Monday, December 24, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago. One year ago today was the first day of life as I would come to know it. When I woke up the day before, I had no idea that in just a few hours, my brain would be swelling, I would "forget" how to walk, my vision would become almost useless and my life would start on a trajectory that would take me places I never imagined. Or even wanted. I would like to say I spent that day doing something spectacular, adventurous or even interesting, but the fact is, I spent the morning in the house doing some market research on my laptop. Then Ulco and I ran some errands and I cooked some pasta, watched some TV and then went to bed. I never imagined that such monumental changes could happen in such a non-monumental way. Who I was changed from one second to the next and looking back over the past year, I am glad I had no idea what was in store.

A year ago, I just wanted to get one year further. I am not sure if I remember correctly, but I think I read or heard something about being more at risk for a second stroke during the first year. I might have even written about it, but I haven't really reread anything from the past year. I was waiting for this milestone, I wanted to reach the one-year mark before looking back and revisiting.

I tossed and turned all night last night. Images and snapshots of one year ago filling my head. I tend not to think about that time, the events of that day and the immediately following weeks. There is still so much I don't remember or understand. For some reason, I could not stop it last night. The hospital, nurses, IV's, tubes, hiccups, Ulco, the clicking of the MRI. I can still smell the hospital and hear the voices of the nurses. I remember thinking how gentle they were when putting the IV in my left hand, not yet realizing I had lost all sensation of pain on that side. I remember trying to get up and realizing I was unable to stand. I was unable to even sit up without assistance.

I also remember when I could walk the three or four steps from my bed to the sofa in my room. I remember the first time I could stand on my own in the shower and the first time I walked without the walker. I remember writing my blog with the screen at the highest magnification and my nose almost touching the screen so I could read what was on the screen. I remember the day in March when that endless feeling of falling went away, and the first set of steps I was able to walk down. It was slow going and I was wobbly, but I did it.

I still have those moments when I do something I wasn't sure I would ever do again. I find myself smiling to myself when I can step off the curb and onto the street without pausing first. Two weeks ago, I was able to run in for the first time. I was on the treadmill and I had to hold the sides for balance, but I ran. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so instead of doing either, I just held on and ran some more. I always hated running, and now I find myself almost obsessed with it. I just want to run more and more. The feeling is still odd and I am not really finding it a pleasurable physical experience, but knowing I can do it is indescribable. The next goal is to run on the beach without any help. I also want to try ice skating and possible riding a bike. And for the record, that saying about always knowing how to ride a bike is just not true!

This Christmas is my first Christmas in several years, my first one in the US since 1993, the first one with my sister and mom since 1987 or so, and the first one ever with my niece and nephews. I have to say, I really miss being in another country, the adventure and all the things that come with it, but I am really enjoying being a brother and uncle in close proximity to family. It is not always easy havig to suddenly deal with certain dramas up close instead of across multiple time zones, but that comes along with having family. At least my family.

One year ago, my life changed. It went in directions I never imagined and I have experienced so many new things. Some I hope to never go through again and some I didn't even know I wanted. I have learned not to take things for granted, especially the everyday, ordinary things we never think about, like walking, running, being able to swallow, reading, feeling physical pain or the difference between hot and cold. I am happy some of the struggles are behind me, and I am looing forward to when more of them are in the past, but I hope to never forget to appreciate what I have learned.

About myself, about others, and about life.