A smoother road ahead

IMG_0034This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Well, it’s been 14 weeks since what I’ve come to call ‘the incident’. I finally got in to see the neurologist for my follow-up appointment, mind you, getting the appointment itself was an experience.

The hospital discharge papers said the office of the neurologist would contact me within six weeks, for an appointment. When six weeks came, then seven weeks, I called the neurologist’s office myself. They advised that the call comes from the Stroke Prevention Clinic, and the doctor sees me there. They also advised it could be another 4-6 weeks before I heard from them. If I were making an appointment with the neurologist’s office directly – well they were booking in 2017.

OK, I get it. They have done all of their tests and have a handle on what you’re dealing with, however, I didn’t. I was extremely lucky in that I didn’t need any therapy after leaving the hospital. While that was a good thing, it also left me very much at disadvantage. Those receiving therapy or aftercare of any type, have people who deal with stroke patients all of the time. The patient, or their caregiver if they are incapacitated in any way, are able to ask questions as they arise. I didn’t have that opportunity. I was home alone during the week, with my partner arriving Friday evening and leaving Sunday. I took care of myself, slept a lot, tried to do a bit more each day, and basically let my body heal itself. Impatiently, I might add, but I got there.

A month after I was discharged, I was finally able to focus and retain the information in the spiral bound booklet they gave me on recovery. While it explained some things, like the depression I felt was starting (to be expected in situations like this), it also resulted in questions coming to mind….and no-one to ask for answers. Upon hearing it might be another 4-6 weeks before I got the call, and possibly longer for the appointment itself, I called my family doctor. I’d seen him three weeks after I was discharged but, at that time, my mind really hadn’t gotten to the point where it could think of questions I might have. I figured he’d be able to answer the basics for me…and that’s all I needed right now.

The nurse in his office actually gave me my opening for why I was there. As she accompanied me to an exam room, she asked if I was there to talk to him about the results of my follow-up six week CT scan. Sure! Yeah, that’s why I was there. I made myself comfortable and waited for him to walk in. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “So I understand you have the results of my CT scan.”

Dr: “Yes I do, and things look good. It shows you had stoke.”

Me: “Yup.”

Dr: “It was a bleed.”

Me: “Yup.”

Dr: “It was in the cerebellum.”

Me: “Yup.”

Dr: “The bleed has reduced a bit and the edema is greatly reduced. That’s what they were really concerned with.”

Me: “What’s an edema?”

Dr: “Swelling…of the brain.”

Me: “I had swelling of my brain and no-one bothered to tell me? Could that have caused the stroke?”

Dr: “No. The swelling was a result of the stroke, and it’s pretty much gone. The bleed itself will take quite a while to absorb.”

Well, the edema explained a few things, for me anyway. It explained why, when I first returned home and took a quick step, or turned my head, or attempted to lay down, all on my left side, I was immediately overwhelmed with nausea and would…well, I’d do what you do when you’re extremely nauseous, and I’d do it immediately. It was nice to finally have an answer for this, rather than my visualization of blood sloshing around where it shouldn’t be and causing this to happen. Sorry for the graphic description there but I’m a visual person and that what I pictured happening. I would visualize a puddle on the back of my brain and try to lay down or move so as not to put too many ripples on the puddle…I sure didn’t want waves!

My main question for my doctor was regarding pain medications. I’d been advised to take a specific over-the-counter medication for the arthritic pain in my knees. Could I still do that? If I had a headache, what should I take? I’d gone many weeks without anything, and actually had no knee pain during recovery. I knew I was really getting better when the knee pain returned. My brain had stopped having to focus totally on its own repair, and could focus on other areas of interest.

I was advised to stop any over the counter pain medication other than Tylenol products. For my specific type of stroke, a bleed, they didn’t want to me ever take anything that could thin my blood. Most times they want you taking Aspirin etc., specifically because it thins blood and allows it to move past partial blockages etc. In my case, they didn’t want a bleed to run more freely, should this happen again.

Well, I try to keep my posting time to half-an-hour so, the visit to the neurologist will have to wait until next time. Hey, I had to wait…you can too!

 

 

 

 

 

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The road is long

img_1634This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

I haven’t blogged in a while because, well, I’ve been healing. I’m back to work three mornings a week, up from two, and hoping to add more days as I move along. I am finding that the days I work in the morning, I’m pretty wiped for the rest of the day. The next day, I tend to sleep in late and not have much ambition. It’s frustrating for someone like me whose feet normally hits the floor by 7am, on my days off, and who is on the go from that moment until my head hits the pillow around 10 or 11pm.

