Cya CVA!

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One more time, from the top...



(Originally posted February 16, 2009)


For those of you joining our story already in progress, I'm creating this blog to keep our friends, family, coworkers and all the rest of y'all in the loop about the progress of my husband J.J.'s fight to overcome the odds and recover fully from the stroke he endured on 2/15/09.


Coming up on 24 hours ago now, we were enjoying a normal family Sunday day. Well, for appropriate values of enjoy--Leah (our four year old) was throwing a major grump about the vegetable soup J.J. had made for dinner, and J.J. was maintaining that he would sit up all night with her if he had to so he could ensure she ate at least some of the soup. Oh, do I wish that's why we were sitting up all night.


Around 8:45 p.m. J.J. started up the stairway to put Leah to bed. He got three or four steps up and collapsed, slithering down the stairs on his stomach. He was clutching his right leg as he landed on the floor. "Charlie Horse?" I asked, knowing he gets some really killer intense muscle cramps. He nodded and moaned in pain. I left him to go upstairs to get the kids to bed, since by this point they were standing frozen at the top of the stairway staring in disbelief at their daddy. Got them all tucked in, came back downstairs. J.J.'s sitting at the bottom of the stairs. "Any better?" I asked. He nodded. I decided to just leave him alone to give him the space he needed to be in pain without an audience. I wandered into the kitchen to start cleaning up dinner. I yelled back at J.J. to ask if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean or dirty. J.J.'s reply deserves a phoenetic spelling...cllellch. Apparently, this means clean in J.J. Remember it, use it in a sentence and the word will be yours forever.


Anyway, since I now knew something was wrong, I sat with J.J. and deliberated for a moment about whether we did indeed have a 911-worthy emergency. We finally decided that we did. I called my mother so she could get on the road to come sit with the kids (about a 90 minute drive), then called the paramedics.


Twenty minutes later, the paramedics arrived. I remember very vividly that the lead paramedic took one look at my apparently healthy 33 year old husband sitting in the chair in our living room and asked what made us call them, seriously. I explained his symptoms. I think they were on the verge of not taking him when they took his blood pressure--178/125.


It was at this point that I got my first exposure to a very fun game; in-this-instant-we're-going-to-need-you-to-make-a-snap-decision-that-may-alter-your-life-or-your-husbands'. "Where do you want us to take him?" I was asked. I chose Hendricks Regional, due to the fact that our family doctor and the cardiologist J.J. saw three weeks ago (no, he doesn't have a long-standing cardiac history--more on this later, if I get a chance) both had privileges there. And whisk, they were gone.


I won't bore you with the details of the time I spent waiting for my mother to get to us so I could leave the kids. Suffice it to say that I was almost in tears when our garbage disposal stopped working (think I know how to fix it now--thanks Donna!). I was out the door the instant my mother arrived. By the way, the kids are indeed now down at my mother's house. We're trying to keep them as far from this as possible right now.


As soon as I walked in the door at the ER, the doctor was all over me with another snap decision: whether or not to administer clot-busting drugs. He advised that giving them carried a 3-5% risk of killing J.J. outright. I decided to forego the drugs. Incapacitated husband I can deal with. Dead, not so much.


The doctor filled me in that J.J. had been completely unable to move his right side when he got to the ER. By the time I got there, he was wiggling the toes on his right foot and waving his hand around. This was very encouraging to me, and I think I took my first deep breath since this whole ordeal began.


During the time we spent in the ER, J.J. seemed to be getting much better. At about 2:00, we got notice it was time to move it on out for the ICU. After getting him settled for the night, I kissed him and headed home to get some sleep.


Oh, this soooo did not happen.


What I did instead was laundry. And a few more dishes. And wrestling of the cat back into the pantry so I didn't have to deal with him hiding in my closet. By the way, what IS it with this cat and my closet? Is cotton-poly blend really laced with tuna???


I went to work briefly this morning. Most normal I've felt all day.


I came back to the hospital at about 9:00 a.m. to find J.J.'s great-uncle and J.J.'s boss Brian waiting to see him. J.J. had been taken for a test and wasn't there. So we all settled in to wait.


At this point, I must give a shout-out to the Armstrong folks. We had vistors, phone calls and a huge show of concern from these awesome people. You don't know how uplifting it is to know that J.J. is really appreciated by his employer. I probably also need to offer an apology to anyone I offended and/or made uncomfortable by using my unique blend of gallows humor and tears today. I'll do better tomorrow, really.


I finally got to go back to see J.J. at 11:30 a.m. (along with R.W. Armstrong HR Director Donna). His color looked much better. But his movement on his right side was much worse.


Let me pause for just a moment to note how startling it is to walk into the hospital and see my gravely ill husband looking basically just like he always does. It's not until you start talking to him that you notice the differences.


J.J. has aphasia. He's 100% cognitively still my J.J. and completely understands everything I say to him. He can nod yes and no appropriately and will even say a few words/simple phrases, like: yeah, okay, alright, hi, better, it's okay, I'm sorry, and my favorite, I love you. I did get a glimpse at his sarcasm when he told me, "Why, thank you" when I told him his hair was completely out of control. But anything more is impossible for him to say right now. I can tell he's incredibly frustrated by this as well, so I'm trying to reframe all of my questions as yes/no questions.


Over the day today, J.J. has had multiple tests and consults by both a cardiologist and a neurologist. And here's what I know, such as it is...


We have no idea why J.J. had the stroke. May never know. But right now it looks like there's a leision on the left side of his brain (which impacts the right side of the body, remember) where cell death has occured. We're not sure if this will be permanent. We also don't really know to what extent this will impact/limit his function in the future. His carotid arteries are clear. He doesn't have any active bleeds. But he does look to have a blockage in his MCA (Middle Cerebral Artery, I think?) so we'll be watching to see how this resolves.


The first time I met with the neurologist today, he said he thinks J.J. will be able to walk and regain some use of his hand. He also said he'll talk, although his speech will probably be slurred or slow. I say this neurologist doesn't know my husband and the strength he possesses. The most important thing in J.J.'s life is his family. I know he will move heaven and earth to bring himself back to us.


Our motto right now--someone's got to beat the odds. Might as well be Team Erin and J.J. (this, by the way, is kind of an in-joke that stuck--go with it!)


Thanks for reading this far. Please leave your comments--I'll read them all off to J.J. to let him know how many people are rooting for him.


I'll let you know more as I know more.


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