What a combination, but that’s the way it came the first week of August.  At some point, I will show and tell more about the amazing kayak trip I had with Green Coast Kayaking.  It was splendid, and here’s one picture and a few comments as a start.  Here you can see the spot where we spent our week: Gwaii Haanas, which means Place of Beauty, in the Queen Charlotte Islands, aka Haida Gwaii (Place of the Haida).

Gwaii Haanas is a National Park, and I found it fascinating that it is the first one to protect and include everything from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the ocean, and the first to be administered jointly by the Federal Government and a First Nations council.

Our weather was not the best, but we treasured the stunning scenery, the depth of quiet — scarcely a boat motor, just waves lapping, eagles and kingfishers, the barks of sea lions — no resorts, cabins, roads;  the incredible beaches with intriguiging rocks, intertidal abundance and beauty, the old forests with thick, soft mossy ground for us to pitch our tents on, delicious camp food… you get the picture.

And then there were the whales.  We were gifted by the sight and sound of many humpbacks, rolling, blowing, feeding, checking us out!  At one point I was paddling with another Jill, and we were no more than 25 or 30 feet apart, when a whale came up and did a roll right in between us, just like this one!  It was a lifetime experience.

I have always had a very warm spot in my heart for whales, and sea mammals.  If you do too, or even if you don’t, I highly recommend Eco-Pirate, a new documentary movie about the controversial life of Paul Watson, the founder and director of Sea Shepherd Society.  Now, they are doing something to save the whales!

Then I came home on a Friday evening, was safely back in Vancouver, and mostly unpacked, happily :-), full of warm, rich memories.

The next morning I was brushing my teeth, getting ready to roller blade around the Sea Wall with Mike on his bike, when a funny thing happened.  My left arm started to float around by itself.  It was as if if had become inhabited by a floppy fish, and no longer belonged to me.  I felt and watched it briefly, and it didn’t stop.  So I walked down the hall to tell Mike, and as I did so, my face started to feel odd.  As I tried to say something it was clear that I couldn’t enunciate clearly, the sounds were all slurred.  Even though the thoughts and words were crystal clear in my head, the sounds that came out were smeared together, and I could tell my face and mouth were drooping down on the left side.

Well — arm, face, voice — all wonky.  I immediately knew what was up.

I think anyone would have known, but in case you might not have, you will want to read and memorize the Signs of Stroke.  I’d been over them all countless times in the CPR classes I have to take as a Fitness Instructor, (for which I’m now very grateful!),  and I said to Mike, as best I could, “I’m having a stroke.”

By this time I had reached the chair at my desk, where I am sitting right now as I write this, and Mike had come over.  I remember his picking up the phone to call 911, and hearing him say, “My wife is having a stroke,” and giving them our address.

As he accompanied me over to our bedroom, a few feet away, and I lay down, still feeling totally clear in my head, but noticing the tingling in my arm, and a bit all over my body, we could already hear the sirens, and knew the ambulance was on its way.  (Imagine my gratitude and the blessing that I was not hefting kayaks down to the edge of the low tide zone, which I had been just a short time ago!)

I don’t remember too much of the next little while, I was interested and busy watching and feeling my body, and waiting for the ambulance.  Mike says the fireman came in, moved a lot of furniture very quickly so the stretcher could get through. Then this very lovely, kind woman, Julie, a paramedic, put on my robe for me and helped me on to the stretcher.  I was flat on the bed, not in charge, moving toward the elevator, and in good hands.  I just lay there — with a quiet ‘not knowing’ mind.

As the elevator door closed one of the mangers of our building was in with us, and seeing Caede’s and Julie’s gentle faces, and Mike’s, I was swept up in a warm feeling of love, for them, for me, for my family, and for everyone, and said, “If I die, tell them I love them.”

The paramedic said, “Don’t talk like that.”  Now Mike and I find it’s appropriate to think about death, actually smart to do so, so it seemed appropriate to us!  Interestingly  though, I had, already at that time, a sense that things would be OK, I trusted that all would work out.  I knew it might not, hence my comment, but I was at peace, relaxed, and feeling love and trust.

As you may know, in case of stroke, time is of the essence.  There is a powerful clot busting drug, tPA, that can be administered in a three-hour window of time after a stroke, and I knew we were heading to just the right place, Vancouver General Hospital, where they have a renowned ‘”Stroke Team”, and at just the right time, about 10 minutes after  I had had the stroke.  Blessings and miracles.

(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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