The Stroke

You know, life sometimes throws us a curve ball, a bad break, a tragedy, a difficulty, a misfortune, a disaster ….an adversity. Hello, I’m Eve

I’ve experienced and spoken about many adversities in my life, including child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, and homelessness. But none of these adversities had prepared me for this- the stroke. All strokes are unique and different resulting in various changes to the human body and mind…if you survive them. I want to give you some facts about stroke, the warning signs of stroke, and some preventive stroke guidelines, if time permits. For those of you who have had a stroke or know someone who had a stroke… their story will be different. This is my story. You see, I was living in Maui, Hawaii, at the time of my stroke. I was a professional working vocalist singing jazz and blues at various venues throughout the islands and a motivational speaker, which is how I made my living with my voice. I had a weekly radio talk show called “Hope is Alive.” I was a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and have done work in television and movies. I worked on shorts and plays- writing, acting and producing. I was in the middle of finishing two books I’d written. I say that I used my voice and personality to make a living to bring money into the household. My home consisted of my husband and myself. We had a very tumultuous relationship. I only mention this because it played an important part in my recovery. My stroke struck without warning. I went to bed without a clue of what was coming, and my whole world was about to change. Can you imagine that you went to bed and a bomb dropped on your head without you knowing it? I was sound asleep when my stroke occurred. Strokes can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. I woke up the day after Christmas 2006 with a terrible headache. I had a history of headaches and migraines in my thirties, but this was worse. And I was so nauseous. From there, it went from being nauseated, having more horrendous headaches, being off balance, and stumbling… to confusion. My husband Terry wanted to know, “What’s wrong? Are you alright?” I said, “I must be coming down with a cold or flu or something.” I went back to sleep. I woke up the second day… then came the vomiting and my leg not cooperating. I could barely walk, and Terry had to take me back to bed. He wanted to take me to the hospital right then and there, but neither of us knew the signs of a stroke. By then, my judgment was off, my perception was off, and my decision-making was nada.

These three things were part of my cognitive deficits and were off big time. I didn’t think I needed to go to the hospital—with all this happening; I thought I could lick this thing. It was the beginning of the third day, and I still hadn’t sought medical attention. By then, my right hand was shaking uncontrollably, and my speech was disoriented and came across as babbling between words. I heard this woman talking in a loud booming voice. “Who said that, that’s not what I meant to say. How did she get in there?” I felt like, as they say, a wet noodle, and I was losing control of my body. I remember lying in bed with my feet hanging over the side like a rag doll. By then, we had no choice but to go to the hospital. After dressing me, my husband loaded me into the car and took me to Maui Memorial Hospital. I explained—rather, Terry explained what had happened to me because I was talking gibberish by then. They got me a bed in the emergency room and began a series of tests: EKG, CATSCAN…I don’t remember; they were coming so fast.
All I wanted was something for my headache—but they said they couldn’t give me anything until they got all the test results.

I lay there in bed, very still. It seemed like the whole world had just moved on without me. And everybody was moving so fast… in warp speed. It seemed like there was an invisible bubble around me, shielding me.

The nurses and hospital staff would be talking—they’d up the invisible bubble-could see their lips moving, but I couldn’t understand them, and I would talk, and they couldn’t understand me. So I stopped talking—what was the use? They couldn’t understand me. After a while, what seemed like hours, the doctor came to my bed and told me I had had a stroke. The first thing I thought was: what’s a stroke and then… why me. When the doctor said, “We’re going to keep you for a few days,.” I thought, “Oh boy.” I knew something serious had happened to me.

I don’t remember the hospital stay—just bits and pieces. I do know I was told that I had had an ischemic stroke. This meant the blood to my brain was interrupted by, in my case, a blood clot, and one side of my body was affected. I had aphasia, the inability to communicate—which was a tough pill to swallow. I begged to go home where it would be familiar. I was eventually released from the hospital. It was a disaster. I felt like I was two people—Eve, the real me, the one I’d grown up with, the fighter, the jazz and blues singer, the motivational singer who was gregarious, lively, outgoing, friendly, spontaneous, and articulate—all these things were me.

Then there was this new Eve, who was the opposite, afraid of everything, had no self-confidence, and was so insecure. She was shoved down my throat, and I could do nothing about it. I depended on my voice. The way my brain processed things was off-I couldn’t remember anything. I had the shakes, and my arm shook; I was incontinent due to some medication one of the doctors had prescribed I was allergic to. My hair was falling out—I was becoming bald, dragging one leg behind me. My husband left me, and I could not talk right… I couldn’t speak. I was a mess and pitiful. I might not have been much, but I was all I thought about. And worse of all, I felt it would always, always be this way. Yet, at the same time, I thanked GOD I was alive. It could have been worse, so much worse.

My friend Vidella said it was as if I was broken. I had a lost, frightened look in my eyes. I was afraid of myself and what mistake or awful thing would happen next.

I didn’t know it then, but I was going through the five stages of grieving. The five stages are denial, depression, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. I was overwhelmed with emotions: frustration, sadness, anger, and fear—fear that it would always be this way. I believed that it would always be this way. No one could tell me differently. I usually did things I took for granted every day, like making coffee, cooking dinner, going to the grocery store, or simply answering the phone. But I could no longer do these alone. Some of me had died and couldn’t or wouldn’t return.

For my husband’s sake, I tried to pretend I was doing better than I was. I didn’t want him to think I’d be completely lost without his help—but I was. So often, in a stroke, the roles change within a relationship. If you have a strong relationship, chances are good that you’ll make it through the recovery. But my husband was an active alcoholic. That is to say, he would come home drunk or not come home or be gone for days or sleep with other women—I took it. I loved him.

I had been the one who held it all together, the go-to person, the stronger personality, and he leaned on me for support. Now I needed to lean on him physically, emotionally, and, most importantly, verbally. The question was, what would happen to me…. to us?

Weeks went by. Terry wanted me to stay home while he was at work because he feared I’d get hurt and wanted me to be safe. He told me to take a cab if I needed to go somewhere. I didn’t go anywhere, but the weekly visits to the doctor’s office were only a few blocks away. I did this for a while, but then I got tired of taking a cab. One day I decided to walk to the doctor’s office. So I started walking… I was doing pretty well too. I was two blocks, just two blocks from my doctors on Kamaheme Street, one the busiest streets on Maui. I was crossing the street… I was in the crosswalk when my leg went out on me. I fell flat on my butt.
Cars were coming, and all I could do was cover my eyes because I didn’t want to see what would happen. I heard cars screeching, door slamming, and people coming to my rescue. I was terrified. A lady was holding up her hand and stopped the traffic, and a man came over and helped me up.

He was asking, “Lady are you alright?”

I nodded that I was, and he helped me up and off the street to a nearby bench where I had to sit for a while. I was overcome with emotions, and I just sat there and cried. Then, finally, I asked myself, ‘now what do I do now.’ This Horrible Experience showed me the seriousness of the stroke and its aftermath.

Yes, I did have a stroke, and I was in trouble.

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