I thought I was immune to illness. Not the common cold or the flu but real, debilitating illness. I never considered that one day I’d be so sick that I couldn’t take care of myself or my child. It’s blind optimism. The Peter Pan syndrome. And perhaps unrealistic. But…it’s the way my mind works. Sadly, my very brain turned on me on July 12th, 2016.
Four weeks after having Evan I landed in the NICU. While changing my sweet baby boy a headache set in. In a minute tops the pain went from 0 to 100. I began to cry. Sob. It felt like a million hammers struck my head at once. Over and over again. I couldn’t finish changing Evan so I picked him up in pampers. He was crying from hunger and I feared I would drop him.
I called Dave. He called the neighbors and they rushed to my place, offering to take me to the emergency room. I refused, I wanted Dave to get home from work so that he could take care of Evan while I went to the hospital. Minutes later, Dave arrived. Neck spams followed. I could no longer move my head from side to side or up and down. “Call an ambulance,” I cried to Dave.
At the local hospital, they gave me pain medicine and I felt a bit better. “We’re going to give you a CatScan to rule anything out,” said the doctor. I nodded, feeling eerily calm. They wouldn’t find anything, I thought. I still believed that while laying on the frigid, hard slab of metal and held still as the CatScan machine created an X-ray of my brain.
What happened next was shocking. The doctor pulled Dave to the side and whispered, “We found something.” Drowsy from the medicine, I couldn’t make out anything else, but Dave’s face was covered with concern. He walked over to me and shared the news. “They found blood in your brain.” The doctor informed me they had to administer a CatScan with contrast to get a clearer picture of my brain. I was rushed down the hospital corridors in a gurney. The transport guy was practically running. This was serious.
The results were in in minutes and I was suddenly back in another ambulance, sirens blaring down the Southern State Parkway. I was headed to Northshore Hospital’s neurology unit where a team of neurologists would run a multitude of tests including an angiogram and an MRI. At arrival, the doctors told me I’d remain in the NICU for a week; that was the best case scenario. With a face covered in tears, I handed over my engagement ring to Dave for safe keeping. I told him to guard it and Evan as I would. Because I wouldn’t be able to see my 4 week old baby boy for a week.
And so began a hard lesson that I needed to learn. I had an amazing pregnancy. I didn’t throw up once or get nauseous. I literally glowed and was out and about until my last month of pregnancy. Yet there I was in the NICU.
I had a stroke. At 38 years old, I had a stroke associated with labor pains.
A subarachnoid hemorrhage after child birth seldom happens yet there I was – a woman who is healthy and always has been; who’s first time being hospitalized was after labor because that’s standard procedure; who’s positive mindset has helped her fend off the flu every year- lying in a hospital bed at the Northshore NICU in pain and unable to walk without assistance.
In that instant my life completely changed, just like it did when I had Evan. I realized I’m not immune to life’s stresses. I learned that I have to be kinder to myself. I also know that I am blessed to be alive. So many don’t live to tell the tale of a brain bleed, of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I am blessed to be here today and have the creative, cognitive and behavioral function to share this story. I am blessed that I can one day be a wife to Dave and can continue to be a mother to my sweet baby boy.