Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When a Stroke Isn't a Stroke

Sunday, my partner and I were tending to routine fall outdoor cleanup chores when he suddenly complained of being very dizzy and became nauseous. His speech was slurred and one eye was dilated while the other was not.

I kept my calm, but seriously thought he was having a stroke.

He was complaining about being very cold and he began to shiver uncontrollably. I half-carried, half-pushed him inside our basement, lay him on a sofa, threw blankets on him, then called 9-1-1.

The response from our well-trained, kind, and professional Fire/EMS Department was swift. I met them at our driveway and hustled with them to our rear door. The medics evaluated my partner, took his vitals, and seemed to agree with my initial worry that my partner could be having a stroke. He was rushed to the hospital and I followed, anxious and concerned.

When I arrived in the Emergency Room, they brought me into the room where my partner was. He was attended quickly, because if he had a stroke, every second counts. If they can catch a stroke and administer drugs within the first hour of it happening, the chances of his having brain damage and long-term effects from it would be minimized.

Fortunately, someone at the hospital called my sister for me, and she rallied the others, and within an hour, the family vigil-watch was ongoing in the waiting room. Over a dozen of my siblings, nieces, and nephews came, and many more called (of course, I left my cell phone at home -- last thing I thought to have with me when raking the leaves, and thus didn't have it when I got into my truck to follow the ambulance to the hospital.)

I was on pins-and-needles all day. Test after test, doc after doc, with little bits of news being shared with me by various professionals, which I would share with the family who were with us.

The hospital and medical professionals were very good, and they treated me as his spouse, without question or reservation. I never even had to bring up the fact that we have a copy of our respective full powers of attorney on file at that hospital. (Perhaps they found it in his record, as so many more things are automated these days, and he has been treated at this hospital before.)

Anyway, after an MRI, X-rays, blood tests, and a psych test, the diagnosis was that this "spell" was "benign paroxysmal positional vertigo" which was likely the result of the brain surgery that he had a couple months ago.

My partner and I sure are glad that it wasn't a stroke. We are thankful to be living in an area that has superb, well-trained, tax-supported first responders who came immediately when I called, and talented professionals in our local hospital to treated my partner so well.

We are also glad to be living in Maryland where our relationship is not an issue for those who respond to these types of serious medical needs. If we lived in Virginia, the state just south of us, I would be treated as a stranger and prevented from being with my partner and by his side during his most anxious moments without having to put up a big fight. At least I didn't have to worry about that.

On Monday, my partner rested at home while I teleworked (worked from home.) He slept late, ate well, and looked good. I think this was a transient episode, but we will follow up with my partner's neurosurgeon when we can see him.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them.

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