A Time Bomb in my Head

Yes it happened to me. It took me weeks before I was finally able to convince m self that yes it really did happen, and yes I cannot walk anymore.
Exactly 15 days after my 34th birthday I suffered from a massive stroke which left the half part of my body, my left side close to paralyzed, though my neuro surgeon said it’s not paralyzed because it has reflexes.
It was the morning of October 22, an ordinary working day for me but before going to work since I still have ample time I drove my daughter to school and got back home to play with my little boy before I took my bath. I remember sitting on the corner of my daughter’s bed faced the mirror and started putting on makeup. Then all of a sudden I felt a blinding, searing pain on the right side of my head behind my eye .it was so excruciatingly painful that I almost dropped to the floor. I looked at my own image in the mirror and saw drool on the corner of my mouth which made me panicked. Actually what I felt that time was fear. I was so afraid. I stood up from the bed and transferred to my own room not knowing that this will be the last time I would be able to walk normally. I lay down on the bed and screamed for my mother’s name.. My uncle Robert who lives next door rushed to my side. Knelt down beside the bed and tried to calm me. I told him my head is aching so badly while crying loudly and I asked to be brought to the hospital. I then decided to call my husband on my cell, he was actually at work. When he answered the phone I started talking but I was actually blabbering. My speech was so incoherent and he cannot understand a thing I was saying. I can perfectly think of what to say but words do not form in my mouth. It was jumbled and slurred. I was actually trying to tell him my head seems to want to explode and we will go to the hospital. But nothing of that sort came out. They said I passed out after that. My father arrived from campaign and when he saw me unconscious he immediately hoisted me on his shoulder, all 5 foot 9 inches of me and carried me to the car and rushed me to the nearest hospital. They then informed my sisters of what had happened. My youngest sister Mel who was then 5 months pregnant arrived in the hospital to check on me. She then informed my ate Dessa who lives in the UK of what happened.
My road to acceptance was a difficult one. I experienced the stages of grieving as if somebody died. I later on realized was grieving for the loss of the life I have yet to live. I am only 34, I am still so young. I have two young kids to care for. I have so many dreams for myself and for them. I want to travel the world. I have a career. I am a manager of a popular coffee chain for close to 10 years. i. I cannot believe I had a stroke. Stroke only happens to old people. to a distant relative, to the uncle of a co-worker, but not to someone close to you and definitely not to yourself.. Although I don’t live a perfectly healthy and balanced life, I know that I did not neglect my body, my life. I don’t have vices, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink so why me?
Apparently I have an avm in the brain, or what they call arteriovenuous malformation. I first heard the disease avm when I asked what happened to me.it it is a congenital disorder which shows abnormal connection of arteries and veins in the brain. It’s like a tangle of veins. It occurs to about 1%of the population – it is considered as a rare disease.
When I arrived in the hospital I was already comatose. The clot was seen in the CT scan it is located on the right front temporal lobes measuring at least3.6×5.2x6cmclose to the edge or in the basal ganglia. They need to make a decision to operate on me now otherwise I could die. . When my family told the surgeon that they would push through with the craniotomy the hospital lobby began to be filled with friends, co-partners and a few relatives who started praying. I was wheeled in the OR at 3pm and transferred to the ICU at 7pm. . My neuro surgeon Dr.Carlo Barredo used titanium clips to stop 3 arteries from profusely bleeding. They were able to drain about 58ml of blood from my brain.
I awoke 10 days later without a single recollection of what had happened.. I was in denial the longest time. I was hallucinating most days. I was discharged November 10. When we got home my uncle Doy, my mother’s brother, my husband and a nurse took care of me. I was in denial that I would pretend to them and to myself that I’m not sick. I would deliberately stand up from the bed and naturally since my left side is weak I would fall. This happened several times that I had to be checked for fracture on the shoulder blades. I kept on telling them that I am only dreaming and that all of them are part of my dream. .i has so many hallucinations. But the memorable ones were my constant rambling that I won 200 million in the lottery, that I bought antizombie vaccines. I was not sleeping and eating so naturally I lost a lot of weight- about 15 lbs. looked like a zombie with my eyes so dark and the flesh on my cheeks disappeared… my mind is filled with thoughts of despair and hopelessness. I didn’t want to accept any visitors as I don’t want them to see me in this condition. I would often just stare blankly on the wall and ponder why this happened. I would feel so sorry for myself and for my family. Who will take care of my children? What about their education? Technically I have a job but not earning anything. I was thinking of our daily expenses. My husband would often tell me not to worry about it and that he has everything under control. He would urge me to just focus on my recovery. He would persuade me to watch movies but I would tell them that I cannot understand the movie. And I would just turn it off. Approaching the latter part of November I started attending physical therapy rehab sessions which greatly improved my confidence since I can now already walk with the aid of a cane. Rehab also improved my endurance. I can now go to the dining room to eat and to the bathroom to take a bath .a lot of times I would ask my sister Mel and my nanay to sit beside me and narrate everything that had happened. They would patiently tell me the story over and over again and answered all of my questions however silly it may seem. This constant story telling sessions helped a lot as it slowly pushed the idea in my head that something like this really happened to me..Often times we would laugh at the absurdity of my hallucinations. Since I cannot physically go to church I just wake up very early on Sundays and watch the Healing Eucharist on TV. This helped greatly even though I would often find myself crying the entire mass. I realized that this is the only time I really get to listen and absorb the readings and the