I still haven’t had my follow-up appointment with the neurologist, even though the discharge papers from the hospital advised her office would be in touch within six weeks. Because I have no patience, when six weeks came and went, I called the office of the neurologist. It turns out the appointment isn’t made by her office, it’s through the stroke clinic, and they call me, although she sees me there.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m somewhat unique in that I didn’t need any after care, and as a result, I haven’t seen therapists and such who might be able to answer questions that have come up. My main questions were what could, or couldn’t, I take for headaches and for the arthritic pain in my knees. I’d had to postpone the scheduled replacement of my right knee due to the stroke and recent damp weather was not treating me very well. I’d continued to ‘grin and bear it’ but, not knowing when I’d see the neurologist, I really just wanted some direction. So, me being me, I made an appointment with my family doctor. I knew he had at least two reports from the multiple doctors I saw, or who saw me, while I was in the hospital, so it was my hope that he’d be able to answer these basic questions for me.

I arrived at my appointment, with my list of questions and Post-it notes stuck throughout the book on strokes the hospital had sent me home with . Nice of them to send the book but it took me over a month to even open it as my eyes couldn’t focus enough, and when they did, my brain didn’t want to retain the information. My doctor’s nurse mentioned he had the results of my last CT scan, so that’s what I opened the conversation with. He said it showed I had a stroke (yup), it was a bleed (yup), in the cerebellum section of my brain (yup) and there was also a brain edema (what?). Turns out, when the stroke happened, the trauma caused swelling on my brain. Gee….it would have been nice if someone had told me. This could have been why I had immediate and overwhelming nausea my first few weeks home when I made any movements to the left. The CT scan showed that the swelling had reduced greatly, this was done six weeks after I was released from the hospital, but there was still a fair bit of blood pooled from the bleed. I guess this takes quite some time to be reabsorbed but the swelling was what they were most concerned about. Uh…yeah! Me too!

Those who know me know I’ll be having quite the discussion with the neurologist, when I finally get to see her. I saw her in the hospital for a few minutes, but I spoke more with the other three doctors who took care of me than I did her. On the day she saw me, I believe it was the day I was released, she only spoke with me for a couple of minutes; basically to say she saw the MRI and MRA and I would be going home when the other doctor had completed the paperwork. Ah yes, the paperwork. I’ll be talking to her about that. The paperwork advised I would hear from her office within six weeks, as mentioned, it’s not her office that contacts me, nor is it within six weeks. We are now on Week 9, and still no call. Really, let’s be more realistic with the information provided!

I’ll also be asking her about the nystagmus. This is a symptom I had from the stroke, one that has never been told to me. The doctor who had me admitted showed the nurse how my eyes were rapidly moving from side to side. I paid attention and then did the research myself on what it was. I have not idea if I still have some of the nystagmus, although my vision is much better than it was in hospital. Nor do I know if I should have my eyes retested, or go with the prescription I’d received in May but hadn’t had filled yet.

We have amazing health care in Canada, compared to a lot of countries, but it is being stretched to its limits. A patient shouldn’t have to do their own research and look for their own answer; they shouldn’t have to wait months for follow-ups with a specialist. Nine weeks and that’s still waiting for the phone call, not the appointment itself!

I’m truly thankful my stroke wasn’t worse and that I didn’t need any after care, but the fact it wasn’t has left me extremely frustrated with finding my own answers and understanding my own healing process.

 

Still walking the road

SunsetThis series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

This next part are my own personal suggestions from my own personal experience. 

When you have a stroke your abilities, can and will, change. I was extremely lucky in that only my balance and vision were affected. Balance came back pretty quickly, but vision continues to be an issue. As I told the numerous doctors I saw during my stay in the hospital, it was like my eyes were fighting with each other to focus on anything. I could see things in the distance clearly, but things around what I was focusing on, or things closer to me, were difficult to focus on.

This remains an issue, although it should get better as my brain rewires itself. My true topic here is how to assist those who’ve had a stroke, when they return home. People do not like to lose their independence and, since I live alone most of the time, I was concerned others would be asked to adjust their lives to take care of me. Again, I was lucky in that this was not the case, but some short term accommodations did need to be made.

Standing for a long time or bending over was, and still is sometimes, an issue. I quickly found out that turning to the left, or laying down on my left side (the bleed was in the back left section of my brain), caused me to become instantly and overwhelmingly nauseous and it wasn’t a matter of when I was going to be sick, but how quickly I could get to the bucket. I soon learned not to do this and things got a lot better.

