This is our Fourth of July week, but I would like to tell you about events of July 1st, July 2nd, and July 3rd. On Sunday, July 1, at about 2:00 p.m. after talking with my daughter, Clea, on the phone for 45 minutes, I lost use of my right hand, which had been holding the phone. I could not grip my toothbrush to brush my teeth. I could not open a cosmetic compact for adding makeup to my face. I could not grip my glasses to pick them up and put them on my face. The hand was totally useless.
I was trying to get dressed for a date with my 93-year-old friend, Ruth, who was expected at my house for a visit. Then we planned to go out to dinner. There was no pain, no tingling, and no cramping. There was just uselessness, and I knew I could not drive the car. After fifteen or twenty minutes and no improvement, I called my son, Eric, and told him I thought we should go to the emergency room across Newberry Road from my neighborhood in the Villages of West End. Eric arrived quickly. He opened a pill bottle for me, so I could take an extra blood pressure pill. He put my shoes and socks on my feet, tied my shoes, and we went to the emergency room.
The medical team immediately started treating me as a stroke victim. They started an IV, injected iodine, and did a cat scan of my brain. Other tests were done, and after calling a respected neurologist for advice, they strapped me into an ambulance, and sent me off to the emergency room at North Florida Hospital at about 5:00 p.m. By then, I could open my hand and it was feeling almost normal. I enjoyed the view out the backdoor of the ambulance, while the siren was wailing, the horn blaring urgently, and emergency lights flashing. No food or water was allowed, as my stomach needed to be empty in case they decided to give me stroke medicine. I was in the North Florida emergency room from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. waiting to be seen by a doctor. No food, no water, but several trips to the bathroom, always accompanied by a nurse.
At about 10:30 that night, I was put into a room in neurology. The room was large, and single, with an elegant bathroom. At 3:30 a.m. they started with blood draws and vitals. On Monday, I was given every imaginable test, including an electrocardiogram, and hooked up to every imaginable instrument. It took an act of congress to get me from my bed to the bathroom. I was a “fall risk” and they couldn’t leave my side. Doctors and therapist and officials came and went. I thought I would get an MRI and be released. I didn’t believe I’d had a stroke. I wanted to believe it was due to holding the phone the wrong way. I had never felt better.
By Monday afternoon, with no decisions made, I got angry and let the doctors know I didn’t think I should have to stay a second night in the hospital just because they were letting more urgent patients ahead of me in the MRI waiting line. Yelling at doctors caused my heart rate to go higher, and my next examining doctor detected a pulse rate of 155 and had me transferred from neurology to cardiology where a heart drip could be started to treat atrial fibrillation. All the time they are promising an MRI of my brain at any minute. By the time I got to a room in cardiology in the North Tower I was over my mad spell and my heart rate was so low I no longer needed the drip.
In the meantime, I was seeing physical therapists, speech therapists, and dieticians. If I put my feet on the floor beside my bed and stood to pull my panties up, the fall risk alarm would go off and several nurses would come running and yelling “What are you doing?” Home care experts were visiting and asking me did I live alone, did I cook, did I know where I was, did I know what month it was, my social security number? Everybody wanted me to squeeze their hand, and resist when they tried to push my arm down. My hand was fine and totally back to normal. I wanted to go home, where I could go pee without people leading me there and dragging the IV contraption with us, then standing by, watching to make sure I didn’t fall off the toilet.
All through Tuesday morning, an MRI was promised any minute. I mentioned it to every doctor or nurse I talked to and each of them called MRI. At last an MRI was promised for 2:00 p.m. Dr. Cockey came in and said I was going home with a new prescription for cholesterol drug, Lipitor, and a blood thinner, Eliquis. They had decided my atrial fibrillation was the problem, and that is what most likely caused the small stroke that weakened my hand.
Just after the neurologist announced I no longer needed an MRI of the brain, a technician from MRI arrived with a wheel chair to take me there. Imagine her disgust!
It was a colorful three days. I especially enjoyed all the wheel chair rides, and “Punkin,” the cleaning lady. She was a hoot.
I am happy to be back in my home, where no alarm sounds when I stand up, and where I can empty my bladder at will and in privacy. I am adjusting to my two new medications, which will hopefully prevent this from happening again. I am warned that I will bleed easily due to the blood thinner, so please be gentle with me.