my cousin not knowing what to do???  The doctor decided to schedule an EEG, which ruled out another stroke but leaned toward a possible seizure. The doctor decided to place me on Keppra.

I don't remember much from the next couple of days other than speaking with a speech pathologist and physical therapist. It wasn't until the fourth day that I was there that I realized I was "locked" in the stroke unit. I hadn't been allowed to walk around, because of the stroke and seizure. They were afraid I might have another seizure, bang my head on something, and perhaps cause more injury to my brain.  The only way I could walk was if I leaned on my husband or went with the physical therapist. I was horrified when I realized they thought I might leave the stroke unit and had locked me in. Looking back now, I realize it was in my best interest, but back then I was pissed. How dare they "lock" me in there!

Each day, I looked forward to seeing my nurses and "student doctors". The student doctors would come in with the attending doctor and ask me questions or ask me to perform tasks....What is your name? What city do you live in? Who is the president?  Can you repeat this sentence? Can you repeat this number pattern? Can you shrug your shoulders? Can you stand on your left foot? The first few days I was in the hospital , I would cry because I couldn't do the tasks or answer many of the questions. I would apologize profusely. They were always so nice about it. I could tell they really cared. I was never able to answer all their questions, but the tasks did get easier to do. The doctors recommended physical therapy and speech therapy on release from the hospital.

On my last day at the hospital, the nurses came in to say goodbye. They were so sweet. They told me that they didn't want me to leave because I was such a nice patient. I took that as a compliment and will be forever thankful to UNC for helping me on the road to recovery.  The only negative thing I can think of to say about UNC was that the discharge nurse gave me verbal instructons for what I needed to do once I was released from the hospital, perhaps forgetting that I had just had a stroke a week earlier. Luckily, my husband came back in time to ask her to repeat herself again, so he could listen to the instructions and remember them. Home sweet home, here we come....