My suggestions; when someone you know has a stroke and is ready to return home, speak to them, speak to their doctors, speak to whomever you can, and find out their limitations. I didn’t have many. That along with my own stubborn nature, probably made people think I could do a lot more than I really could.

Things that are needed and/or greatly appreciated; prepared meals set high in the fridge so that the ‘patient’ can reheat them for themselves, but not have to bend to do so; food that doesn’t have to be cooked is also a wonderful thing ( I found Lunchmates a great idea). Lots of fresh fruit around that can be grabbed for a quick snack. Bottles of juice, Gatorade, water or whatever in the fridge so that the ‘patient’ keeps hydrated. Dropping by to do even mundane things like chat, or just sitting with them, wash up the dishes, pull weeds from the garden or, if they are able – to take them for a drive (four walls close in quickly), although I seem to spend an awful lot of time sleeping these days. Think of the patient’s personality, are there things falling by the wayside that might stress them if they saw how they looked now? I hadn’t been in my backyard for a month after my stroke, simply because I knew how overrun it would be and bending over was still a balance issue. I knew I’d want to pull weeds and clean up the gardens and not being able to would stress me out, so I simply avoided it.

If they don’t live alone, just spend time with them and allow whomever is caring for them some time for themselves. If the patient can be left alone for a while, take their caretaker out for a drive, lunch, whatever….give them some time away from care taking.

I’m now trying to do the dishes at least once a day, although the damn things can dry themselves. I’ve been in the backyard once, and picked a slew of tomatoes, lots more will be rotten by the time I get out there again but I hope to go out tomorrow with my daughter and get her to help me trim them back, and we’ll pick what we can. I’m not going to worry about it looking perfect (believe me…that’s a HUGE step for me).

The main thing when someone has a stroke, don’t assume anything. Don’t assume they can’t do anything, or they can do everything. Talk to them, and REALLY listen. I’ve always been bad for say, “Oh sure, I can take care of that.” Even when I know I’ll struggle. I have learned that, while I may still be able to do it, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. I listen to my body more, and my brain, and make sure not to push myself further than I should. I’ve had more than my share of lectures in the last month. I’ve heard you people….and I’m listening!

The road keeps going

IMG_0017This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

I generally don’t put truly person information on things like Facebook. Why? Because they are exactly that personal. You will never see my relationship status, as I choose to keep that personal. Those who need to know, know. I also don’t tend to put anything to do with my health. Again, personal. However, a recent question regarding a post I did make resulted in me advising people on Facebook about my stroke. Part of the reason I don’t post things like this there, is because I’m not looking for an outpouring of sympathy and I am certainly not playing the “poor me” card. I take what life throws at me and push my way through it, which can be detrimental in some ways.

I’ve had people make comments regarding how I look since the stroke (for those who haven’t seen me – I look and act the same as before). This being said, because I don’t look like anything happened to me, it’s hard for others to comprehend how it affects your brain. For me, my vision is the big thing. No, I’m visually impaired or anything, but the neurological  pathways are still rebuilding themselves and my eyes struggle to focus sometimes. Reading, and things close up, are still an issue. Driving, or sitting in a group of people and trying to focus on different faces, also an issue. Sure, I can do both, but it’s tiring and, while I don’t get a headache from it anymore, I can certainly feel the strain as my eyes work to do what they did naturally just four weeks ago.

When I left the hospital, they gave me an information package on stroke recovery. Four weeks later and I’m just starting to read through it because again, I’m unique. The majority of the information in this package doesn’t apply to me. I was advised I needed no rehab in any way, and it’s just a matter of time to allow the pathways to repair themselves. This is why I’m trying to blog every couple of days, to help my eyes relearn those pathways.

Part of the package lists signs of a stroke;

Weakness – Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.

Trouble speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.

Vision problems – Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.

Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache.

Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

OK, so here’s where it gets tricky; I had dizziness, headache and vision problems, but it was all put down to vertigo (which I’ve had before with an inner ear infection). My previous vertigo only lasted a day or so but I know people who have a version that lasts days, so I figured I’d moved on to that type. I was assessed with an inner ear infection – I’ll be looking into that assessment further as I get through my healing -so a stroke was the furthest thing from my mind.

