Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, January 9, 2012

ONE OF THOSE LIFE-CHANGING MOMENTS THAT WE WOULD, ALL OF US, JUST AS SOON AVOID

It was Christmas morning - for us, a Sunday morning pretty much like any other - when She Who Must Be Obeyed handed me the phone, a worried expression in her eyes. It was my brother - The Other Elisson - on the line. Not much to be concerned about... except my brother almost never calls us up on a Sunday morning.

“Dad’s had a stroke.”

Ohh, shit.

“It’s not life-threatening, but he’s paralyzed on his left side.”

Shit, shit, shit.

I flashed back to the last time I had gotten a similar phone call. That had been nearly twelve years ago, when Dad had had his heart attack. He had been in the midst of a racquetball game - a regular activity - when, without warning, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Lucky for him he was playing with a retired fire chief who knew how to administer CPR until the paramedics arrived with their jumper cables. They revived him and got him to the hospital, where he underwent multiple bypass surgery.

Later, he would describe the experience as not entirely unpleasant. “I was going for a shot and suddenly I thought, ‘I’m going to faint now.’ There was no pain at all. If I hadn’t woken up, it wouldn’t have been a bad way to go.”

But that was then. This was now, and even though it was not a life-threatening situation, it was most certainly a lifestyle-threatening situation... because a stroke changes everything.

It had come upon him in the dead of night. Toni had been awakened by his breathing, which had become strangely labored. When she asked him if he was OK, he replied that he felt fine... but a few hours later, when he awoke to answer the summons of nature, he could not get out of bed. His left side was completely immobile.

Even as Toni and the Other Elisson tried to assess the situation, Eli argued with them. He was fine, he insisted... despite his complete inability to sit up or walk. This sort of Denial of the Obvious, I have come to find, is not an unusual reaction in one who has suffered a stroke.

Strokes are big-time scary. A stroke can kill you outright if it hits certain parts of the brain, or it can incapacitate you and leave you unable to read, to speak, to recognize loved ones, to swallow. It can create baffling alterations in perception. Its effects can linger for months or years with varying degrees of severity.

We all go through our lives, day by day, not noticing the subtle signs of age as it creeps up on us with its little cat feet. But every so often, cat-like, it will pounce. A stroke is anything but subtle. It is a Giant Step in the aging process, a quantum change of the sort that divides one’s life into two periods: Before the Stroke, and After the Stroke.

At the hospital, a CAT scan revealed that Eli’s stroke had been caused by a thrombus - a blood clot. (The alternative - a cerebral hemorrhage - is less common but even more fearsome.) Because it struck the right side of Eli’s brain, it paralyzed the left side of his body. Fortunately, his ability to swallow was intact, albeit impaired. He would be able to eat without having to use a feeding tube.

Most importantly, his mind was intact.

That’s the thing that, I suspect, is most frightening about any condition that affects the brain. The unique spark that animates each one of us is locked into our skulls - what becomes of us if that spark is altered beyond recognition?

I knew I didn’t have to worry about that as soon as I found out that Eli was sitting up in his hospital bed, cracking jokes. His speech was slurred but clearly recognizable. He knew who everyone was and could remember things... albeit with a few peculiar gaps. He knew he had suffered a stroke, but he couldn’t quite understand why he couldn’t simply hop out of bed and go to take a leak. And the left side of his world was simply... gone. It no longer existed for him.

He’s been in in-hospital rehab now for about ten days, where, with the help of dedicated hospital staff and the loving care of his bride Toni - their twenty-first wedding anniversary was just this past Friday - he will eventually relearn the basic skills of daily life. Walking. Sitting up. Everything we take for granted.

Your thoughts and prayers for Eli’s speedy and complete recovery, Esteemed Readers, are deeply appreciated.

His days of playing racquetball, alas, are over. For now. But he’s still Eli, hizzownself. Hizzownself! I know this without a shadow of doubt.

When, as he was sitting up in his hospital bed, I asked him if he was comfortable, he replied: “I make a living.”

19 comments:

Libby Spencer said...

Oh my. Hugs and healing thoughts to you all.

mostly cajun said...

Prayers are being said.

Can't tell you not to worry. that's part of love.

best of luck.

MC

Jerry in Texas said...

Prayers to Father Eli and all his descendants. Hope he makes a full recovery!

Sissy Willis said...

A story well told. I felt so close to you in your worry and relief and worry. God bless Eli and Eli's son and all who love you both.

Lisa W. said...

Sending love, strength and positive thoughts from Graeme, Kennedy and I...sorry to hear about this, E.

Anonymous said...

tell you dad i wish him well... steve v

Kevin Kim said...

Hugs to you, your dad, and the rest of your family.

Fiona Kathleen Hogan said...

Oh dear :(

I am sending good thoughts, energy and wishes your way!

Laughing Wolf said...

Thoughts and prayers out my friend!

Richmond said...

My thoughts and prayers are with all of you...

og said...

You are in my prayers and thoughts- I read the earlier post but couldn't say anything other than, you're in my prayers and thoughts. Good to know he's on the medn.

BobG said...

I'm glad to hear he is recovering. My best wishes to all of your family for the new year.

Teresa said...

More hugs and prayers. I've been sending them your way since you first posted about Eli. Things have come a long way since I used to work in nursing homes and care for those so afflicted.

Recovery is a long slow process, but I have every hope that with his sense of humor in tact, he will bulldoze his way through. I'm glad for his sake it was a clot and not a full blown out blood vessel.

May Eli make a full recovery and live for many more happy years. May Toni be lifted and helped by the thoughts and prayers of the many wishing her well. She has by far the harder job.

Omnibabe said...

A continuous stream of prayers for you and yours...

Erica said...

Everyone's pretty much said what I would have said, Big E, so I'll just echo the chorus and wish a bottomless well of strength -- physical, emotional, and spiritual -- to all who love and are close with Eli.

נתן ליעף כח ולאין אונים עצמה ירבה

Erica said...

...And to Eli, hissownself...obviously.

LauraB said...

What Erica said, yes...

I found that this young lady has written very eloquently on the experience of a stroke and the work after...
http://textisles.com/category/stroke/
and
http://textisles.com/tag/recovery/

Definitely worthy of a visit...

Elisson said...

@LauraB - Thanks so much for the links... Kate Davies suffered a right-brain ischemic stroke, same as Eli's, and reading about her experiences and recovery gives me some hope that things can move in a positive direction.

shelly tanenbaum said...

Needless to say you and Eli have been in our prayers and will continue to be. Happy to hear how well your dad is doing.