I woke Tuesday morning, and I couldn't coordinate my thumb to touch any of my fingers on my left hand. My leg felt heavy, clumsier, and my mouth was sluggish, like talking through marbles. But I could still walk, if wobbly, raise my arm and even clench my fist. Cognitively, I was still hitting all the marks, so while I'd moved up the stroke scale from a two to a five, the plan was to release me to outpatient therapy.
The hospital sent a social worker to discuss my discharge. Who is flying home with you? she asked. No one, I answered. And who will be staying with you to help you while you recuperate? No one. Can you call someone who will? No, not really. But you just had a stroke, she said. And I'm a single mom with no family around me for a thousand miles, I replied. It is what it is. She recommended that I get a wheelchair escort to and from the airport gate since fatigue would make walking that far problematic, and then they released me.
My sister-in-law took me back to their house, and my brother, who was out of town on business, booked me a flight back home for Thursday. By now all my Facebook friends, neighbors and family members got the word, and my phone was dinging and chirping and ringing constantly. It was frustrating as hell because I really had a hard time texting because I couldn't hold my phone properly, I was groggy from meds and I really, really needed to sleep. I couldn't turn my phone off either - what if my kids needed me? So here's a piece of advice if you have a loved one in the hospital: post your concern, thoughts and well-wishes on their Facebook wall and don't be hurt if they don't answer you back early on.
I had a pretty good night and even though I was shaky, I knew I'd crawl across broken glass if I had to in order to get home. But I woke up the next morning and I was worse. I could barely walk. I fell twice. My speech was slurring badly. I could no longer move my hand and arm at all. Worried I was having a rebound stroke, we went back to the Emergency Room.
The wonderful neurologist once again held my hand and talked me through it. There was no new stroke, but the previous one hadn't plateaued yet. They were reactivating me and recommending a physical therapist come and do a full evaluation. Once that got submitted to insurance, they were going to approve me for inpatient rehabilitation.
A few more days, I thought.
A few more weeks, they said.
That was hard to hear, but I knew I couldn't get on a plane. I knew I couldn't put all this on my kids. So I called my boss and entered my claim for short-term disability, and I emailed my editor to tell her I wasn't going to make my book deadline. And I texted my ex and my kids and I cried some more. But I was going to get therapy for 3+ hours every day and I was determined, if exhausted. I was going back to my kids. And I was going back to work. And I will finish that book. I just had to get through this first. Wallowing was not an option.
Next up: The hard part