My first post on this issue advised that I believe the stroke happened on July 25th. I’d have the dizziness, nausea and headache, for 11 days by this time, and it had been assumed it was all due to the vertigo. The afternoon of the July 25th I had been given a prescription provided to those with Persistent Onset Vertigo and I was waiting for that to kick in. This  is when the ongoing nausea became suddenly overwhelming and I actually did get sick. Then, no more nausea. I was still off balance, dizzy and had the headache.

To those not familiar with vertigo; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertigo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still on the road to healing

crystalThis series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

I realize I’ve made light of a very serious situation, having a stroke, but those who know me know that I’ve had a lot of difficult issues to deal with through my life and humour is a part of how I’ve made it through. To be honest, laying in that hospital bed in ER all alone, (as I mentioned in an earlier post I’d sent my partner home to get some rest), and having the doctor AND a nurse come in, I knew it wouldn’t be good news. Having the doctor say, “I wasn’t expecting to find this.” Then go on to say it may be a tumour, was scary as all hell, but I can’t, don’t and won’t dwell on the bad, I always look for the positive or the next step to make it through. I was extremely thankful when the second CT scan confirmed stroke, and not tumour, as I knew the worst was over and it was now about healing.

I ended up staying in the hospital for a total of  five days. As mentioned previously, I was extremely lucky and didn’t need any modifications to my home or aftercare once leaving the hospital. As the nurse said when I was signing the discharge papers, “If you drove yourself here, you are fine to drive yourself home.” Rest assured folks, I’ve only driven a couple of times since leaving the hospital on August 3rd and I’ve learned, and am paying attention to, my limits….as frustrating as that may be some days!

When I spoke to the doctor the morning of my discharge, I asked if I had any restrictions. He had learned my sense of humour by this time and said, “No real restrictions, just listen to your body, allow it time to heal and no contact sports.” My immediate response, “Damn, there goes my Thursday night football game!” He quickly responded with, “No roller derbies either!”

My best girlfriend had come to town the day before and we’d arranged for her to pick me out when I got my release papers. This being said, I went from laying around in a hospital bed most of the day, to laying around on my sofa most of the day. However, at least I was in my own home and starting that road to recovery.

I hope to be back on here later today, or tomorrow with some more serious information; signs to look for and a bit of helpful insight into what you can do for a friend or family member when they’ve been through this and have returned home. For now, it’s nap time!

 

Healing though writing cont.

This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.IMG_20160817_144537

As I tried to get a bit of sleep in the Emergency Department, I was actually listening to those around me and realizing even more than ever the decline of our healthcare system. The majority of those behind the curtains around me, were there with issues that could/should have been dealt with by their family doctor, if they had one. Innumerable cases of flu were assessed and the fact they had to attend the Emergency Department due to the lack of doctors accepting patients, is asinine.

Anyway, after not getting any sleep, the nurse arrived at 4 am to advise they’d found me a bed. As I climbed into the wheelchair to make my way to my room I commented, “This is stupid. Who the hell is released at 4 am?” She smiled and said, “No-one, but the beds manage to not show up in the system until, whenever. ”

We made our way to the fourth floor of the hospital, and my new home for the next few days. I couldn’t wait to be somewhere quieter where I might be able to get a bit of sleep. Mind you, I’d spent the last week sleeping 16-18 per day but my body had obviously been telling me it needed the rest to repair itself. When we arrived the nurse apologized and said she had to take my vitals, again, before signing me over to the nurse here, who would also have to take my vitals. Not that I want to knock them having to do their jobs but the nurse who took over also had to ask me a series of questions. Excuse me! I’ve been up most of the night, my brain is recovering from a major shock, it’s 4:30 am and you want a freakin’ history? Whatever. I answered the questions and lay back to try to get some rest. Good luck with that one. Between my roommate snoring – she was too far away to poke to make her roll over – the call bells going off constantly, and the noisy wheels on the various carts roaming the halls, sleep was not to be had.

You soon learn the rhythm of the hospital and the lights in the hall brighten at 7 am. The nurses change shift at that time and suddenly folks start arriving. There’s the vampire from the lab to take more blood, the day nurse to check vitals, then by 8 am the gal is there with breakfast. Sadly, I hadn’t seen the dietitian yet so I couldn’t say what I wouldn’t ear and most of my first breakfast and lunch went uneaten. I’m not a picky eater but porridge and food with mayo where there is more vinegar then egg….not to my liking.

By the time breakfast arrived, the doctors were starting rounds. Well, I had the best seat in the house! The doctor would meet each nurse at a station right outside of my door and, while I avoided listening in on the info of other patients, my ears perked up as soon as I heard “Middleton”. Me being me, I figured maybe I’d overhear more than they might be willing to tell me. It never happened.

