This was an issue I wanted to run away from but, I couldn’t run.
The issue I’m referring to began in July of 2014. I was in the midst of baseball season and spent a lot of time away from home playing baseball, fishing and hanging out with friends. Unknown to me at the time, all was about to come to a screeching halt.
I woke up on July 17th, 2014, and it was an average July day: hot, humid and had a little breeze. I rolled out of bed about seven in the morning, took a shower, brushed my teeth, and met my mom outside at the car. I was to have surgery that day to have my tonsils taken out. We made it to the Medical Associates Surgery Center, parked the car, walked inside, went to the receptionist desk, got checked in, and sat down. We patiently waited for the nurse to come out and call my name.
As I started to doze off, I heard the nurse with her raspy voice come out and yell, “We're ready for you.” Reluctantly, I walked through the door and into a rather large room that had a bunch of machines in it. I already was kind of scared to do this because I had never had a surgery before, and I had a gut feeling that something was going to go wrong. The nurse handed me a gown to change into and then told me to lay on the bed when I was done. They would be in too get me anytime. As I laid there I had a million thoughts going through my mind, “What if something went wrong,” “What are they doing to me again,” “If I say I don’t want to do this, do I have to?” Time passed I started to become less worried and thought about how much ice cream and popsicles I was going to get to eat afterwards.
About 30 minutes after the nurse left, she as well as one other nurse came in and rolled me into the procedure room where I was met by the Anesthesiologist. He then went through everything he was going to do and how everything was going to be just fine. After that, everything was a blur until I woke up back in the room that I originally had been taken from. When I woke up I cried. Why you may ask? To this day I have no idea why or what I was crying about.
I ended up going home that night and slept until right around noon the next day. My mom said that I was acting different, but she just attributed it to the fact that I had my tonsils taken out. After eight days and nothing had changed and a few other things that weren’t normal started to happen, we went to Mercy North in Clinton. We were there maybe 5 minutes, and I was transferred out to the University of Iowa Hospital by ambulance.
When I arrived there I was taken straight from the Ambulance. to an MRI machine and then to a cat scan machine. I was then placed into a room to wait. I was hooked up to all kinds of machines and was left there for hours until a doctor finally came into the room and asked my mom to step outside with him for a second. I remember the door shutting and hearing my mom break down into tears. My mom came back into the room tears running down her face and dripping down on to the floor. She sat down next to me and put her hand on top of mine. At that point everything stopped. I knew what was going to come next wasn’t going to be good, but what I heard next I wasn’t ready for.
The words came out of my mom’s mouth very slowly. “The doctors think you had a stroke.” Not quite knowing what a stroke was or what implications it was going to have on my life I said “Umm, okay, what’s the big deal with that?” By then nurses had come into the room to transfer me to another part of the hospital: to a room that I would become very familiar with over the next several days. Once I was up to my new room, they started to hook me up to all my monitors which was a strenuous task especially since I was deathly afraid of any sort of needle going into my body.
Once I got settled in and everything hooked up my mom and I sat alone in the room, completely silent. Neither of us had any idea what to say. As a mother she had never dealt with anything like this, as or myself, my brain just wasn’t functioning so I couldn’t think of the words to say. My mom broke the silence when she said “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. We’re going to get through this one way or another.” I really didn’t think about that at the time, but now today I see how true that really is.
As the days went along more and more family members and friends trickled through my room to visit. I couldn’t say much, but it was a great feeling to have them there to support me. However as the days went on, my symptoms started to get worse. I couldn’t walk without a walker or support from somebody. I couldn’t use my right hand to pick up anything at all, and it was to the point to where nobody could understand what I was saying. The doctors realized this and started doing more blood tests, sleep test and all kinds of tests to see if there was another reason why I was getting worse rather than better.
My third day in the hospital, they started me on physical, speech, and occupational therapy. I did each of them for two hours a day six days a week. At first I didn’t want help. I was pushing away everyone who tried to help, and I wasn’t trying during my therapy sessions. I was told I could go home when I could walk down the hallway without any assistance at all. That’s when I started to try. Not because I thought I was going to get better, but because I wanted to go home where I thought things were going to be different. I’d get to go home, never have another needle in my arm, or never have to go to another therapy session. I thought life was going to be so much easier at home, but what I didn’t realize is how many more issues I’d have to deal with at home.
