Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Smashing Stroke

Last week, what has been a trying summer for me hit rock bottom. I was at last Tuesday's White Sox-Twinkies game when I received a phone call from my sister. She had just driven my mother to the hospital after she complained of stroke-like symptoms. When we arrived, my mom was lying on a gurney, looking dazed and incapable of uttering more than one word at a time. My sister had done the right thing by taking my mother to the ER immediately after showing symptoms; however, our local hospital doesn't specialize in stroke treatments, so she was shipped off to Central DuPage Hospital. Upon driving 45 minutes to said hospital, I watched what seemed like regressing before my very eyes; she was now strapped to her hospital bed, gurgling from the side of her mouth and flailing her limbs as four nurses tried to pin her down. For as long as I can remember my mother has been the control center of our household, raising two children while my father worked long hours at O'Hare Airport, so observing her in a borderline vegetative state made me tremedously scared about the future of my family.

Before going further with my mom's condition, I should probably explain what she's gone through these past four months. Sometime in the late 1980s my mother contracted Hepatitis C. Though she was first diagnosed several years later, she believes she acquired the viral disease then because I don't have the infection, yet my younger sister also has Hepatitis and may have been born with HCV. Late last year, my mother's physician suggested that she participate in an experimental treatment to eradicate the disease from her system. Despite some trepidation regarding side effects, she began her treatment in April 2010. Unfortunately for her, the side effects were felt almost immediately; fatigue, dizziness, nausea, lack of appetite, and occasional bouts of short-term memory loss. She complained of aphasia and numbness about a month ago, but her doctor told her those were also reactions to her Hepatitis medication.

Though those first 24 hours were pretty scary, my mom has made leaps and bounds of progress since then. She had suffered what is referred to a delayed-reaction or "old stroke"; by the hospital's best estimate, the actual stroke occured four or five weeks ago but it didn't affect her nervous system until now. Luckily for us, it's also very treatable. By Thursday she was alert and talking, and on Friday she was walking again (albeit very slowly). She checked out of CDH late Sunday afternoon, and as I write this, she's meeting with her occupational therapist for the first time. We're also pushing my birthday celebration back one week while she recuperates. Looking back now, I'm relieved that her condition didn't worsen and that she's on the road to a full recovery. I've had my share of problems this summer, but in a way I feel selfish for dwelling on my personal crises as a potentially devestating family emergency was gradually uncoiling. As my mother regains her strength, I certainly hope that anyone reading keeps my family in their thoughts and prayers.

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