Soft beeping and humming fills the air. I can hear the burdened heaving of a hospital respirator. I am attached and it breathes in and out for me. This machine is delivering much needed oxygen to my blood which benefits the healing that is now taking place in the whole of my body as well as my spirit. I am groggy but I can begin to make out some shapes in the room. My eyes find their focus I am wondering why my oldest daughter and my youngest son are so close and looking at me. I cannot speak but I motion to them to give me a pen and some paper. They are close to my face and I can feel their breath. I see them both looking tired but smiling lovingly and deeply. I am very puzzled and write the question. “Where am I, Arizona or Texas?”
Chloe responds happily, “Momma you are in Dallas!”
“Why are you here?” I write.
“We came to see you. We just flew in from Las Vegas and we are exhausted but so glad you are awake!” Chloe and Brendon look at each other in disbelief as they vaguely explain their presence in my hospital room.
The nurse on duty has rushed into my room and is at my bedside. I am writing and demanding as best as I am able, that this breathing tube be removed from my throat. It is preventing me from speaking.
“Rochele, you need to stay calm. You are in the hospital. Do you know what day it is? Who is the president?” The nurse busies herself making notes and recording my answers.
Things are fuzzy but I do know.
“Barack Obama is the president. Oh and yes it is April 17, 2014. Why are my kids here?” I am limited to writing my answers and the conversation takes place in the matter of a few seconds. I am feeling agitated but excited to see my kids. So yes, I am in the hospital and I feel present but am confused by my inability to speak. I am wired into a hospital bed and overwhelmed with what I am beginning to understand.
“Rochele, you need your rest. I am giving you something to help you sleep. We must keep you quiet; you have survived a brain hemorrhage. You have had life saving surgery. Your family will be back, they have had a long day.”
The nurse attaches an IV bag and its fluid drips slowly into my vein. I fade quickly into a foggy mist of a memory that lead up to that moment. I settle very quickly into a deep unconscious slumber induced by powerful sedatives designed to keep my brain very quiet.
I am finally peaceful again and vaguely aware that I am visiting in Dallas, Texas. I remember that last night I sought help in the local emergency room for what felt like an intense headache and a violent stomach flu. The paramedics were called. I was transported, evaluated and finally released.
I returned to my hotel room and I called my mother. “I will need to stay the weekend because it seems that I have the flu.” I told her trying to stifle the disappointment of not returning home for the Easter holiday that weekend. I fell into my bed and let go easily of the busy evening and fell exhausted to sleep. I was alone in my room and was awakened by the sunlight streaming into my window. My thirst was unbearable and I got up out of my bed to visit the bathroom for more water to drink. Something felt wrong. My head pounded with a burning pain and I walked straight into the wall. I tried to direct my body but I lost balance and bent forward at the waist, then I barreled head first into the wall. I recognized that something was wrong so I dropped to all fours and crawled to the bathroom sink. Every item on my bathroom counter got knocked to the ground as I tried to lift myself to get the drink of water that I so desperately desired. I gave up and was still on the cold tile floor for a moment. After resting for a few minutes I was able to focus on getting back into my bed where I decided to make a quick call on my cell phone. I had been given my doctors phone number to use in the event that I need some additional help while I am in town.
‘Dr. Edward? This is Rochele, I am in room 215 and I need you to help me, I have terrible head pain and I can’t balance. I just walked into the wall.” Dr. Edward and his wife raced to the hotel to check on me. They phoned the front desk when I did not answer the knocking at my hotel room door. They were bringing me coffee and checking on my well being. Dr Edwards got the hotel manager to enter my room and they found me unconscious and unresponsive.
I vaguely remember the paramedics strapping me onto the gurney and loading me into a waiting ambulance. I remember being wheeled out of my hotel room past the hotel staff that watched horrified as I was rushed off for the second time to the emergency room. Thankfully I was admitted directly for a CAT scan where it was found that I had suffered a cerebral bleed. I was immediately prepped for emergency surgery that saved my life. The artery to my cerebellum had an aneurism which had gone undetected for some time, it had finally burst. The opening was filling my brain with blood that was crushing the delicate tissue. I had one final conscious moment where I was hallucinating the feeling that the right side of my body was consumed in fire. In a dream I was telling a nurse that I was suffering a stroke. I watched my body separate into two halves and I felt the extreme burning pain of the stroke.
The phone rang in Las Vegas. Chloe and Brendon are in their early twenties. Chloe was studying circus performance art and Brendon was working as a visual artist. He just graduated from college and moonlights at a coffee shop. Even though they had not spoken to each other yet today, each had a nagging feeling that I was not well. They are two of my children.
Chloe received a call from Dr. Edwards and then from the hospital where she was asked to give permission for them to perform life saving surgery. The doctors described an uncertain outcome. It was explained that eighty percent of the patients who present with this problem do not make it through the surgical invasion needed to correct the bleed. It was explained to Chloe that my situation is dire and my chances of survival are slim. I may never be the same. To allow me to receive surgery was a choice she would have to make immediately. If there was a chance that I could survive, Chloe decided to grant permission. She hung up the phone to call her Aunt and Uncle for guidance. Flight arrangements were made and both kids flew right away to Dallas to stay for the next thirty days to be with me as I worked my way through surviving this event.
