Saturday, May 31, 2014

884 Days Later

884. Eight hundred eighty-four. Days. Two years, five months and two days. One hundred twenty-six weeks. And then it was Memorial Day, 2014.

Not a single day in the past two and a half years have I ever been able to forget about what happened or leave it behind. It’s been tattooed on my being and even if it isn’t in plain sight, I know it’s there. Every morning I wake up, I have to find my center of balance. Every time I shower, I feel the two very distinct halves to my one body. Every time I get a headache, I wonder if it is another stroke. I know the numbers. I have studied them. I decided I would not be one of them while at the same time, I feared them and in some ways, have waited for them to arrive at my door.

Monday. Memorial Day. I woke up feeling mostly fine even though I spent the weekend in bed, too exhausted to do anything at all really. The Thursday before, I was having a great day and then quite suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of the place I was in. I thought I was having a panic attack. The next day, my energy was low but I felt a little better in spite of breaking down crying. I felt better as the day went on and then came home and went to sleep, staying in bed pretty much until Monday morning. I was exhausted. Just getting up to go to the bathroom seemed daunting and challenging. I ate here and there and made sure I drank lots of water. I thought I was just tired, perhaps stressed. I started getting very depressed and that just made me want to stay in bed more. It really is an ugly cycle. Sunday night, I tossed and turned, not sleeping at all.

Monday morning, I woke up feeling pretty ok. My balance was off a little, but that happens sometimes. I didn’t think much of it. And then, quite suddenly, my vision changed. It wasn’t really blurry. It wasn’t really double, just something in that area that made it all but impossible to read anything on my phone or computer. I didn’t think much of it, and figured I just didn’t rest enough the night before and needed to sleep a bit more.

But something was nagging at me. I couldn’t get comfortable. I decided to watch a video. It was also out of focus. I thought of going to the hospital, but I felt like I was overreacting. The nagging feeling would not go away and so I drove myself to the hospital. I expected them to tell me I as being silly and send me home, but instead, the put me in front of everyone and before I knew it, I was having blood taken, EKGs and CAT scans before they put me in a bed in Critical Care. I didn’t tell anyone I was at the hospital or even that anything was wrong. I was sure I was being overly dramatic and didn’t want to worry anyone.

Only when the results all came back that there was nothing wrong, I sent out a text to my sister letting her know I was in the ER and nobody needed to come down. I wouldn’t have said anything at all, but we have a history in our family of people not letting others know when something in going on and we have promised to stop that. I only sent the text so she wouldn’t get upset with me when she heard about it later. I think she was a little upset in any case, but she didn’t say anything.

I was told everything was fine and to go home, and then I was told to wait for just one more test. They wanted to do a CAT scan with contrast. I was actually getting the scan when Laura arrived. I was told the results would be back in thirty or so minutes. They took over two hours. I was told I had a right vertebral artery occlusion. I was told I was in the process of having a stroke. They gave me three treatment options and I was told that at least one of them was not possible due to the amount of time that had passed. It has to be started within four hours and it was closer to twelve. There was the option of a procedure, where they would go into my brain and remove the blockage. Then there was a medication called Heparin, which would keep my blood from coagulating. It was my understanding we would start with the Heparin and then go to the procedure if that didn’t work. A stroke and brain surgery. My day was not going as planned. I called my friend John and as soon as I heard his voice, I broke down. I broke down again when he arrived at the ER. He is one of those people that I just can’t hide from.  He stayed a few hours and went with me when, shortly after midnight, I was moved from the critical care part of the ER to my very own room in the ICU.

I starting having intense pains in the left side of my body, the side where I never have any pain. The ICU nurse, Ken, explained that the new stroke was likely causing my brain to reroute yet again, possibly “fixing” what the original stroke had done. We went through my family history and then I tried to sleep. Later, he gave me four random items to remember. Five minutes later, I could only recall two. Even prompted, I never remembered the other two. I think it is funny that I can recall entire conversations from that night, even the one when he first told me what to remember, and the one where he tried prompting me, but I can’t remember all four items. Thinking about it would give me a headache.