It was a long process, but finally after 13 days in that “stupid” hospital room, I got to leave. I felt so free in my life, after being trapped in the hospital with their disgusting overpriced food, their scratchy wool blankets, and the smell of insulin everywhere. I was able to walk outside to the fresh air and to be able to move as I please without having to worry about pulling out any needles or tubes. It was all in all a great day when we got to the car, exited the parking garage, and went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse.
We got home later that night and went straight to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I was faced with the realization that now I had to do it myself. No one was there to help me with every single thing I did. My mom had to go back to work, so it was just my brothers and I of course, they weren’t going to help me with anything.
After five days of struggling, I decided I couldn’t live like I was. I needed to do something to make not only my life easier but also the people around me lives better as well. Three days later I started all my therapy again at comprehensive rehab in Clinton. I was there Monday through Friday. Three hours a day I did one hour of speech, one hour of physical therapy, and one hour of occupational therapy. The first month of therapy I didn’t see any improvement at all which was very disheartening. That lead to me going in to a very dark place that I never saw coming. I stopped talking to everyone around me, and when I did, I was a jerk. I stopped going to therapy and didn’t really see a purpose in anything. I felt like a waste of space because I couldn’t do anything on my own. I felt like a nuisance to my family and everyone around me. My mom noticed that something wasn’t right about how I was acting and decided to take me to a counselor. Let me tell you, that didn’t go over well. She didn’t understand at the time that if I didn’t want to talk about what was going on with my family, why would I talk with a person I didn’t even know.
However mom forced me to go, and I went in to therapy with a bad attitude. Now that I look back on it, I really shouldn’t of. The first few times I went, I was just annoyed the whole time and didn’t want to be there, but then I started to warm up to the idea of talking to this random guy about what I was feeling. That’s when I started to feel better about myself and having people help me get better. To this day, I still talk to him occasionally, and I know if I ever need someone to talk to he’s there. After about a month break, I finally went back but with a better attitude this time. I was told from the beginning that I wasn’t going to get better overnight and that to see improvement I was going to have to go in there every day with a good attitude.
After about two weeks, I was seeing improvements in just about every part of me that was affected besides my walking. After talking to my parents about what would be best for me, my physical therapist decided that I needed to have a brace on my leg that would keep my foot from dragging. At first my parents were hesitant because they thought it’d make me stick out like a sore thumb, but after some convincing they obliged. The brace was the most awful looking thing I had ever seen it was a weird whitish color, had two velcro straps across it and it went all the way up to my knee. All of a sudden I seen why my parents questioned it. After talking to my parents I decided I’d just wear it and completely to my surprise it helped a lot, it taught me how to use some of the muscles in my foot again as well as the movement my leg had to make to not drag it across the ground.
After five months with the leg brace and continuous therapy, I felt like I was completely back to who I was before my stroke. I felt as if I could finally fit in with my friends again and go back to what I was doing before everything went downhill. I could walk for a continuous amount without my leg brace and without a support. I could talk without slurring my words, as well as being able to use my right hand well enough to write a sentence without my hand getting tired and do normal everyday things. There was still work that needed to be done but I got my therapy cut down to once a week as well.
Almost two years after I had the stroke I was cleared for all activities besides anything that involved a lot of contact like football because the front of my brain still to this day is swollen. I was cleared to play baseball again, as well as I could drive. As I sit and think about it now it was a great learning experience for me in many ways. It helped me grow as a person and by that I mean it made me grow up and take responsibility for stuff a lot faster than I would of. I also learned that there is always a group of people that no matter what you go through or what you put them through they will always be there for you. Lastly it showed me not to take anything in life for granted, and that nothing in my life is guaranteed so when something happens that makes me happy I need to cherish it and not take advantage that it’s there because it could all be gone in the blink of an eye.