Impressionism to Reality: The Stroke’s Baby


I know I’m a writer, because I impulsively write and write and write–especially when I’m filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Putting my thoughts down into words gives me great comfort. It must strike a lot of people as odd, to write things down before acting upon them, but that’s what I do, even unknowingly struggling with aphasia in the first days of my stroke before it was diagnosed

And most recently, blathering about my weird visual symptoms late at night, worrying and fixating. I don’t suppose it makes sense that I WRITE about these things before I DO anything about them (“I think I should call 911,” I’ll probably write one day, before I pick up the phone to dial 911…), but that seems to be my process–much like how photographers snap a photo before rushing towards the subject at hand.

I don’t want to forget the moment, I want to capture it in words–and yet, at the same time, writing the moment helps me understand it better. It helps me prepare, somehow.

I kept in touch with updates in the comments section of the previous post about my visual loss. Yes–I called all my doctors in the morning, first heading to my eye doctor for an eye exam.

No, there was no bleeding behind the eye. Yes, my vision in my left eye had worsened considerability (-1.5 _with_ contact lenses, even though my vision had been WAY worse the day before). He told me to call my GP immediately, suspecting blood sugar issues.

I called my general practitioner. Of course, I was sent into the pinball machine mechanics of her front office. It was frustrating (remember, when I had a stroke 5 months ago, it took her HOURS to get back to me and to tell me to go the ER).

I called my neurologist. His office paged him, and he responded within half an hour. I love my neurologist–of all my medical doctors, he is the most attentive and caring and knowledgeable. “Sounds like you sent a clot up into your eye. Get yourself to an ER immediately where you should get an MRI.” He told me to go to the hospital where my cardiologist (the person who is supposed to close the hole in my heart) is–it just so happens that this is a different hospital than the one he works at.

So I went to the hospital where my cardiologist works. Oh boy. NOT my favorite Emergency Room, or my favorite hospital. There was a pregnant lady there, who was bleeding, who had been waiting before my arrival (and was still waiting when I was taken into triage). I waited for an hour even after I told them, “My neurologist sent me here, they think I’m having another stroke.” My husband walked two floors up to my cardiologist’s office to tell her that I was in the ER. (She had unnecessarily delayed the PFO surgery for reasons I was about to discover).

He left her a note. “Your patient is in the ER, come help us.” (well, that is a paraphrase, so maybe I should not have put that in quotes).

Her office called back. “She’s not on call, she’s not coming down. She’s in a continuing education class, and she’s busy.” (WHAT?!) They never sent another cardiologist from her group. (And to date, we have NEVER RECEIVED a call from her).

I had been abandoned by my cardiologist.

We were admitted, and talked to a triage nurse who was overwhelmed and had very little knowledge. Wow. Not a good sign. “There’s NO way the doctors say you will get an MRi today. Maybe not tomorrow either.” We felt so neglected. We got so frustrated, we walked out of the hospital’s ER (we had already been admitted) after we told them, “We’re going to another ER.”

So we headed over to the hospital where my neurologist works, half an hour away. Relief flooded over me the minute we stepped in through those doors. It was the same hospital I’d gone to when I’d had my stroke…we were admitted in 2 minutes flat. Within five minutes, 3 nurses had converged on me, taken my vitals, and interviewed me. Within another minute or two, the ER doc came to see me. Within another five minutes, my neurologist came to see me.

I was being taken care of.

Another fifteen minutes, and I went in for a CT scan. Another hour, and I was being wheeled to an MRI.

And soon after that, I was admitted, and wheeled up to my room in the Definitive Care Unit, where I was visited by therapists and my doctors. That night, my vision slowly returned to near clarity.

It was an amazing experience, to go through that process again, with more mental clarity than the first time. The nurses remembered me, in the ER, and in the DCU. Even the therapists remembered me. “Forty Seven!” they exclaimed. (Apparently, I was in room 247, and they remember patients by their room numbers). In turn, I remembered people I thought I had forgotten: the CT technician, and all the therapists, staff that had overwhelmed my brain, and slipped through the cracks of my memory.

And in the end–I decided to ditch the cardiologist who abandoned me. It turns out that she is just starting out doing these surgeries, and never told me so. She has to do surgeries with a particular cardiologist who is an expert, and thus pushes my surgery dates out to times when he is available. I am just sick of her bullsh*t.

I met an awesome new cardiologist, one who has done many of these surgeries and puts me at ease with his attentiveness and cautiousness paired with confidence. I have a new schedule and treatment plan ahead of me. The tests were negative–I did not have a stroke, though I did have a TIA (trans ischemic attack–or a “mini stroke”). He’ll be doing my surgery, pending more tests.