My blood was taken every few hours to check the coagulation levels. I was connected to a heart monitor and forbidden to get out of bed for any reason. Due to the fact my blood would no longer coagulate fast, I was in at a high risk for internal bleeding if I fell or even bumped myself hard. Given that my balance was off, I was put on absolute bed restriction. I was connected to so many machines, I wouldn’t have gotten up anyway. Heart monitors, blood oxygen monitors, the IV, blood pressure machine and who knows what else. I was exhausted but could not sleep.

Unlike the first stroke, this one did not cause any tissue damage due to the fact that there are other arteries supplying the same area with blood. Last time, the blood supply was totally cut off, causing that tiny part of my brain to die. This time, other arteries picked up the slack. While I would have some issues, all would most likely be ok. It was in the morning when I found out that the procedure was not an option. The blockage was in a very hard to reach place and the risk to me was just too great. They told me there was no way they would consider it.

A few visitors came and went and I was waiting to have an MRI to show more detail about what was really going on. It was ordered around 5am Tuesday morning and I had it around 2pm Wednesday afternoon. The MRI confirmed the blockage and the stroke. It also confirmed that there was nothing, absolutely nothing that could be done. I thought the medication would break it up, but it just prevents it from getting worse. Around 11pm on Wednesday, I was sent home, with a blockage in one of the arteries in my brain.

I spent the past few days staying with my friend John. I have to say that in the short time I have ben here, he has become my local person and I really don’t know what I would do without him. I stayed with him the last three nights, and against his wishes, I decided to come home today and be on my own. I was torn about being alone, but I have to face it sooner or later. It was the dark cloud looming and I needed to just hit it head on. So I’m home. Not sure how I feel about it, but trying it out.

A lot of people have been calling and texting and in all honesty, I am just not really up for people. With a couple of exceptions, I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I text with a few, but only because I have to. Right now, I am not even up for seeing my niece and nephews, the people that always make me feel better. I hear myself speak and I think I sound so quiet and timid. I know this is nothing like the last stroke. I can walk. I can type. I can read, at least when my eyes cooperate. I know it could have been a lot worse. I don’t think I’m depressed, I think that the adrenaline of the week has come to an end and I am just revisiting and processing what happened. I think the part of wanting to be alone is just from days of being poked and prodded and having no privacy to myself and the stress of what was happening. I just need to get back on my feet and into my life as quick as possible.

My life now will be different. My diet has to change a little to be even stricter. Alcohol is a thing of the past. Cardio and being in excellent shape has got to be a priority. Being kind of in shape is no longer an option. It’s all good stuff, just wish it didn’t have to be under these circumstances.

And I have to stop thinking about the future. At least when it comes to strokes. Every stroke increases the chances of future ones. I know that, and I just have to live with it in the way we live with the fact that every time we get in the car, there could be an accident or we are one mile closer to that inevitability. Maybe we are, but living that way just doesn’t work and I need to keep reminding myself of that when those thoughts come into my head. I have never been one to let anything slow me down, and yet I feel like I keep running into this one wall over and over. Time to find a way under, over, around or through. Maybe a combination of them all. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The World of Dating

I recently arrived at that place in my life when I am ready to date again. It has been a very long time since I felt like that. Even when I met David, I wasn’t ready to date, it all just happened and caught me completely by surprise. I had not met other people, hadn’t had the awkward first dates or any of that. We met one day and that was that.

These days, it is a different situation and I can say this for certain: Dating sucks. I don’t know if it is just because I am older, or maybe because I have been out of the true dating game for so long, but it seems like all the rules have changed and I never got a copy of the new manual. Maybe it is just the caliber of guys here in Vegas. People seem so shallow and the few that do seem to be somewhat interesting hang around for a few weeks, talk about all the things they would like to do with me, the places they would like to go, the restaurants, etc., and then from one day to the next, they are gone. They are here in town, but they no longer call, text or even acknowledge they know me. And it isn’t just me. I have talked to a number of people and they all have the same experiences. I even met one guy who, on our first date talked about it and asked me, made me promise, not to vanish. I promised I wouldn’t. Two weeks later, he did. Just days after saying how much he liked being with me and even dropped the “L” word.

