Sunday, July 2, 2006, 5:30 AM: I wake up with the worst pain in my head. It feels like there's a bug biting the inside of my skull, and if I pound hard enough on my head, the bug will stop biting me. I doze fitfully for the next 3 hours, trying to sleep but unable to because my fist keeps making its way to my temple.
8:30 AM: I finally get out of bed and almost stagger to the door. My leg feels a little funny, but the sensation is overshadowed by the constant pain in my head. I stumble around the house in a daze, limping and dropping things as I get ready for church. My husband gets himself and our not-yet-eight week old son ready, every few minutes asking me if I'm okay and do I need to go to the doctor.
9:30 AM: We pull in the church parking lot and the pastor's wife is standing there ready to greet us. My husband stops the car, jumps out, and gives our baby to the pastor's wife. He is ready to get back in the car and drive me to the hospital, but I get out and hand over the diaper bag. Being a brand new mom, I have lots of concerns to relate. He only had one bottle, and he would need it soon, but I said that was okay, there was no way I would be gone more than four hours. Diaper this, and change of clothes that, and my husband is shushing me back inside the car. He speeds the five minutes to the hospital.
LATER: I look up from my hospital bed and see my baby. He looks so calm and happy. My gaze turns to my husband. He does not look happy. It almost looks like he's crying. Am I going to die?
A LOT LATER: Bright lights wake me up. A funny man is there, telling me jokes. Apparently I haven't died yet. My husband tells me that I am in a different hospital, one that is better equipped to deal with what's wrong with me. What is wrong with me anyway? Oh, my brain is bleeding. That's nice. It feels like that bug that was in my skull went ahead and chewed my entire head off. So much pain...
A COUPLE DAYS LATER: My mom is here now, taking care of my baby. I don't have solid conscious thoughts, but I can hear him crying a lot. His swing is next to my bed, and when he rocks in it, the creak-creak soothes me as well. A scary looking doctor walks in and presses some medication into my hand. My husband asks what it's for, and the doctor waxes eloquent about the commonness of depression after a woman has a baby. Depression? Excuse me? We try to tell the doctor I am not depressed. My brain is just swollen and bleeding. He points out that every time he walks in the room to check on me, I do not seem very happy. Of course I'm not happy. MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE!
THE NEXT MORNING: After talking about the pros and cons, my doctor (my BRAIN doctor, not my "be happy" doctor) decides to prescribe steroids. Maybe they will help my brain get back to its normal size. I just hope that I don't get thrown in jail for taking steroids, but at this point, I would almost risk it to make the pain go away.
LATER: Wow, steroids are powerful things. I can talk again, I can cuddle my baby, I can even sit up. All this happened just in time, too, because I have several visitors. I am certain I look like a train dragged me several miles because that is how I feel, but at least I can half-smile at them and thank them for coming.
THURSDAY: Doctors and nurses form a steady stream in and out of my room. One doctor wants me to squeeze both of his hands. Another one wants me to do something akin to "Waddly-Atcha". I wasn't very good at that before half my brain died, and they want me to do that now? Raise your legs, hold out your arms, can you say the alphabet? Where did those blissful days of sleep go??
FRIDAY: The therapy nurse comes and puts a huge contraption around me. We walk down the hall and back. Well, she walks. I hobble. Then I rest in my bed, and before I know it, she's back for another round. And another. And another.
SATURDAY: I have to have a procedure done, to make sure the swelling in my brain has gone down enough. The doctor also wants to see if there is any indication as to what caused this in the first place. They put a needle in my femoral artery and push a probe up to my brain, where they release dye. They use a machine to see if any of the dye leaks out of the veins and arteries in my brain. I look up at the monitor and think, how cool is that that I can see my own brain. They must have given me some kind of pain med, because the next thing I know, a nurse is standing over me trying to pop my leg off at my hip. Not literally, but the pressure she is applying to where they put that needle is making me really mad. I start hitting her and yelling at her to leave me alone. (Yelling, in a drugged state of mind, equals quiet slurring, but to me I was yelling.) My husband is there too, trying to calm me down. So he's in on it too, huh? And here I thought I wasn't going to die.
MONDAY MORNING: I am going to therapy! I've always wanted to say that. EMTs show up in my room with a stretcher. I think it is their first day on the job, because first they put it too high; I can't climb on. Then they lower it all the way to the ground and I feel like I have to sit on the floor to get on. I know I must have been wheeled through the hospital when I came, but I was mostly unconscious, so I didn't know to be embarrassed. The drive to the hospital that has the therapy wing is long, and I spend the trip psyching myself up to be able to walk and do things for myself before the week is out. Sure enough, Friday afternoon I got discharged from therapy.
Although I'll never be the same as I used to be, I have slowly come to accept the new version of me. Being able to laugh at myself and realizing that if I can't change it, there is no use worrying about it are the two biggest things that are different. And wouldn't you know, both of those changes are good.