I feel like this “detour” put me on the right vector of medical care. I’ve got the right team of doctors now. For the first time in months, I finally feel like I am in the hands of a cardiologist who can really take care of me.

I’ve also got a slew of medications that make me feel like I’m 65, and not in my mid-30s. My husband and I chuckled as the hospitalist read off the medications prescribed to me–a slew of blood thinners and lipitor for cholesterol (it’s too high for someone with a history of stroke, apparently).

Incredible! I have to say that my biggest “pain” while in the hospital was utter boredom (a good sign, since the last time I was in for stroke, I was way too out of it to feel any sort of restlessness or boredom). While hospitalized, I was connected to my blackberry, impulsively checking email (yay! and yes! I was flouting the no-cellphone rule) and chatting with people. I didn’t want to disconnect from the world–I am SO SICK of being treated in that “special” way that “ill people” are treated–disregarded, pushed aside. I wanted to be present in the world this time.

And in a weird twist of events, I found one of my stories had been accepted into an anthology. It was like the exclamation point on a very weird 48 hours.



Filed under Life, The Stroke, Writing

14 responses to “Impressionism to Reality: The Stroke’s Baby

  1. conie

    wow! that’s an amazing amount of… stuff to go/learn through in such a short period of time. pooh pooh on alta bates (and your former cardiologist – WTF??!!) and kudos to john muir and your new cardiologist!

    i’m really glad to hear you’re okay. best of luck to you for whatever procedures come next,

  2. lucy

    WOW. I am so sorry you had to go through all that. But I’m also relieved you finally are getting such good care. I had an adenoidectomy at John Muir when I was 10 and sensed even then that it was a good hospital.

    btw, i was just watching an episode of House M.D. where they relieved a patient of blindness in one eye by expirating some of the vitreous fluid from his eye to let a blocked artery clear itself. It made me think of you 🙂

    And I’m amazed at your ability to blog under such circumstances. And glad for it. The world really does need your input.

  3. Good to hear you got everything taken care of. Did they determine that the blurred vision was from the mini-stroke? And congratulations on the anthology!

  4. bustopher: yes–the blurred vision was from the TIA–where a clot went up into my eye and blocked vision…then moved over into my other eye. The cause was the hole in my heart.

    lucy: yes! i saw that House episode too…and it was a blocked vessel, i think. fascinating. thank you for your encouragement.

    Connie: dude–i am SO ready to party Saturday.

  5. this must be such a relief for you–i know it is for me, even on this other side of a computer screen!

    i could rant for hours about incompetant medical professionals, but then i feel bad because the ones that are good are so very, very good. i don’t think incompetance is just a matter of screwing up a technical problem (infections, surgeries, etc.). your former cardiologist will see her actions come back to haunt her when she has no patients, or is slapped with a malpractice suit–or worse yet, has a medical issue of her own and her own doctors will not take care of her.

    congrats on the anthology acceptance!

  6. mel

    This post took me on a roller coaster! i’m glad you’re ok, and that you found a good doctor (ah, our health care system…always leaves much to be desired).

    *Congratulations* on the anthology! That is great news and definitely a nice antidote to all the stress of the past day or two. (Is it the story that was recognized in the contest a few months ago? I love that story.)

  7. JDo

    wow. i’m glad that you got the medical care that you needed.

    and that’s wonderful news about your story.

  8. LeRoy Dissing

    I am glad that you can write about what is going on with you and are willing to share it with us who read you. I only wish we could do more than listen and offer what little support we can. Hoping you recover sufficiently to go home soon if you aren’t already.

  9. I’m just getting around to catching up on my blog reading. I can’t believe you had to go through all this again, but I am so glad you’ve stumbled upon the right team of docs to help! And a big congratulations on the anthology!!

  10. w

    Lady, I’m so glad that you switched cardiologists, are writing, and will appear in an anthology. I can’t wait to read your story; meanwhile, am sending you major health vibes.

  11. Hey guys–yes, I am counting this week as a weird boon. It was a big scare, but the results have put me on a MUCH better healthcare trajectory, so I think it was a “good thing” for sure. And I sure am excited about the anthology publication–the first one I’ve ever submitted to, and my first anthology publication!

  12. Lamberakis

    Glad to hear you’re on a new path to wellness!

    you inspire me, and I quoted you if you don’t mind.
    wanted to let you know.

  14. christine: I don’t mind at all. 🙂 thanks for the good word.

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