I don’t get it. And then all the little things to navigate. When to text? How often? What to say? Have I said too much? Not enough? Am I being too pushy? Too aloof? Too interested? Desperate? When did saying “I like you” to someone become the grenade that would blow the whole thing up. It’s as though they would prefer to hear how ordinary I think they are, how they are just here to pass the time. Tell someone you like them and they assume you are ready to get married and move in. No. It just means I want to spend time with them and get to know them a little better. But that is not really something that is very welcome here. More often than not on a first date, even if I can call it a first date, he will ask what I am looking for. I say I am open to whatever might happen. I return the question and the usual answer goes something like “I don’t know, but I don’t want a relationship.”

And for me, these are incredibly difficult situations to navigate. I say what I think. If I like someone, I will tell them. If I want to see them, I will tell them. I have no difficulty making the first move. But that seems to be a liability these days. Invite someone for sex, they’ll be right over. Invite them out to dinner and they run in the other direction in a crazed panic. Tell them you want a one night stand and they love it. Ask them to spend a day with you and see how fast they flee.

I’m not sure if it is just Vegas. If it is Vegas, I kind of understand why. All the applications and possibilities to meet people and have sex, have made us all just become so completely disposable. Almost 40 million people visited Vegas in 2012, and even if only half that number visit on any given year, there is enough new people coming in that everyone can be happily entertained and yet never invest to build anything meaningful with anyone. One could, if so inclined, have sex with a different person every hour of every day and never run out of options.

But there are those of us who want something more. I don’t know that I want to live with someone again. But I would like to get to know someone. Have that someone to share things with. I would just like to know there is an option for more, a possibility for something bigger. If it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, if they would just tell me they weren’t into anything more instead of vanishing. What bothers me is that there don’t really seem to be any guys out there even remotely interested in something more than right now.

But, in spite of all of this, I am trying to put myself out there. I can only keep the faith that there is someone who is open to something more, someone who is also interested to see where things might go. Now all I have to do is meet him.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Fear and Friends

Since the stroke happened, one of the things I have really and truly dreaded, is seeing people who knew me before the stroke. I wonder what they will see, think and notice. What will they compare and will the "like" the post-stoke person? For the past couple of years, I have only had that with a handful of people due to the fact I lived abroad for so long. Most of the people I know here don’t know the pre-stroke me, and the ones that do, hadn’t really seen me that recently or often. But, in the past month, I have had two of those situations. One planned and one not.

The first one was when Christopher sent me a message on Facebook that he was going to be in Vegas. I was happy to see him, but felt very intimidated as well. Christopher and I spent most of our time together at work. We went out a few times for drinks or food, but mostly our interaction was at the office. On the day we were to meet, I decided to leave town. Partly because I forgot, but I think partly because I just didn’t want to deal with it. Just as I was on my was out of town, my phone rang and it was Christopher and so, against my self protective instincts, I decided to meet up with him later that afternoon.

Last Friday evening, I was out for a drink at a place I had never heard of before here in Las Vegas. Then at one point, standing less than 15 feet away from me, was my friend Stephen who I know from When we both lived in Delhi. Stephen and I, along with a small group of people spent quite a lot of time together. I would say that if everyone was in town, we saw each other at least once a week on average. To see him here in Vegas was shocking, to say the least. I suddenly felt like the spotlight was on and there I was, unprepared. I felt awkward and didn’t really know what to say. We agreed to meet up again during his stay in town. I spent the next day both hoping he would call and hoping he wouldn’t. Then on Sunday I got the message that they would be by the pool at a hotel here and I was invited.

As with Christopher, I almost backed out. And as with Christopher, I am glad I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t expect anything to be different, and I know that a lot of the fear is just that, fear, some imaginary scenario I have looping through my head. If either one of them noticed anything different, neither anything or acted any different than I remember. Conversations might have been a bit different than before as time had past, we had all been through some pretty major life experiences. I was not the only one to be dealing with loss and change and grieving over the past years and months.

After the intimidation wore off, which was pretty quick, I had an amazing time catching up with both of them. And as usual, each time I break through the fear of what I think is or might be, I almost always discover that I was really fearful of nothing.