There are so many ways to describe the flow of feelings and events around my stroke, (and those on the kayak trip :-)), and each one results in a different perspective, different pictures, different impressions…

With my new mode of operating, which is more to simply let things arise and to plan and organize less, I am simply going to write, and see what comes out!

To give you a picture, one of the exciting ‘Emergency’ times on the kayak trip was when we left the safe coves inside the islands on the southern tip of Gwaii Haanas (where we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site , and ventured out to the open seas of the West Coast.  

There were big swells, waves crashing on rocks; Stellar Sea Lions came off their rocks to check us out.  The situation could have become critical:  the swells and waves were challenging, the rocks were close; huge, male sea lions can be aggressive…But we were blessed by some combination of grace, ‘luck’, skill, expertise, wise leadership — and the experience left us all feeling enriched and full of gratitude.

And so it was with my experience of the stroke.

We are now in the ambulance and have started to move. Mike was in the front with the driver, and I in the back with Julie, the paramedic.  Soon she said, “Don’t be alarmed, Jill, we’re going to turn on the sirens now so we can get you there as soon as possible.”  I felt gratitude, and a certain sense of, “Wow, cool! Sirens for me!”  Interestingly you don’t hear the sirens screaming on the inside of the vehicle as you do on the outside, thank goodness.  You just sense that they are on, and have an inside knowing that the people are doing their best to take care of you, to get you to the best place for you to go.

I don’t remember arriving at the Emergency bay, or seeing the big red sign.  (I have seen these signs many times before cycling by hospitals, but now, having arrived there on a stretcher myself, a first for me, they have a new resonance. I was moved to tears today by the sound of ambulance sirens, knowing that someone’s life had just changed, probably radically, and that other people were hurrying to provide help.)

When you are flat on your back you don’t take things in the way you do when you’re upright.  What I next experienced was being rolled into my space, Emerg 5A, and being moved from the stretcher into a bed. This happened less than 25 minutes after my waving arm, slurred speech, and Mike’s call to 911.

Immediately I was hooked up to an I V and rolled away for a CT scan, also a first for me.  By the way, for you non-Canadians, all this happens with no reference to payment, insurance… Mike had given Julie my Care Card , and she had done all the paperwork on the ride over. I never paid, or will pay, a cent (except the extremely modest payment of about $50 a month, and this only because of my adequate income), before, during, or after my treatment.  No waiting, no questions.  And this would be true for any Canadian.

Then I was back at 5A, and learned that the neurologist on call was the doctor, Dr. Samuel Yip, who had treated me two years before for some transient blurry vision in one eye (which turned out to have been a mini-eye stroke Hollenhorst Plaque. Supposedly there is little correlation between these two kinds of strokes.)  Dr. Yip,  who is young, bright, pleasant, attentive, soon came around with the ‘stroke team’ and they did a complete assessment.

Dr. Yip called for another CT scan (the first had not revealed anything significant), this time with dye in the blood, to see the blood vessels in the brain more exactly.  This also did not reveal anything remarkable.  Then Sarah, a stroke neurologist, checked me out.  “What is your name?  Where are you? What day is it today? Close your eyes and hold out both arms and don’t move them,”  she said.  The last statement is to see if you can hold them steady, or if they drift involuntarily.  All these are checks for neurological impairment, and good to know about, even at home.  This same procedure was done every several hours while I remained in the hospital as a stroke patient.

Then Sarah checked the strength in my arms and legs, and my motor control.

It was at this point, during this first assessment, that I began to realize what a lucky stroke this had been for me.  And that has turned out to be true in so many ways, as I will describe as we go along.

(To be continued)

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity. Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.

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