Its been nearly a week. I've been consumed. I've wanted to write. I've been staring at the vast blankness of the lines in my journal, which follow the line that reads, "I want to write about it." Even with all the constant chatter of my mind, words will not appear on the page; this is the first time that I've been able to make them appear on screen. I've come to the realization that I am traumatized. Upon realizing that my episodes of lightheadedness were the result of subconsciously not breathing for long periods of time, I further realized that I am now under post traumatic stress.
It was right after Monday night's dinner. I had whipped up a dish, compliments of a few extra things that my grandmother sent home with us the week before. Satisfied with the outcome, I did as I always do, and gave my grandmother a call to tell her all about it. I had tried calling her earlier in the day and had gotten no response. Her 17 year old picked up that evening. I waited, hearing bits and pieces, as she told me to hold while she got back to the call she was simultaneously handling on her cell.
When I asked if my grandmother was at home, she was surprised that I hadn't "heard". "I guess mama had a stroke. Dad says she's in the hospital." I didn't even really know how to process that information. It was after 6 in the evening. She said that my grandfather told her that it happened earlier in the afternoon. She didn't know what hospital she was in, just the city. At that moment, I believe I went into autopilot. I called the only hospital I was familiar with in that city, finding out that she wasn't there. I got a hold of a nurse at the next hospital who was tending to her, only to be told that she could not give me any information due to confidentiality, and then the call dropped. I could feel the worry starting to build in that moment. I had no idea what my grandmother's condition was, I had literally just found out that she'd been in a hospital half the day, and now I'd have to call back, and try to get reconnected with the person that couldn't tell me anything.
I called one of my aunts. She was at the hospital. Without gaining much information, I got dressed and took Emma to a friend's house. About a mile from the hospital, I was stopped by the passenger side of an SUV when the driver made a left hand turn out of bad judgment. So, there I was, still on autopilot, comforting a shaken boy who looked like he couldn't have been older than 21 as he called his dad to tell him what had happened. Having to have a family member come pick me up from my car, I finally made it to the hospital, where my grandmother was in an emergency room, hooked up to blood pressure, heart monitoring, and IV machines. Her speech was evident that she had had a stroke, but I was glad to see that she was awake and still had a sense of humor.
It was the run down of the events surrounding the stroke, which has brought me into this state of internal panic. Myself, two aunts, a cousin and my grandfather filled the emergency room with a collective of my grandmother's medical and family history. We went over living wills and DNRs and everything that must be known, "just in case". When it came to the first signs of stroke, my grandfather took the lead in informing the doctor of my grandmother's behaviors. I never, ever expected to hear him say that the signs were evident two days before, on Saturday evening. The needle may as well have scratched the record. We all, including the doctor, stood, mouths and minds agape, trying desperately to understand and comprehend what we'd just all learned. Apparently, my grandmother had slurred speech and was showing signs of weakness on her right side on Saturday afternoon. My grandfather stated, since he's had 4 strokes, he recognized what was happening and asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital, and her reply was no. So, he didn't take her. "I watched her", he said. I could have died right then and there. I could not believe what I was hearing. My grandfather finally brought my grandmother into the hospital because "it was getting worse". She says that everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.
I was with her the night before (Sunday) and didn't notice anything that sent alarm. She nor he mentioned anything about difficulties speaking or walking. She had seemed to be moving around the house a little slower than usual, but since she told me that she had not gotten much rest the night before, I didn't find her being tired to be out of place. I now know that she hadn't gotten much sleep the night before because she was suffering from a bad headache, pain in one of her arms, and such. We had dinner, watched a movie - she revealed that she in fact was still having trouble with her words, but that it wouldn't have been evident to me at that time because we weren't talking, we were watching a movie. I'm still in disbelieve, and having a really, really hard time with these facts. Its unbelievable to me that someone who has had 4 strokes, and admitted to knowing what was happening at the first signs, would also admit that he did nothing until the situation got worse. When it comes to a condition affecting the brain, time matters. You have to act in the moment to save a life. You don't wait and watch for the person to fall dead! And you sure as hell don't sit around with your hand in your ass as parts of the person's brain is subjected to damage!
She's home now and I'm afraid. She'll be going through physical therapy to retrain the parts of her brain that have been affected, and to regain strength on her right side. Its hard to watch her working vigorously to open things. Its hard to hear her speak. Its hard to know that she could have died, not just because she was stricken, but because the person around her didn't move his ass and get help right away, even though he was very sure of what was happening. I'm afraid that he will act in the same way if something else happens. What if she has another stroke that isn't a mild one? What if he doesn't get help in time? Why did the both of them treat this thing like it was just another day of not feeling the best? I still don't understand, especially because we've all been here before.
As I listened to what my grandfather was saying, and saw my grandmother struggling to perform the tasks the doctor was asking her to perform, all I could think about was my mother. She died at the age of 37 because she had a stroke and didn't get medical attention in time. She'd had a stroke in bed. When a "friend" came over, she thought that my mother's slurred speech was drunkenness. So, she left my mother alone, in her bed, as her brain started to die. My great-grandmother and I found her the next day when my great-grandmother had trouble getting in touch with her. She was taken to the hospital where she went into a coma, had to be placed on life support, and died. Having experienced this once, I can't believe I could have had to experience that again... I guess, I did experience this again, I've been reliving it, unable to speak with my grandparents about the danger that their silence caused, unable to express just how much I've been affected, how much her children have been affected by this. Its truly an overwhelming occurrence.
Now that I am fully aware of where I am, I can now take the steps of properly working through this.