From the emergency room we made our way to the critical care unit. After my baby/man son led us in prayer, he and his youngest sister left, and I was there alone with my husband. The night was filled with CT scans, MRI’s and progress checks done regularly and frequently. Initially I was so encouraged. He seemed after the TPA to gain movement in his arm and leg. I thought, “this isn’t so bad we should be home soon!” But as the night progressed I noticed with each visit of the nurse the improvement slowed, and waned, and started to flow in the wrong direction until by morning he was unable to move his left side at all. Did they think they were sparing me by not telling me that this would happen? Did they think it was merciful to let me cling to a hope that had no foundation? “The brain is swelling” they told me. “We wont know for sure for a few days” they said. They knew. I know they knew. I wish they had told me. Maybe I wouldn’t have listened. But I wish they had told me. One nurse said, “It was a pretty massive stroke. The TPA probably saved his life.” One nurse took the time to put a check on my unfounded hopes.
I sat in the uncomfortable chair and leaned my head onto his bed and let the tears roll down my face. He slept. At some point the nurse came in and asked us all those myriad of questions about our lives – his life. I learned things I did not know. He is allergic to codeine. He knew he had an irregular heart beat, had been experiencing side effects for a while. I didn’t know. How did I not know? And then they asked did he have an advanced directive. I said no, that we would want reasonable measures taken. Strokeman turned to me when she left and said, “If I have another stroke, don’t resuscitate me.” I could not make any promises at that point. Don’t worry, the funny stuff is coming – just give me a minute.
The rules of visitation in CCU prompted me to leave to go out to the waiting room the next day while Strokeman appeared to be resting well. I was visiting with a friend (code for sobbing uncontrollably while she held me), when our daughter number two, Faith, walked in. Since it was now time for the next round of visitation I told her I would make sure he was “decent” so that she could go in a see him. When I walked into his room I noticed he had a shiner. Yes, he had a black eye. It was on his left side, and I was trying to determine whether this was a latent stroke side affect, or maybe a result of our slide to the floor in the ER, when he informed me that he had fallen and that our daughter had come in and found him. I asked how he had fallen and he said he had thought he could walk and had tried to go to the bathroom. Sure enough, the nurses confirmed that this indeed had happened. I went back out to the waiting room and said to Faith, “I didn’t know you had already been in to see your dad,” to which she replied, “I haven’t been back there yet, mom, he is confused.” So when I went back in and asked Strokeman why he thought Faith had been there, he said, “Because when I fell I heard her come in and say, ‘Oh shit’.” Now, as you might remember, we home schooled our three youngest children, and while we are not far enough out of the norm to warrant our own reality show, we did have a certain level of behavior that was expected of our children. We frowned on foul language, and I even tried to help them understand that to use slang is to be unimaginative and lacking in class. (Those lessons about clean language have kind of gone out the window since then and none of us are above this accusation having some merit anymore.) All that is to say that when Faith asserted that she had never used that word in front of her father, I believed her. But somehow, when the nurse or aid allowed this exclamation to escape her lips, it was imbedded in Strokeman’s mind that his daughter was there cussing his fall. And let me tell you, no amount of truth telling was going to change his mind. “Well, I know she was here!” he said, and that settled it. Some day I will manage to put into words a lovely little essay on how this is a parallel of our lives. We think we see things so clearly, but when we see Christ face to face, we will realize how fooled we were by our own limited brains. For now, that is all I can muster. You must extrapolate for yourselves.
So the upshot of this episode was that I was provided with a more comfortable (or should I say less uncomfortable – this was no Lazyboy!) recliner. And any extra meals that came to CCU were brought in for me to eat. The powers that be were suddenly not all that keen on me keeping stringent visiting rules. Thus started my “occupation hospital” that was to last for the next month. There was a nurse there in CCU who talked Strokeman into letting me go to a nearby friend’s house to shower a time or two while she sat in his room, but it was with great reluctance on his part. There were two things at work here: 1. Strokeman had a terrible fear of dying alone in the hospital as his dad had done some years ago. 2. Strokeman’s modesty and privacy was enhanced exponentially by the stroke, and he was wanting no part in anyone besides me bathing him or helping him pee. I figure if he could just give birth in a room full of nurses and a doctor he would get right over that, but alas, this was not to be. I kept thinking all through his hospital stay that he would get used to other people taking care of him, but instead, I got used to doing the patient techs’ job for them. Score one for Strokeman.