Life with...

Life with… a stroke at 19

Today is the first day of a weekly planned series. The general theme will be things in my life that in one way or another effect my normal, day to day life. I’m not sure how long it will last, but quite easily at least the end of March.

The first topic is the stroke I suffered 21 years ago this month. I was a 19 year old wild child, of that there is no doubt. At the beginning of February 1995, I found myself battling a nasty case of meningitis and swore that I was going to calm my crazy self down. That was going quite well until that fateful day of February 22.

I had been working very hard on getting my last couple classes out of the way. On the 22, however, I had to be downtown for an orientation and paperwork to hopefully get Medicaid to help cover the cost of my meningitis hospitalization. After the appointment, I was going to put in some work at the alternative school, but felt compelled to take the scenic route.

From downtown, I drove south, passing the Kirkwood campus. Then I took I-380 all the way to County Home Road, then snaked my way to the Kirkwood Learning Center in Marion. I finished my planned last cigarette on that long, meandering drive.

I worked for a few hours, took a few tests, and then headed to my parents’ house. While there, I did the rather unusual (for me) request for errands to run. I was given some movies to return and asked to pick the VCR up from Sears where it was being fixed. From there, I headed to my then home at my grandparents’. I had dinner with them (G’ma Swenson’s pot roast and mashed potatoes… nom nom nom). It had already been decided that since they were hosting for their bridge group that I would go over and crash out at my parents’. On my way there, I’d do my errands, plus rent a few movies for myself.

That night, I asked my parents if I could camp out on the floor in their room, like I did when I was younger and spooked about something. Then, I got into the tub and everything changed before the tub was full.

I was a very active person. I loved to run and swim and dance and have fun. I loved to write and was a tad vain about my handwriting. I liked to draw. I played video games from time to time. In the blink of an eye, my dominant right side became nothing but a bag of bones. I couldn’t speak or walk. I was a shell.

I got my speech back, and had to stay in speech therapy for longer than I would have liked. I had a speech pathologist that I actually told off quite eloquently told off.  That got me a week or two break, and then I started back for another few weeks in outpatient therapy.

I relearned to walk. That was hard. You will never realize how damn heavy one of your legs are until you can’t move it without a lot of strain and effort. I walk pretty well now, unless I’m really cold, or really tired, but there is still a limp there, and my right leg is atrophied. My knee occasionally gives me fits. I have never run a single stride since. I did try to ride a ten speed once on a dare from my dad. I actually made it a ways before I wiped out.

My right arm and hand… now that is a totally different story. The whole thing is more or less useless. I have gone southpaw. I can’t draw as well, but my handwriting is better than ever. I can use my right arm as a brace when I need to hold something, but aside from that, it’s not good for much.

Luckily, I’m stubborn and I can laugh a lot at myself, or I think that I would have gone nuts long ago. I can make fun of myself like none other, and it helps a lot. I have become a mother five times over like this. I just keep going.

Twenty one years ago today, I was “normal”. I had fully moveable and useful parts; now, not so much. Somehow, in spite of it all, I am happier now in my own skin that I think I ever was before. Sure, I miss things sometimes, and I confess to being a little jealous of some of my runner friends, but it could be worse.

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