The med-tech said the MRI showed I had had three events— I remember two. A friend asked me a few months later if I had forgotten anything. I asked, how would I know? Another, whom I met for the first time months and months after the events, asked if I had aphasia since I was always searching for words as I spoke. If I had always done this, or was it a result of the stroke? Again, how would I know? I don’t remember being at a loss for words in the past— does that mean I have memory loss, or that it did not happen? I could ask people who knew me before, but then that would be their memories of me, not my own.
This is what I remember of that night. My in-laws were over for dinner. We were seated around the kitchen table. I don’t remember the children there, but they would have been, or should have been. I vaguely recall a roast pork loin in a cream sauce on the table, but that could have been another night with different people talking about different things. I was drinking a margarita. I had just taken a drink, savoring the salt and tequila as I placed the glass on the table. It was then that the first event I remember occurred. I felt odd, out of sequence somehow. My vision blurred briefly, as if I had just woken up. The world looked as if I was peering through a smudged lens of a camera. I rubbed my eyes, but my vision remained gooey.
I still felt odd. So, I excused myself, and retreated to an overstuffed chair in the living room. Very quickly my vision cleared, and I felt normal again. I returned to the table laughing about how weird the whole thing was, and finished my plate. After dinner, Lisa and her parents went outside to sit on the porch. I cleaned up a little, then went into the front room and sat down in the Lazy-Boy in the corner. As I sat there the words from Pound’s Cantos we had painted above the front door: “To be men, not destroyers” went from one line to three as if I were looking through a prism. That was more than a little weird.
Lisa called the nurse line. And after we described what had occurred, he said it sounded like a stroke, but not too bad of one since I felt normal. He said I should come in to the after-hours clinic in the morning and see a doctor. I wondered if I would wake up in the morning.
The hospital was a comedy of errors. The after hours doctor sent me there as soon as she heard my symptoms. We arrived, talked to a receptionist, who sent us up stairs for a room. The floor nurse had no idea why we were there, and sent us back downstairs. Finally someone in the ER escorted me back to a bed. They stuck wires and tubes all over and in me. Lots of machines beeped and blipped. Then they sent us home.
Over the next few months I had a series of tests: my heart, my blood, my head (MRI), my arteries. I saw the amounts the insurance company shelled out rise to the tens of thousands. Luckily I had insurance through teaching, or we would have been hard pressed to pay it all. Then after all of that they sent us a letter to describe what had happened. Lisa demanded that we see the neurosurgeon who signed off on the letter. We went in; and according to all the tests, and the gobs of money the insurance company paid, he told us the results. Yes, I had had a stroke. Yes, I was really young to have had a stroke (45). No, they did not know what caused it. Yes, it could happen again. No, there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Take a baby aspirin everyday. That was it: take a baby aspirin everyday. Like the punch line to an ancient joke that no one laughs at anymore: take a baby aspirin, and don’t call me in the morning.
(January 29, 2023)