Monday, July 13, 2009

Tom, the Ambulance Guy

Lately, Tom's been struggling with brain fog. It comes and goes, sometimes severe and sometimes just minimal. Then there's times when all is working, and our life seems normal. Well, Tom-Pulsipher-normal. It doesn't seem like anything we do these days is normal compared to most other people.

Around 4 am yesterday morning, Tom returned from trip to the bathroom, but didn't quite make it to bed. He became dizzy (not an unusual occurrence), and before he had a chance to steady himself his legs buckled and he fell.

He landed on his back, and was in quite a bit of pain, so I gave him a couple of pain pills. He told me he didn't hit his head, and just his back hurt. Eventually, he was able to get up on his own power, and then into bed.

I hadn't gone to sleep yet that night - can't really explain why. Just wasn't sleepy, I guess. But an hour later, in the dark I heard noise from Tom, not really words but sounds that I couldn't interpret. Turning on the light, I found him dazed and confused. He didn't know who I was. When I asked him questions, he couldn't answer - he was unable to speak anything other than one-syllable sounds.

Fearing that he'd had a stroke, I spent a few minutes determining what the next step was. Because of my own experience stroking just a year ago, all of it came back to me. It was surreal, all those not-so-fond memories of that day rushing back, but since decisions had to be made quickly, it was something I just had to deal with.

Asking him to squeeze my hands produced only mild strength from him, not the usual strong grip he has. He didn't understand my questions asking him to smile, or tell me what today's date was. Nothing was processing in his brain, yet he kept trying to get out of bed and I was having a difficult time convincing him he needed to stay there. Try getting dressed, finding the phone, and keeping a determined man in bed when he didn't want to be - guess I should take a course in juggling.

The cell phone was closest, and I called 911. They sent both the local fire department and an ambulance. Before long, there were six burly guys standing in our bedroom, trying to help Tom. Eight people in our bedroom was a whole lot of people. But around here, when you call for help, the best people in the world come running - and I am so thankful they came.

His condition hadn't changed any - still confused, unable to speak, not responding to questions. A quick check of his blood sugar proved to be normal. He couldn't comprehend why all those strangers were in his bedroom at 5:30 in the morning, and I had the feeling that he didn't want to have anything to do with them.

Quickly it was determined that Tom needed a trip to the hospital, and that he would have to be carried downstairs in a special chair paramedics use when the regular gurney won't work. It took nearly 20 minutes for us to convince him that he needed to sit in that darned chair; he didn't want to go anywhere, and definitely didn't want to go to some unknown place with strangers. But eventually he did, and off we went.

We were all convinced that Tom had suffered a stroke. The ER doctors immediately ordered a CT scan. Tom was still not able to speak, until the nurses tried to take blood samples and hook up an IV. Suddenly, the language skills kicked in, but unfortunately, the wrong language - he told off those poor nurses in no uncertain terms with words he never uses. He was so angry I thought for a moment he might take a swing at the nurse inserting the IV, but I was able to distract him enough that he calmed down.

He definitely did not want blood drawn, and he most certainly did not want to be hooked up to an IV. It was sort of a good news/bad news kind of moment - good that he was talking again, but bad news because sudden change and drastic of demeanor can indicate bleeding in the frontal portion of the brain.

But more good news (thank you, Lord!): the CT scan showed no bleeding, and no signs of stroke.
Alas, it gave no clue as to what was going on with Tom's brain.

But as the hours ticked by - and when you are sitting in an ER exam room, they tick by very, very slowwwwly - Tom began talking again, could answer some but not all questions, and his anger disappeared. After consulting both the ER doctor and the ER chief, we mutually decided that Tom could go home. Initially, they believed that he should be admitted, but after seeing him improve, they decided there wasn't much they could do for him other than to observe him, and I'm already pretty good at doing that . . .

So today we are saying prayers for the positive results, and thanking God that it wasn't a stroke. Today, he doesn't remember anything about yesterday other than the ambulance ride. (That figures - he used be a volunteer driver for the local ambulance service.) But he's home, a bit brain-foggy today, but not bad. And he's stroke-less. Good news comes in strange ways.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Beth, I am thinking of you and your current daily life. It brings back memories of last summer and my dad's daily struggles. Just know that you can call me if you need anything...I bet other knitters and friends feel the same way. You are such a positive person and I for one, treasure and admire that quality. Hang in there. Karen L.