Thursday, August 11, 2011 began pretty much like every other weekday that summer. I was working at the coolest flower shop In Northwest Arkansas: Brick Street Botanical. The owner, Holly Mang, is one of the most creative people I have ever met. Working with her was so much fun. We laughed a lot, and I believe laughing is one of the most important things in life. The flower shop was one of the few places I could work with my head-full of dreadlocks, and still be taken somewhat seriously. We were an artistic bunch. And my waist length graying dreads fit right in.
Thursday mornings always included delivering flowers to the Mercy hospital gift shop in Rogers. But that morning I had one more delivery about 20 minutes away in Elm Springs. I presented the lady of the house a beautiful arrangement of flowers, then hopped back onto the bypass and sped 70 miles an hour back toward the hospital.
After carrying the cardboard flat filled with vases of flowers into the gift shop, I opened the door of the flower cooler and stuck my head into the cold lily scented air. A wave of dizziness rolled through me but I just took a deep breath and thought “this will pass”. But instead my whole body popped out in a sweat, my knees buckled, and my clammy hands slid down the plastic handles of the flower cooler.
Crumpled on the floor unable to sit up, I called to the little white-haired volunteers for help. I remember feeling embarrassed at having to call for help. Someone younger came to my rescue. I ended up in a wheelchair practically flying through a corridor of astonished faces well maybe not astonished but highly entertained. Somehow, I knew that a few minutes earlier the same people had been waiting for an appointment or something. I’m certain my sudden appearance eased their boredom. The feet of the woman pushing the wheelchair, pounded on the floor as she ran toward the emergency room. Then there was the usual emergency room discussion with a harried, but kind Doctor, whose job it was to determine just why I had passed out in the gift shop.
I don’t recall what we discussed but I do remember looking up over the foot of my bed and seeing the concerned faces of my two almost adult children.
Before I knew what was going on I was being wheeled down a hallway for an angiogram; being wheeled away from my kids whose faces became more concerned as the distance between us grew. I tried to reassure them by saying ” if something bad happens I’ll be okay, don’t worry.” I think what I meant was that I wasn’t sure what was happening but I knew it was serious enough that there was a possibility that I might die. And if that was the case I was ready and I’d be okay.
As I think back, it’s really, scary, I don’t remember being scared but I do remember the looks on my kids faces. They were scared and I didn’t want them to be not for me anyway.
After that, my brain did a big edit. I have little memory of anything after speaking to my children but apparently a week went by with excruciating headaches and repeated trips to the emergency room. I guess some things are simply too painful to remember. Everyone has told me it’s a blessing that I don’t recall much of that week.
I do remember a visit with a very unprofessional neurologist who took my 19 year-old son out into the hall and asked him if I did this sort of thing for attention. Gabe was angry when he came back to the exam room and told us what the so-called doctor had said. I’ve never felt so insulted in my entire life. The jerk told Jack to get me a massage or something and basically just wrote me off as some kind of a nut case.
My friend Kristi did come over with her massage table and gave me a massage. Kristi is also a registered nurse. She suggested a meningitis test, if my husband took me back to the hospital. Another friend, Kathy told me later that she brought me a junior Sonic burger, one of my favorite quick meals, which she insisted I eat, since I had not eaten for over a day.
Apparently the headaches persisted and my husband, Jack was forced to take me back to the hospital where he asked the doctors to test for meningitis. The spinal tap showed no evidence of meningitis, but there was blood in my spinal fluid, which indicated bleeding in the brain, a ‘minor’ detail the idiot neurologist managed to miss. The team of doctors in the Rogers emergency room decided I needed to be transferred to Spring field, Missouri, where the hospital had a neurosurgeon on staff.. I was transferred in an ambulance manned by a couple of guys who wore gold chains nested in their abundant chest hair, who I nicknamed “the Guidos”.
In Springfield, the neurosurgeon determined that I had suffered a ruptured aneurysm. The surgery to repair the bleed followed the same route as the angiogram through my femoral artery rather than cutting a hole in my skull. However there were complications during surgery which resulted in a stroke which left me mostly paralyzed on my left side.
The “Guidos” had simply transported me to the place where I began my descent into hell. I would call out for them to come rescue me in the dark days to come. Every day at the hospital in Springfield was just like an episode of CSI, you know, where everything is always dark and no one ever turns on a light
If there was ever a sunny day in Springfield I never knew it each and every minute I spent in that hospital was like the darkest midnight.
I heard rain constantly, along with the sounds of helicopters flying in and out I cried for rescue but neither “the Guidos” nor those helicopters would take me home. I’d slipped into the Twilight Zone and there, I’d stay for weeks.