I’ve now completed some research and the first three doctors to see me, other than the one in emerg, are internists and I, was an anomaly. I didn’t fall into any of the groups likely to have a stroke; non-smoking, not a heavy drinker, no diabetes, no blood pressure issue, no cholesterol issues, no recent trauma to the head. I was a mystery…should we be surprised? Anyway, they decided I needed an MRI and MRA (MRI with dye to show the veins) before release. Sadly, I’d been admitted on a long weekend and no-one staffed that machine on weekends or holidays. My luck!

To keep me busy, there were doctors and nurses arriving throughout the day to give me various balance and cognitive tests. I really got tired of repeating them over and over but some were done daily (I was in hospital for four days) to ensure I didn’t deteriorate. By the last day I started telling them I could do the tests, and I could answer for my roommate as well. My legal name is Merri , pronounced Mary, and my roomie was Mary as well. She was born August 28th, 1932, in Croatia. She emigrated to Canada in 1957. She has one daughter and two grandchildren, one boy and one girl. She is diabetic and had issues with some of the tests due to language barriers and being able to read or write particular words in English.

During my time in hospital I also saw an intern specializing in neurological medicine, as well as a neurologist – she’s the one I get to see again after my follow-up CT scan in early September. I also met with a stroke team; occupational therapist, physical therapist, stroke nurse and speech therapist. They, and the rest of the medical staff quickly learned, I don’t let things get me down or hold me back. I was told I wouldn’t need any speech or occupational therapy and, it was suggested I use a walker they brought, for walks in the hall. My first walk, with the physical therapist and a nurse, I went twice the distance they expected me to and the nurse wandered off as she saw she wasn’t needed. My second walk, with my kids, I just rested the tips of my fingers on the walker as I didn’t want to be dependent on it. The next day the physical therapist arrived again to see if I could do the walk without the walker. Just watch me go lady! I was wearing my own pj’s, one of the items my partner brought up to me to help me cope, and while they are the most comfie things imaginable, they aren’t something to wear when you’re slightly off balance and trying to impress the therapist. However, I held the pant legs up and did a full circuit of the hallway without any help. Sure, I was still off balance a bit, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls anymore.

The internist came by to see me shortly after this and advised that it had been decided I wouldn’t need any assistance upon leaving the hospital and we were just waiting for the MRI and MRA, so they could try to determine, why this happened to begin with. As he put it, “You don’t seem to have any major disabilities.” My immediate response, “You obviously haven’t met my family!” Sorry, folks but I’ve had two CT scans, an MRI and an MRA, they’ve found proof I have a brain and the stroke didn’t affect the smartass section!

Signing off for now. I may post more later, maybe tomorrow. We’ll see. Take care all!

 

Healing through writing

This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. I do however, thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Well, it’s been almost two months since my last post and a lot of things have happened. A lot. This particular topic will be done in multiple posts, and for those who don’t already know what has been doing on, you’ll understand why shortly.

I’m someone who believes in going for their physical every other year (no health issues so yearly isn’t called for), and went for mine as scheduled July 8th. Being of a certain age, I always book an appointment for two weeks after my physical. I want to know, and track, “the numbers”. I figure if they find a problem, I want to know and address it right away. There are a lot of issues in my family; blood pressure, diabetes, hypoglycemia, etc., so I track my numbers to make sure things are good. Personally, my blood pressure has always been textbook; blood sugar – amazing; cholesterol – generally that of an 18-year old but up .3 this year. Anyway, I had the appointment for my follow-up booked for July 22nd. On July 15th, I had an odd feeling in my head – for those who feel air pressure changes, you’ll know what I mean. I put it down to that. The next morning I woke up with vertigo. Not a feeling you want to have, but I’ve had it before due to ear infections etc. It generally lasts a day and I’m good. Not this time. When I wasn’t over the vertigo by Tuesday, I called my doctor. Unfortunately, he was going on vacation the next week and he was fully booked. They said they’d put me down and call if there was a cancellation. I’m not going to go into all of the detail but, after two visits to a different doctor, things still weren’t improving.

On Monday, July 25th while standing at my kitchen sink I had a mild stroke. I believe this is when it happened anyway. Given the symptoms (which I’ve now researched some) and how I remember feeling, I’m pretty sure this is when it happened. Vertigo will give you a headache and nausea – due to the constant spinning of everything – but at this time I had an overwhelming feeling of nausea, and actually threw up.

