Fried brains, anyone?

Somewhere between November 8-12, 2018, I had a stroke. On the 8th, it was the last time I donated blood and dude (Randy) had all sorts of troubles getting my bag to fill; I was plugged in for around an hour with him pushing the needle in deeper, wiggling it around, pulling it out slightly, pumping the blood pressure cup up till my arm turned white and the entire thing tingled and fell asleep – all before he finally went to get a supervisor to check me. She immediately released some of the pressure from the BP cup and pulled the needle out quite a bit and my blood flowed like normal. Meanwhile, Randy played with his red tennis shoes and pants cuffs and talked with other workers. The supervisor kept calling him to come over and finish me.. another worker came over and tried to fill the blood vials needed to accompany a bag of blood and he said in a horrified tone, “Your blood is clotting.” He apologized and said the only way the bag would be good, is if he poked me in my other arm to fill the vials. I told him to do it, don’t throw my bag away after what I’d just put up with to donate. See, for the first time ever, it hurt to donate and made me feel real dizzy and thirsty, and well, odd. There had been this strange burbling (like gurgling and bubbling at the same time) in the arm I’d donated from. My daughter said I was as white as a sheet, too. I had to actually lean on her a bit, to walk out of there. The poor fellow that had finished me and repoked me for the vials, had been shaking like a leaf – he left a tiny bruise and still caused less pain or bruising than Randy had. All I can say is, to me, my body did not feel right. I pushed liquids all evening (it was around 2:30 when I left from donating) and ate two donuts to build up my sugar.

My arm from just above the elbow down, was white for several hours and slightly numb, even after shaking the arm and consistently moving the fingers. It was painful, too. Other than that, I didn’t look different, although my daughter said I “acted” a bit off… personally, I think I was just lost in my head, introspection-mode. And I suspect hindsight on her part, as well. I know I had been beating myself up internally for not entering NaNoWriMo and having a writer’s block with my current novel. There were other little things that were kind of stressing me, but nothing major. More like slightly harsher daily stresses, if that makes sense. By the 11th, my arm was finally back to feeling almost normal, it still kind of hurt when I bent it at the elbow for too long but the color was completely normal and the bruising didn’t get nearly as bad as I expected, concentrating itself to one spot about the size of a quarter with a small area of ‘feathering’. I was still taking my dogs out several times a night, although I was cutting them off earlier in the evening for them with our last time outside around 1a.m. instead of all night long. We had had a few cold nights and I was feeling them.

Somewhere between 11p.m. on the 12th and 1a.m. on the 13th, I recall I started talking funny, with a slur. It was noticeable enough that even Luna looked at me oddly with the head tilting thing going on. Around 6a.m. Springy came out to borrow a set of keys from me and apparently the way I was talking to her, scared the shit out of her and she ran and got Bill. I let her take me to the hospital and I was eventually admitted with the diagnosis of a stroke. I talked slowly with a noticeable slur, but the brain still connected the dots – so to speak. In other words, I still knew what things were and what words meant, could walk and eat and all that other stuff. Suddenly I had nurses treating me like I was an infant and whispering dementia… I finally told one “Fuck you and your dementia claim, I think very well thankyouverymuch.” After testing, they said I had a tiny spot on my frontal lobe but that area isn’t usually associated with speech; one doctor said I had a bit of a blockage in my right carotid artery that would require a surgical fix but this little hospital wasn’t equipped to handle it. She then took Springy aside and said a large artery in the brain was over 90% blocked and I’d require brain surgery. Scared the shit out of my pregnant daughter and treated me like I didn’t have a working brain. She insisted to Springy that I had a history of untreated high blood pressure – before this incident the only time I had high blood pressure was during pregnancies and it was monitored but not pharmaceutically treated – even on the 8th the Red Cross took my BP and stated it was 128/83, not high in any way. Granted it was high in the hospital, but apparently they didn’t factor in 1) I was scared, and 2) I was exhausted going on no sleep.

They scheduled a transfer to Emory, a hospital known for its exemplary brain treatments; the ambulance arrived around midnight or so. I joked with the paramedic and EMT, got onto the gurney myself, etc. They took my vitals as soon as they loaded me on the van, 128/93 and figured it was a failure of their equipment (which is why they arrived so late to get me, I’d been waiting since7p.m.) but I was calm and felt like I was finally in capable hands… so I think it was an accurate reading, actually. I got to Emory around 3a.m. and my vitals were higher although I cannot recall the numbers. My nurse said they were understandable since I was again going on no sleep and up moving around a bit; so they let me sleep until morning rounds began at 7a.m. I brought up the Red Cross incident to a few nurses and doctors; they listened but the vascular doctor explained if a clot had formed it would have hit my lungs. Made sense, but I wasn’t looking for a reason for the clot that settled on my frontal lobe. I accepted it was related to over 45 years of smoking. See, by this time they had explained – after further testing – the blockage and narrowed artery was somewhere in between my right shoulder and carotid in my neck. And my right shoulder is partially why I’m on the disability list… living in a litigious society, I think the MD’s were wondering if my questions were because I wanted to sue Randy from the Red Cross. Nope. Not at all, actually, it was simply the writer in me doing research and wanting answers – which was a good thing, I was thinking creatively! The doctors are guessing (until they can visualize with a scope) that my right arm and brain have been fighting over the blood supply to that main artery that goes into the brain, for quite sometime… perhaps since the late 80’s when I had my right shoulder acromioplasty. All of my internal odd feelings at the blood drive, I wonder if it was my own body screaming at me, “Give that back, we need it!” And then the brain essentially said, “Fuck you, shutting down for a rest.” And I had a stroke.

So I have to have a surgical procedure on December 4th, the scope and hopefully a stent to correct the narrowed artery; I’m on some meds, too. Updates, later… until then, I am so outtieā€¦.