Three IV’s later, I’d been injected with some clot-busting drug and was wheeled out of the ER … but I didn’t know it hadn’t worked. I thought perhaps I was going somewhere for more tests, or perhaps even a room …
Hu hu hu. Noooooooope.
Lying prone on the gurney, I saw bright white operating room lights float into my field of vision. There were nurses, an anethesiologist, and a surgeon, all dressed in OR surgical gear. Still, I didn’t quite get what was going on until they started pulling off my clothes and wielding a razor to shave my nether regions. This was extra confusing because I was fairly damn sure the problem was in my head.
“Something is odd here. Eerrrrmmmm …”
My husband, as next of kin, had authorized a thrombectomy, since the clot-busting drug didn’t work. This would have been quite a helpful piece of information to know. In his defense, he said there wasn’t time to explain it to me and he wanted me in surgery as fast as possible. (The window for stroke treatment is a mere three to four hours after the occurrence.) Well … knowing probably would’ve freaked me out more. I just wanted someone to fix me at this point. If they HAD drilled a hole my head, I probably would’ve been ok with it.
As it was, they were shaving my nether regions because they were going in through a groin vein to snake up and remove the clot. Said clot was 3/4 of an inch long. Get out a measuring tape and see how big that is. That is a fucking big chunk of obstruction to be clogging your delicate bloody pathways. I still didn’t know this. All I knew was they were trying to fix me. The nurse stroked my hair. “Don’t you worry, honey. We’re going to take good care of you.”
My eyes slid around. To my left were a field of huge monitors. I saw images of my brain. I saw the dye lighting up my veins; I saw the clot that was trying to kill me.
I had not stopped crying since the stroke happened. I was no longer sobbing, but tears leaked out steadily. I cannot, absolutely cannot, adequately describe the level of fear I was feeling. Now that I knew they were doing something to my brain, I was lying there, ordered to be still, wondering if I was going to come out of this intact. I was absolutely petrified of being brain damaged. What if I had to stop working, go on disability, be a burden on my husband who’d have to take care of me?
I am a woman of great faith. Even when my mother died of leukemia at 62, and I was angry and confused, I never stopped knowing that God was a good God. That is a fact, no matter what you go through. But lying stiff and terrified on that table, I did not know what to pray. I fought against talons of horror that were sinking, piercing, deep into my heart, clutching viciously all my senses. I began to say the Lord’s Prayer over and over. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done …” Then I choked back a truly terrorizing, smothering choke of panic.
“Lord … if I am going to be brain damaged, you just bring me home right now. I cannot live like that. Save me. Save me completely or bring me home. If I have to die … it’s all right.”
I was awake for the entire procedure. They like to be able to evaluate you quickly when they’ve been messing about with your brain. They had given me a local in my groin, so I didn’t feel the probe go in. Then it hit my brain.
Holy shit, did I feel that.
It was like a wrenching ache; a knife stab. A probing, stinging pressure. I moaned in pain and fear, and was ordered again to keep still. God gave me the strength to not move, but I couldn’t keep quiet. Fresh tears poured down my face. But I kept still. It seemed to go on forever. I felt them attacking the clot at least three times. It was the closest I would probably come to being immobilized and tortured. I felt like I was in Hell.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Then, dimly, through the haze of this crushing experience, I heard the surgeon say something like, “Boo-ya, got that sucker!”
That was the first time I felt hope.
“What’s your name, young lady?” the surgeon asked.
“Laura Singleton,” I replied, my mouth not having to work quite so hard to say it. And smiled.
Then my gaze returned to those huge monitors, those images of my brain; the most awesome and intricate creation of a benevolent God who, He had just proved, fiercely loved and cared for me and never left my side. Always with me, never leaving or forsaking me, with me even in the depths, as He promised. I stared at the veins, the brain tissue, the pathways, the neurons that I couldn’t see. I thought about how God formed me in His image and made every organ in the human body and connection in the spirit that makes us what we are; all the wonderful, confusing, glorious things that make humanity. Then I saw a photo they had taken of the clot.
“That’s fucked up,” I said.
They all burst into laughter. “Get here out of here,” they chuckled. “She’s fine.”
Oh, dear God. I was so much more than fine.