Not even thinking ‘stroke’, I figured the worst was over. I was taking the meds the doctor gave me and had advised needed two days to take effect, so I figured I’d give the meds their time. After 48 hours I still didn’t feel any better and was contemplating taking a cab to Emergency the next morning. My sister had offered to drive 2 hour to take me but yeah, I’m stubborn, I didn’t want to put her out, and really didn’t want to sit in Emergency by myself for hours on end so I figured I’d wait one more day until my partner was here and have him take me. He works out of town and is here on weekends.

As luck would have it, he got off work early that day so when he arrived we immediately headed to the hospital. We arrived at 2pm and started, “THE WAIT”. During our four hours of waiting, he made sure I drank an energy drink, as I know I hadn’t been drinking enough fluids over the past two weeks. He also got some chicken soup for me and, when chatting with a woman who came in by herself, after us, expressed his concern and asked he if she was OK. (She’d basically curled up in a ball in the chair due to pain from a gallbladder removal she’d had numerous issues with). She was surprised a stranger would express concern, but that’s just how how he is. Me, I was sitting with my eyes shut most of the time, trying to keep the world from spinning.

When we finally got in to see the doctor, I was sent for a CT Scan. The initial diagnosis….possible brain tumour. These were my actually thoughts. “OMG! Really! Now you have to go in, do a biopsy and figure out what it is, before we even think treatment!” I also thought, “He didn’t sign up for this.” My partner and I have only been together for four months at his point. I’d send him home earlier, to just get a break and he wasn’t there when the doctor and nurse came in to tell me. Yes, I was alone when I got this news.

When he returned and I told him they thought it might be a tumour, he didn’t bat an eye. I was headed for another CT Scan, this one with a dye added to show the veins and make a clear diagnosis. The initial scan showed a 2cm area they were concerned with (possible tumour). When I got back from this scan, and they got the results, it was determined I had a stroke, a bleed in the cerebellum, the area that deals with balance and vision. Both my partner and I had the same response, “Good..now we just deal with the recovery”. They advised I was being admitted, so I sent my partner home to get some rest as I figured one of us might as well get some.

These are the hospital bracelets from my “adventure”. One red one is from Emergency, they puIMG_20160817_144445t a different one on you when you are admitted, with a different bar code; and the yellow one advises they needed to watch me as I may fall. The nurse told us if it has stripes as well, you may be violent. The picture is out of focus for a couple of reasons; to keep my information private, and to show how I currently see a lot of things when not wearing my glasses. OK, so my vision may not be quite this bad. But it’s the best I could focus my phone camera, when not wearing my glasses.

This is the end of this post. I’ll continue tomorrow. I’m trying to get on the computer a bit each day, to help things heal, and my head is telling me I’ve done enough for today.

 

Time to take the leap of faith

Well, I’ve been working on my website on and off for over a year….OK, maybe even closer to two years. Like everything else, life kept getting in the way. Life, and fear. It’s amazing how someone can have others look to them for answers, but they have fear when putting trust into themselves. OK, maybe not fear….insecurity? Yeah, we’ll run with that one. I’ve always known I wanted to write. I’ve always known I wanted, and needed to help others. Now, with the launch of my website, I hope to start doing that. Like this blog, and me as well, my website is a work in progress.

WOP_2colI only have one course available to start, Putting Pen to Paper, but I’m offering it two nights a week. It doesn’t start until after March Break and will each session will run for six week. By that time I will be close to launching a second class, Proprioceptive Writing, as I’m finishing up a refresher course on that myself. That will follow, very shortly after, with classes on writing your own life story.

With all of this in mind, I put pen to paper myself last night and wrote my first poem in probably 35 years. WOW! I shocked myself with I did that math. The last poem I remember writing, and I probably still have it here, was when I was 15 years old and still lived at home with my Dad and Stepmom. I spent a lot of time down on the lakefront in Bright’s Grove, Ontario pouring out my teen angst. Not having written poetry in so many years, I wasn’t sure what would come out of the end of my pen. Just a note here; yes, I do use pen to paper. My creativity tends to flow more freely in that manner and I don’t edit myself, as I do typing this blog. I’ve included the poem here, for what it’s worth. Good, bad or indifferent, these are the words that flowed from my pen.

IMG_0283I Stand Alone

I stand alone,

Secure in my understanding of who I am

Where I have been

And where I am going.

I stand alone,

Confident in my abilities

My strengths and

My weaknesses.

