|(I took this gorgeous photo from my front porch!)|
I had no idea it could be so frightening!
I would never have known how the Lord would reveal Himself if I hadn't gone through it.
Three years ago today...It was a Saturday evening and we were preparing to usher all the children to bed. As I was having a conversation with five-year-old Destiny in the kitchen, I suddenly realized that I couldn't see her face. I could hear her talking, but could only see "pieces" of her, much like a DVD that has lost pixels.
Not wanting to frighten her, I quickly excused myself and slipped into the nearby bathroom. Once the door was closed, I held up my hands and became alarmed when I could only see pieces of them. I looked in the mirror and gasped; there were only parts of my face here and there and I had no peripheral vision at all. I realized something was dreadfully wrong, but my mind seemed to be fading into a fog. I came out of the bathroom and from that point, I don't remember seeing or hearing another child, except for the three older girls.
I made my way into the living room and calmly told Terry that something was wrong with my eyesight, but by this time, I was having trouble expressing myself. He understood that something was happening to me. He looked at my eyes and saw that my pupils were dilated and were nearly as large as my irises. I could tell there was movement in the room around me, but I didn't know who it was or what anyone was doing. The confusion only seemed to worsen with each passing minute. I sat on the couch and wondered aloud if I was having a stroke. When I asked if someone could look up those symptoms, I realized my words were slurred. I didn't seem to have any control over my tongue. I asked Stephanie to call a friend whose medical judgment I trusted. I knew she would also be able to help my daughter stay calm.
My body began trembling uncontrollably and that's when I realized that Haley was very upset. I kept saying, "I'm okay...I'll be alright. Just calm down." Then someone told me I didn't look alright. I could hear voices saying I was pale and my eyes looked weird (from my pupils being dilated). A voice told me to get dressed because I needed to go to the hospital. I told them I would be okay and didn't need to go anywhere. I heard someone in a tunnel say this was one of the symptoms of a stroke; not wanting to see medical help.
Haley went out of the room and somehow I knew she was crying. I didn't want my children to be upset. Emily followed me into my bedroom. I asked her to go be with Haley and to calm her down then I went to my closet. I remember pulling out a skirt and looking at my nightgown and trying to think through the steps to get dressed, but my mind wouldn't stay focused and I still couldn't see properly. Suddenly Emily was there, bringing me a glass of apple juice and she told me to drink it. "But sugar is bad," I protested. "Mrs. Porter said..." She reassured me. I drank a few sips and my stomach began to churn. I sat down on the bed as I suddenly felt so tired. All I wanted to do was to go to sleep and I told the girls as much. I still felt very strange; one of my girls would be there one second and it seemed they would disappear and someone else would mysteriously appear. I was very confused and disoriented.
Somehow I got dressed (I couldn't remember if I dressed myself, but the girls say I did it without any help). I came into the living room and told Terry my eyes seemed to be getting better, as the "pieces" were starting to come together. But my tongue suddenly seemed to be disconnected from my brain and I couldn't make it convey my thoughts. My heart started pounding and I heard voices saying my fingernails and toenails were turning purple. I kept trying to reassure everyone that I would be alright but Emily firmly informed me that I did not look alright. Terry said we needed to go to the hospital. I knew he was right.
I don't remember much about that 40 minute drive to the hospital except that I always warn Terry of deer (because usually one could be waving at him on the edge of the road and he doesn't see them), but though I saw them, I couldn't convey it to him. He said, "By the way, I saw that deer," after we had passed one grazing in a field alongside the road. I wanted to tell him that I couldn't warn him tonight. Then a car popped over a hill and normally I would squeal, "TERR!" But I didn't, so he said it instead. I knew he was nervous and was only trying to make light of the situation. With slurred words I said, "Enjoy the ride." because it would be a silent one, without me "helping" him drive. I tried to remember Scripture verses, and some of Psalm 23 came to my mind but I couldn't focus on anything.
At the hospital I was immediately treated for a stroke. I remember seeing fear in the young doctor's eyes and I wanted to tell him everything was going to be okay and he needed to calm down. I was calm and not scared at all, even though my body seemed to be betraying me. I noticed as they wheeled me down the hall, there were several police officers there. It never occurred to me that they shouldn't be there till I came back from the CT scan and heard loud shrieking coming from one of the rooms, which happened to be right next to mine. A woman was screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs. At one point I heard someone in the next room say something about her spitting. Terry later told me they had handcuffed the woman to the bed. Her horrible screeching was unrelenting.
I began to feel uneasy when a verse of Scripture came to my mind. The first part I could understand; "The Lord is my refuge and strength." the second part didn't make any sense to me at all: "a very present help in trouble." I said this aloud several times, trying to make sense of it. Terry asked me what I was talking about but I just shook my head because I knew there was no way I could convey this to him, as my brain was still too disconnected. "A very present help in trouble..." I was sure I'd never read that phrase or heard it before, the wording didn't even make any sense, yet it kept coming back to my mind and I kept repeating the same words during the 45 minutes that the woman carried on. At one point I lost my focus and told Terry I felt as though I was going to have a panic attack. He took my hand and prayed for me. I began repeating the verse and was able to stay calm.
A nurse informed me the doctor was talking to the neurologist..."A very present help".
Another nurse said they were getting my room ready upstairs..."A very present help".
When I overheard the doctor say that one side of mouth was drooping..."A very present help."
That verse kept running through my mind. At some point Terry asked the nurse how they were able to get the woman to be quiet and told him she'd been arrested. It was then that I realized I didn't hear her anymore.
The slurring and memory lapses continued through the next day. On Monday morning I opened the Bible that had been placed in the room by the Gideons. As I began trying to decipher Matthew 7, a chapter I had previously memorized, I realized it wasn't making any sense to me. It seemed as though my eyes were reading, but not my brain. I read again, trying to focus; then I tried to read aloud, but it wouldn't stick.
When a nurse came in, I shared my concern with her. She glanced at the Bible in my hands and suggested I just look at the newspaper. I was frustrated. I wondered if maybe it was a different version than I'm used to (KJV) and began scanning the pages in the front of the Bible, looking for clues. The first page had an index of Scriptures to read for different circumstances. My eyes immediately fell to "In times of fear...Psalm 46". Without really thinking, I looked up this passage and these precious Words leapt off the page:
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."Tears filled my eyes as I realized that even while I was disoriented and could not fully understand, the Lord had brought to my mind a passage of Scripture to help me know that He was right there in the hospital with me, that He indeed is a Very Present Help when I need Him. And though I couldn't comprehend how or why, He had given me peace through it all!
TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), or mini-stroke is what I had experienced. Information I was given says: While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are serious warning signs of stroke and should not be ignored! Usually when a person has a stroke, it has been preceded by a TIA. Not all people who have TIAs will have a stroke, but a large percentage do. Most people who have a stroke have had at least one TIA previously. There is no way to tell the difference between a TIA and a full-blown stroke; the symptoms are the same. If you ever experience any of this, please seek medical attention immediately, as time is precious and brain damage can be reversed if it is caught quickly.
Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. But if you
are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning
signs like these:
or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
or trouble understanding other people
seeing with one or both eyes
walking or staying balanced or coordinated
headache that comes on for no known reason
During the past three years, I've made a near-complete recovery with only a few residual side effects (to read about this, check out the post I'm Recovering From a Stroke).