……………………………another morning like the past Friday!
After a short bus-ride with my friends, sharing our anguish over the Tsunami, wishing each other well for the upcoming weekend, we three got off at the GO station where we parted ways. I take the GO train while both my friends take a different bus each to their workplace. While waiting for the train on the platform, I felt my blackberry jingle. I picked it up and found this email:
Hope all is well. My name is A, F’s husband. Could you kindly send me your contact number. F had a health issue exactly 2 weeks ago ( Feb 25th ) and I know she will like to hear from you.
F was transferred from St M’s hospital on Wednesday ( March 9th ) to P Healthcare.
You can reach me on xxx-xxx-xxxx or my cell phone xxx-xxx-xxxx for more information
T, T and T are all doing well.
Love to your son.
My mind went numb again for the second time that morning. I called him with a sick feeling in my gut and what he told me shook me up even more. My lovely, ambitious, go-getter, happy, giggly, joyful, bold and daredevil friend suffered a stroke and is now partially paralysed. He said that while she remembers somethings/ some people, she is not able to recognise and recall somethings. He is trying to contact all her friends to share the news and to help his wife feel and get better.
My friend is just in her early forties with three kids one aged about 2+ years: for the love of GOD, I didn’t expect her of all persons to have a ‘stroke’. You are all probably thinking: ‘What naivete!”. I agree, I was naive in this regard. I dragged myself in to work, somehow got through my tasks and spent my break and lunch time researching on this. Look what I found on the Mayo clinic website:
WHAT IS A STROKE? A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and food. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.
A stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.
The good news is that strokes can be treated and prevented, and many fewer Americans now die of stroke than was the case even 15 years ago. Better control of major stroke risk factors — high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol — is likely responsible for the decline.
SYMPTOMS: Watch for these signs and symptoms if you think you or someone else may be having a stroke. Note when signs and symptoms begin, because the length of time they have been present may guide treatment decisions.
- Trouble with walking. You may stumble or experience sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
- Trouble with speaking and understanding. You may experience confusion. You may slur your words or be unable to find the right words to explain what is happening to you (aphasia). Try to repeat a simple sentence. If you can’t, you may be having a stroke.
- Paralysis or numbness on one side of your body or face. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
- Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision, or you may see double.
- Headache. A sudden, severe “bolt out of the blue” headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate you’re having a stroke.
RISK FACTORS: Many factors can increase your risk of a stroke. A number of these factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack. Stroke risk factors include:
- Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or TIA.
- Being age 55 or older.
- High blood pressure — risk of stroke begins to increase at blood pressure readings higher than 115/75 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your doctor will help you decide on a target blood pressure based on your age, whether you have diabetes and other factors.
- High cholesterol — a total cholesterol level above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
- Cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Being overweight (body mass index of 25 to 29) or obese (body mass index of 30 or higher).
- Physical inactivity.
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, a heart defect, heart infection, or abnormal heart rhythm.
- Use of birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen.
- Heavy or binge drinking.
- Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
Because the risk of stroke increases with age, and women tend to live longer than men, more women than men have strokes and die of them each year. Blacks are more likely to have strokes than are people of other races.
While I don’t really know about my friend’s recent blood pressure or cholesterol level, I know for sure that other than birth control pills and her race, she would check negative for all the other risk factors. But the reality is (when I visited the rehab-centre on Friday evening, after my work), I found a thin, teary and restless friend with a nasty 2-3 inches long incisional-scar on her head on the left side that was swollen, still raw and appeared very painful. She kept rubbing her left palm over it murmuring to herself in pain.
She was alone in her room as her husband had just left her bedside two hours ago, to go home and take care of their three school-going children. While I could easily make out ‘Thanks’ and “Amen’ in response to my words of encouragement, the rest of her words were very garbled. I had to think fast on my feet, point out to the ‘clock’, ‘food’, my ‘winer-jacket’ and re-phrase what I thought she meant. She would in turn widen her eyes, shake or nod her head and smile big to convey her dissent or consent.
Amidst all these ‘dumb-charades’ she managed to ask me about my interview, my son’s studies and also chided me for not buttoning up my winter-jacket. She giggled with me when I told her about the party we would have if not for anything other than escaping from the bland hospital-food. She kept giggling while she slowly fed herself with her left hand. She either could not or did not want to move her right arm and leg the entire time I was there. I kept massaging/rubbing her right hand and leg over the bed-spread, while all the time asking if she could feel my hands. She nodded but did not or could not move her limbs.
After she had her dinner and settled for the night, she pointed to the clock on the wall and told me to go home. I promised to return to spend a whole day with her. I told her I would bring books with audacious pictures, I would read jokes and stories to her so s..l..o..w…l..y….that she would want to jump out of the bed and grab the book to read them herself. She teared up again and mumbled ‘thanks’ with a big-smile. She is the kind who would say this…………..
………….yes, get well soon my dear friend! We have miles to go and things to do don’t you dare short-charge me!