I stand alone,

Unwavering in my beliefs

Of the Spirit within

And the energy around.

I stand alone,

Knowing I have to love myself first.

Recognizing we have to be able to be alone

Before we can understand how to be together.

I stand alone…..

If you want to check out my website, you can find it at www.writesofpassage.ca 

Please remember, it’s still in development and things will keep changing on it. I’m still working on the mobile version (slight technical issues), and I’ve already had the suggestion of offering online, or long distance classes. I guess we’ll just have to see what develops.

The next step

It’s been just over three weeks since my last post, but I’m back! As usual life keeps getting in the way, but I’ve made the commitment to myself to continue this blog, if for nothing else than to push myself to write something…anything…on a somewhat regular basis.

My last post was step back into my first return to writing after focusing on raising my kids. I was taking part in a two session memoir writing class and had had extremely positive response to a piece I wrote during the first session. Not only was there a positive response to the piece, but I read my work to a group of strangers for the first time ever in my life.

I left the session on an emotional high, and with an assignment. We were to write three pieces in the course of the next six days, and email them to our instructor. Each piece was to be an unedited 30 minute write, just the first thing that popped into our heads. We were to email them to Sue and she would give us hard-copies at the next session, with her critique of our work.

Hmmm…three pieces, thirty minutes of writing for each. Could I fit it into my work and family schedule? Yes, I’d find the time!I craved this creative release and knew I’d make it work somehow.

The thirty minutes flew by as the events of the day I was to recount came alive to me once again. I could feel the emotions of my younger self: excitement, bewilderment, fear. The sights and sounds being reborn as though it were yesterday. I completed the other two pieces and emailed them off with more than a bit of nerves and anxiety building within me.

When we arrived at the session the following Saturday, Sue handed our work back to each of us. She then explained how the type of critique she did worked. Using a green pen, red implies editing and she did not edit any of our work, she would hold the pen at the left side of the page as she started to read and she felt like we “connected” with out reader. Running a line down the page as the connection continued, she would add a second line running parallel to the first when we really grabbed the reader’s attention. I’m pleased to say that all of my pieces had at least one line down the left side of the page, and two lines in a couple of sections of two of them. I was shocked to see the third piece, the one I actually wrote first, with two solid lines from the first word of the piece, to the very last.

Sue wrote a couple of lines of encouragement at the end of one piece, nothing at the end of the second, but at the end of the third…this is what I found, “Wow! You say in the beginning ”I keep coming back to the damn rabbit!” But obviously, from the level of connection in this story, this was a major event. A flawless piece. You hit a nerve & let it rip. Bravo!!”

A few months later the writing group received funding to publish an anthology of original works. I submitted a few pieces, ‘The Rabbit’ being one, and the editor contacted me to say she would be pleased to include this “piece of fiction” in the book. I responded and said I would love for it to be a part of the publication, but I couldn’t allow it to be published under the belief it was a work of fiction. This was a memoir piece and I wanted to ensure it was accepted as that. The immediate response back from the editor was that, now knowing it was memoir, it had to be in the book.

I spent the next month cleaning up and editing the piece before it was ready for final submission. With the final edit, I also changed the name of the piece. ‘Dreams: A Memoir’ was published in the anthology, Signatures in 2002. I hope you enjoy the read.

*Author’s note: Mom, as referenced in this piece is not my birth mother, nor my stepmother, but a woman who was in my life at a young age, and who was my mother figure at that time.

‘Dreams: A Memoir’

That damn rabbit. I keep coming back to that damn rabbit! We won it at the Saturday matinee right before Easter, my sisters, Brenda and Laurie, and me, the youngest. Actually, Brenda won it. It was her stub that was drawn, but she knew it would be a lot of work so she said it was “our” rabbit.

We had been told the draw was that weekend and with a child’s innocence, were sure we would win. Encased behind her shield of glass, the young girl took our quarters and with a smile, handed us our tickets. She knew she had just handed us the winning ticket.

Walking through the heavy glass and metal doors, we approached the last barrier between us and our dreams. Our rabbit and the kingdom of make believe lay just ahead. With some hesitation, we handed the usher our tickets. He stood tall and regal in his bright red jacket, his gold buttons gleaming, black pants pressed to perfection. I don’t think he was much older then Brenda, yet he seemed to self-assured in that uniform. Tearing our tickets in half, he handed us back the key to our happiness.