I was at the front end of the biggest challenge of my life. I have been a strong person to overcome a difficult childhood. I have naturally birthed five children. I became a single mother unexpectedly and have raised my family as a single for the past 10 years. It is now another defining moment in my story.
I am sure that all that is required from me is to breathe. If I breathe, I will live and at some point I will feel the desire to experience life again. I am truly present to this moment. I have been challenged to completely change my life. I have been active and fit. I could ride my mountain bike for twenty five to thirty miles most weekends. I was very active as a kayaker and enjoyed golf competitively with my close friends. I just got the memo. My life was changing. I think change is difficult for most of us, and coping with change seems to be a theme of life that has demanded so much from me. What feels normal is shifting and a new reality is being renegotiated. I am in the process of emergence. The former patterns of my existence are being challenged and my beliefs are being tested to see if they still apply. I see this process in nature. Snow melts and spring rains swell the rivers. The flood waters cut and flow right through the banks that formerly contained it. The swollen river tears away the banks rerouting the path as it makes its way downstream. I resonate deeply with the wisdom of the re-creative power that nature is showing me. It suggests, don’t resist and allow these changes to take place. The torrent is violent and path changes but the water it is still flowing downstream.
Where did I develop this notion that life does not change? So much of my life has been spent reacting to situations and people that surround me. I am beginning to see that I am indeed powerful in the way that I have a choice on how to feel inside amidst external circumstances. I am practicing gratitude and I am truly grateful because I am here. Every new moment represents an opportunity to make a choice. I remember more often now that I can start over fresh each time that I catch myself obsessing over the security of the future or the disappointments of my past. I am now at the beginning of an awareness that promises to serve me for the balance of my life. I have survived a catastrophic event medically. This experience has allowed me to learn to surrender my care to others and to ask for the help that I desperately need. The stories that I tell myself have tremendous creative power. I remember that trees do not grow to the sky. Their growth springs forward as the branches emerge in a spiral fashion toward the heavens. This growth creates balance and strength for the whole tree. The roots grow deep and can hold their place steadfastly while the tree endures the trials of extremes in weather. I liken myself and my growth to a tree. I can spiral my reaching into my challenges and cultivate peace and strength of survival with a balanced growth approach. My path toward recovery is taking on the form of rehabilitative sessions designed to reconnect me with daily activities that I have taken for granted my whole life. My balance was so deeply affected that I no longer had the ability to walk without assistance. I was able to speak but I lost one third of my body weight in a month. I experienced extreme exhaustion with any exertion. Mentally I had an appreciation for surviving but I was dealing with the challenges of physical pain. I had to relearn the most basic of self care. Many of these skills were learned over the course of the next five months. I worked on improving daily and it left me exhausted and needing to rest and sleep for at least twenty hours out of the day. My body had a natural inclination to heal but my mind wasn’t always willing. It was suggested to me that I transfer to a rehabilitative hospital or a larger more specialized neurological hospital. I fought to just return to my home. I desired the familiar. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, live in my own house and eat my own food. I struggled at first with having two grown children move in with me to provide my care. They were both there for me but also alternated being on duty every other week. They were there for each other. I depended on them for everything.
The way this medical event has changed my life is profound. I have been on my own since February of 2015. I celebrated the one year anniversary of the hemorrhage and then a birthday two weeks later. I have returned to most all of my activities in a reduced way and I continue to honor the path that this event is creating for my life. This seems to be an opportunity of growth and expansion. I am experiencing life with freedoms that I have not felt since I was in my twenties. Dreaming is happening again and I am delighted to participate in this expression of my vitality. I get overwhelmed in feeling insecure about the future and I have been encouraged to be at peace with the adventure of not knowing how it will play out. This is wise advice right now, enjoying this adventure is surely my work. The times where I push myself to do something completely brave and out of character it reminds me that I am in an earthly dream filled with eternal wonder. I am free every moment to make new choices and try new behavior. I am only limited in my life seemingly by what I am willing to pursue and my own efforts to follow through towards a goal.
Finding and cultivating a space in my life where I can participate in the goodness of all that is offered to me on a daily basis is a discipline that I am toying with presently. I can only express it in the way that I see it as a remembering that the feelings I express as I live are creating my life. I experience this as a returning to presence. I see it as a continuous cycle of endings and beginnings. Often I am challenged with an event or circumstances that will shake me from an inner knowing of peace. It seems that I have to leave this place and experience fear or discontentment in order to find my way back. Over the years I have developed some awareness of what is going on. Along my path in life I have often confused doing with being. I have noticed that I desire to stay peaceful no matter the circumstances around me. I seek calm and serenity in my day to day life. After all of this reflection I am left with the question what good is all of this? I am gaining self understanding and awareness but what now? My current belief is that my choices and behavior do affect a small number of people in my life and we all learn from each other. My belief is that we watch each other navigate the challenges and the beauty of life, learning from the choices we see each other make. In some ways the work we do with each other in our families and communities evolve our behavior en masse. This works to the reverse as well as I may pick up the negative habits and behavior of others if I am not mindful of what is going on. I have come to believe as humanity we are a living organism where we each are functioning as a part. I do my best work when I am clear and believing about the direction of my own efforts. This is a life of interdependence with others who are having this living experience and at my best I am participating in a positive expression into a collective emerging.
© 2015 Rochele Stuff