homily.. I prayed more often and have very long conversations with God daily. One thing I’m proud of myself is that I never blamed God. I have accepted my fate although reluctantly but I was never angry with Him. There were just instances I would desperately plead for Him to make me well and bargain with Him that I would do anything, everything if I would get well. I would serve Him again just like I used to since I used to sing in the choir.. Every night I would plead to God to heal me and make me whole again.. There were days I would be so depressed I would cry nonstop. I would call for my tatay and would cry on his shoulders, something I have never done in my life. I would cling to him like a child and he would embrace me, stroke my back and reassure me that everything will be alright and that they would never abandon me. Because that time that was my fear. I fear that people would get tired waiting for the day that I would be back on my feet specially Lay my husband but I later on realized I was so selfish for even thinking that. My husband is my hero. His strength is admirable. He never buckled under all the stress. He remained to be strong for me and for our children. He never left my side in the hospital and would just go home to take a nap and have a little quality time with our children and attend my daughter’s school activities.at home he continued to care for me, giving me baths, ensuring I’m eating properly patiently pushing food in my spoon since I cannot hold a fork, and doing my daily stretches necessary to prevent muscle spasticity. He lacked sleep and lost weight too. Suddenly no one is taking care of him any more.one time I asked him what is the single most difficult part of this entire ordeal. And he told me it was the time I was in denial when I asked why. He just said it pains him to see me that way and that the longer I am in denial the longer it will take for me to accept what had happened. His love is so immense and not once he made me feel unimportant. With the calendar slowly inching to Christmas I began to feel a little helpless. Christmas is a big event and this is the time of the year I’m usually very busy baking cookies and cheesecakes to sell to friends and co-workers. This i also the time I go out to shop for gifts for my family and friends and god children. I started to miss working and I again worried if I would still have a job to go back to.. Despite the daily struggle. I managed to keep a positive spirit because I cannot be defeated by this illness. People around me believed so much on my capability and fighting spirit so why doubt myself?. I shouldn’t be grieving in the first place. We only grieve for some thing or someone we have lost. But I haven’t lost anything. There is still so much hope which was the message of Christmas. When super typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda struck our country I was in the recovery room of the hospital. The devastation of the typhoon was in the news for days and weeks. When I begin to feel hopeless. My husband would tell me and remind me that we are lucky to be alive. While those in Tacloban just woke up with their entire family dead. He would also often remind me that my illness has cure not like cancer if only I would just focus and be strong especially for the kids. When I had the stroke I almost died but God has a different plan. He wanted me to continue on with my life. He wanted me to have more laughter filled road trips with my family. I know God wanted me to see my children grow up to be successful adults.. God wanted me to have more celebrations of anniversaries and birthdays with my husband.
I was so lucky. I have a time bomb waiting to explode in my head but it went off at just the right time. I am very lucky to have a supportive family. I am very lucky to have friends who prayed and showed support for me. Friends I haven’t seen in years but took time to visit me Friends from faraway places visiting the country because of the holidays. Pia who came from Hawaii spent a few hours with me which I will never forget. Leah who arrived from Perth, Australia visited me with her children in tow and I delighted in our kwentuhan. I have felt their love these genuine friends who despite time and distance showed that they will remain to be friends, in rough waters, and stormy seas and not just during fair weather. And Fiona, my high school best friend too who sent me messages of encouragement and financially helped me too.im very lucky because only the left side of my body is affected and I can still function with my right, and I thank God I’m right-handed. I’m lucky because my speech, memory and coordination are not affected. I am very lucky because I had the bleed I think in just the right age. It will bleed for sure but it happened last year. God gave me the chance to become a mother first God gave me the once in a lifetime chance of meeting my soul mate. I am lucky when I had the stroke I was at home and was not driving or was not in some remote place. I was lucky to have an excellent surgeon
I just think of my experience as an eye opener. This wouldn’t have happened had I stopped for a moment to appreciate the good life God had given me. A life which can be taken away just as easily from me. I have learned so many things. I have learned to value family.it was now easy to tell my parents and my sisters I love them something I haven’t done prior to the bleed. I have learned to value friendship. I have learned to value the small thingslike smiling at people you meet when you go out, people you don’t really know – complete strangers. I have learned to be thankful. I take time now to hug and say a word of thanks to people who have helped us in this ordeal. my nurses when I see them in the hospital.my therapists, our house helps, my kids yaya
I had my cerebral angiogram done last February to check for left over clot if there’s any and to check the status of the avm. Unfortunately the angiogram showed that another avm formed on the same area. My neuro suspect it could possibly be brought about by the clipping of the first avm, the anatomy of the avm could have altered the affected area thus giving birth to another one, though this one is really small. Even though small it still has the potential to bleed but it could also disappear on its own which is something we really hope for since we don’t have the finances for stereotactic radio surgery. Right now I leave everything to the Lord. I asked Him to take control of my life. There’s nothing much I can do now but improve my physical condition for the sake of my family. I leave everything up to God and I know he will never abandon me. I know God loves me and I’m holding on to His promise dearly.

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