Having passed this last blockade to this kingdom of make believe, we shuffled forward to collect our first reward. We joined the line snaking up to the counter, clutching our money in sweaty palms mouths watering with the smell of popcorn and butter. Lots of butter! Snacks in hand, we turned to the stairs and the balcony.

Brenda always wanted to sit on the balcony: the big kids section. She must have felt burdened having to drag Laurie and me with her everywhere. I guess five years’ age difference means a lot when you’re 12. What most kids started to enjoy at that age – a feeling of maturity and independence – was not a luxury extended to Brenda. But to her credit, she never complained and Laurie and I didn’t feel like we were a burden. We were just glad to get out of the house for a few hours.

The lights dimmed, voices hushed and the screen lit up. Cartoons, intermission and then the feature. Same as every other week. But this time the manager came on stage during the break. He was pushing a huge mesh drum; our dream was rolling across the stage. The drum held the other halves of our tickets and our prize. And there were three of us! We had to win! We would deal with the consequences later.

Click, click, click. The drum rolled ’round, mixing little slips of paper. Small stubs holding so much hope. But there were three of us! We had to win! Slowly it came to a stop, the door dropped open and he reached inside. We held our breath. Everyone mouthed the numbers on their ticket stubs as he read out the winning ticket. They all thought they had won…we all had the same first few numbers…then the moment of truth. Suddenly, Brenda was jumping up and down!

“I won! I won!” she yelled. Running down the stairs, she disappeared from view for a moment, only to reappear in the middle aisle below heading for the stage. And there it was. She climbed the stairs to the stage, reaching out to grasp ‘our’ prize. A beautiful, soft, white rabbit. An Easter Bunny just for us! I don’t remember how we managed to keep that thing once we got it home.

“More trouble than it’s worth.”

But keep it we did. We took turns caring for our rabbit, keeping it out in the old chicken coop in the back. ‘Til that night.

It’s my turn to feed and water the rabbit. But it’s cold, and I’m only six. Surely it can wait until morning. Climbing into bed, I fall asleep, never giving a second thought to him out in the shed.

Soundly sleeping – suddenly awake. The lights on. Yelling. I’m being pulled from my bed. My hair! My hair! Owww! My God Mom, what’s wrong? I’m sorry! What did I do? I’m pushed through the kitchen, down the back stairs and through the mudroom. Without stopping, I stumble into the snow. A tiny flashlight is thrust in my hands to mark the way. No slippers to keep my feed warm and dry, my thin flannel nightgown blowing in the wind, I struggle through the darkness. Snow melting underfoot – I fight to stay upright.

The rabbit. Have to feed the rabbit. That’s it! That must be what’s wrong! I chip away the ice in the water dish, and scoop out some food pellets. Ok, It’s done. I can go back to bed now. Everything’s fine. I fixed it. I fixed it!

I’m scared! It’s dark out here! Hurrying back into the house I just want to crawl back in my warm bed. But I can’t. She’s waiting for me. She grabs my hair and pulls me up the stairs to the kitchen. Blinking, trying to adjust to the bright light, I’m pushed ’round the corner and into the pantry. The trap door is open., and the black mouth leading to the cellar greets me. I don’t understand. Why do I have to go down there? The rabbit’s been fed! Everything’s fine! It’s fine!

I’m pushed down the stairs. Hard and wooden, they seem to echo with my tiny footsteps. The trap door slammed shut and locked behind me. I want out! Let me out! I’m cold! It’s dark! I’m scared! Let me out! But I don’t get out. I can only listen to her through the door.

“Maybe next time you’ll remember to feed the damn rabbit! See how it feels!” And then she’s gone. Back to her bed and a good night’s sleep.

I sit on the stairs. Crying, I don’t know for how long. Scared, I’m scared. It’s dark down here. Spiders in the corner. Strange sounds from the outer rooms. Please God, make them stay there.

What that? Noises from the drain, wind whistling through the crack in the window.

Slowly and quietly, I slip down the rest of the stairs, guiding myself mainly by touch and memory, and my little flashlight. No blankets down here. I curl up under the stairs on the concrete floor, back to the wall. I’ll be safe here. I hug my light, trying to keep it from shaking. The shadows, I don’t like the shadows. My shaking only causes the beam to create more shaped of unknowns. Are they getting closer? Shapes I would recognize in daylight now become monsters waiting for my light to go out.

I want out! I promise to be good! I won’t forget! I promise! I promise!

I awaken from this nightmare shaking and sweaty and I remember. She’s gone. She can’t hurt me anymore.

I won’t let her.