It was Labor Day, 2020, and I reached over touching my wife’s hand to wake her. I said it was time to go to the hospital, I was having a stroke. Given the location of the house and the speed at which we felt we could get to the ER, we headed out. Unfortunately, we were familiar with hospitals. My wife, Barbara and I had been there many times given a very scary tonsil cancer surgery in 2006 and 3 years of recovery, and a series of dizzy spells over the years, which resulted in me being in and out of hospitals, something was really wrong this morning. I couldn’t move my left hand, and my body felt lethargic, especially my left side, this was not a TIA, but an Ischemic Stroke, I knew this was not good, especially during Covid.
For years, I had suffered a series of odd feelings and side effects that couldn’t be explained or diagnosed. My family and I had gotten used to living with the symptoms and just getting on with it. After all, I am a General Contractor, running my own business remodeling homes in Northern CA. My wife is a Tutor for dyslexia children, and so being entrepreneurs, our health was important, but so was working. We’re the owner operators of our businesses, and we must keep working. We also have two boys that we were raising, and home schooled, and they’re now venturing out on their own starting careers.
But let’s reflect, after battling tonsil cancer and 9 hours of surgery in 2006 the cancer was gone. I focused on healing, but I was left with several medical masked aftereffects and a slight droop with my month, and a different tone in my speech, but I was glad the cancer was a thing of the past.
The early signs of my Stroke(s) began when I found myself getting dizzy while on a ladder working on light fixtures, to the point that I stepped off and avoided falling. To prevent future falls and to keep working, I rigged-up the ladder in a way that I could keep my balance, and I continued working like this for 6-9 months. After the issues didn’t get better, I finally decided to share these mishaps with Barbara. We visited an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist in who helped explore some treatments to balance the crystals in my ears. He determined its Vertigo. Which later resulted in hiding the actual disease called Hydrocephalus (a chronic neuro condition caused by abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within cavities of the brain called ventricles, resulting in pressure on the brain). Back to the Vertigo, I went through a set of 4 treatment sessions to reset the crystals in my ears and help get me back on track and stable. It didn’t seem to help as I eventually struggled to get up from a chair. This was now Covid! What is happening to me!
I wanted an MRI and months were going by before I could get scheduled. We decided to go to the hospital, and after a series of medical paperwork, they performed a series of MRI and CAT Scans (finally). As the doctor returned to my bedside in the ER, he said, we know why you are having all the balance and dizzy issues, in addition to Hydrocephalus, you were having strokes. Not just one but two strokes (not TIA’s but ischemic strokes)! The doctors wanted to monitor my heart and installed the Lync device into my chest to attempt to eliminate A-Fib as a diagnosis of my strokes. I was admitted in the hospital. I was later also diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. After testing, I now sleep with a C-Pap. After another hospital stay during Covid and a series of paperwork, tests, and no real conclusions as to why the strokes occurred, I decided to leave the hospital and get back home. The dizziness came and went but I continued to move forward and push to see if we could uncover some construction jobs during Covid which essentially came to a stop. Customers were nervous about the pandemic, and the construction jobs were all put on hold, so it was really tough.
Now its July 18, 2020, my 5th hospital visit. The neurologist ordered a brain scan which determined that I also had Trans Global Amnesia (this is when the brain is having trauma, and you experience short term memory loss). During Covid it was scary and isolated. I needed to see Barbara. I missed my farm and 5 dogs. I couldn’t wait to go home to continue healing.
After returning home, I had “Rehab Without Walls” come to my home. Now it’s Labor Day, 2020, just 2-months later. While in the backyard, I lost my balance and knocked over a dog fence. I managed to get up, as Barbara was looking out the window and witnessed my fall. I was tired and after a bath, I decided to go to bed. The 3rd stroke came during my night’s sleep. Barbara rushed me to the hospital, and I was there for a week. Once released, I attended out-patient rehabilitation for OT and PT therapy, and now continue my therapy closer to home. I have continued to heal, and rehabilitation therapy has become part of my normal weekly routine.
I have kept my construction license current but returning to work has not been possible post-stroke(s). My wife, Barbara, was my amazing advocate and caregiver, family and therapists have been such a blessing, and keeping a positive attitude has gotten me through the difficult times and will continue to help me as I push forward. We even rescued a darling Terrier that was running loose on the road near our farm. We simply opened the car door, and the dog jumped in — no collar, no responses to our notices, and she now has the name: “Little Bit” – she’s a little bit of a dog — loved and sits on my lap! In conclusion, my father always said: “You have to buy your way to Heaven.”