Jan and Brian: Stroke Emergency

Jan and Brian Healy: Stroke Emergency
I screamed, “Brian, you are having a stroke. I am going to call 911.” He argued with me and told me not to call: “Do not call 911!” he kept repeating over and over.
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We were talking in bed and were about to go to sleep. Suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, Brian fell into a deep sleep. Ordinarily, I would have let him sleep. For some reason, I shook him and told him to go brush his teeth and wash his face. I thought it was strange he was sleeping so deeply. He got up and walked in the dark towards the bathroom. I said something to him. When he responded, his words came out strangely. I told him he sounded funny. Suddenly I could see his left leg giving out on him. I turned on the light and could see the left side of his face drooping. He had lost control of his arm and leg! He fell face forward onto the bed. I jumped out of bed and started searching for my phone. I screamed, “Brian, you are having a stroke. I am going to call 911.” He argued with me and told me not to call: “Do not call 911!” he kept repeating over and over.

I remember Jan waking me. She told me to go to the bathroom so we could get ready for bed. I felt like I was commanding my body to walk, and it wasn’t behaving. I was losing my balance. I fell onto the bed. Jan told me I was having a stroke. She said she was calling 911. I tried to convince her I was going to be fine. I said to her, “I just need some help going to the bathroom.” She responded, “If you need help going to the bathroom, something is seriously wrong with you.”  I did not want her to call 911. I imagined myself doing the army crawl to the bathroom. My legs were not working at all. 

For a moment, I thought maybe he knew something I didn’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t call. But that thought lasted for only a second. Amazingly, there was my cell phone sitting on my end table.  Later on I felt like an angel was watching over us. That cell phone was in just the right place.  I called and gave them our information. I couldn’t understand why the 911 dispatcher was asking me so many questions. I thought she wouldn’t send the paramedics to our house unless I finished with the questions. When I cried into the phone begging her to send the paramedics, she told me they were already on the way. I know I must have sounded overly emotional to the poor dispatcher, but truthfully I was hysterical. Suddenly, I could hear the sirens. I thanked God and rallied into action. I had only a matter of minutes to get what I needed to go to the hospital. I was afraid to leave Brian for even a second. I kept screaming, “Brian talk to me, keep your eyes open!” I had to run downstairs to let the paramedics into the house. Leaving him for those moments was frightening. I felt if he closed his eyes, he would die. Could this really be happening? Could I really lose the man I had waited my whole life to find?  No, he would survive. He had to!

Strangely, neither my body nor my head hurt. I just felt quiet. I had an overwhelming desire to take it easy. A part of me just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep. Thank God, Jan would not let that happen. The thought of just letting go of my life felt like a good option. I felt so tranquil. Jan kept telling me to stay awake and not close my eyes, so I tried. When the paramedics arrived, they put me on a gurney and strapped me down. The oxygen mask kept slipping, yet I knew oxygen at this moment was probably a good idea. I realized there was no point in fighting this. I was strapped down, and I was not getting up. I don’t remember anything else until I awoke the next day in the hospital Intensive Care Unit.

When paramedics came up the stairs to take control, I was so relieved. They gave Brian intravenous medication and oxygen. Then they put him on a gurney to take him to the hospital.
Brian is just under 6’5” and the paramedics were having a hard time getting him downstairs. With a look of panic on their faces, they smashed the gurney into the walls. The paramedics knew timing was crucial. They needed to get him to the hospital fast. When they got Brian into the ambulance, I telephoned my 84-year-old mother. She told me she would be waiting for me at the hospital.

While leaving the house, I grabbed our cell phones, locked the door and left with the paramedics. I drove over in the ambulance and called Brian’s 20-year-old son. I told him his father had a stroke and he needed to meet me at the hospital. Bryce had been at a party, and he didn’t want to drive. I told him he better get a ride, and not to drive himself. This was serious. It was crucial for him to see his father, and I needed his support. I also told him he needed to reach his older brother Kyle in San Diego, and they were to go to Saddleback Memorial.

Fortunately, the hospital was just minutes from our house. The paramedics took him into the emergency room. Within seconds Brian’s son, Bryce, arrived. He came running over to me; we were both crying. We were so scared. I was grateful his cell phone was on, and that I was able to reach him. Brian was kicking his feet in frustration and kept pleading with us to take him home. Strangely, he started speaking in Spanish, a language he doesn’t speak very well.

He would say in Spanish, “¿cómo se dice en Inglés?”

I would respond, trying to joke with him, “You know the words in English, you can say them.” I guessed this was a strange reaction to the stroke.

At one point, Brian’s ankles were itching. He was so agitated the nurse gave him a sedative. It seemed as if he was having some sort of a seizure. A young emergency room doctor came to me and asked what occurred before the stroke. He was curious as to what had taken place that evening. Then, he asked me if Brian had high blood pressure. I told him Brian had never had high pressure. The techs came to take Brian to get a computerized tomography or CT scan. The doctors wanted to know what sort of stroke Brian was having.
After Brian was brought back to the emergency room, another doctor approached Bryce and me. He told us to join him at the computer. We followed him and he very bleakly showed us pictures of Brian’s brain. He pointed out to us where the blood was and explained Brian had what was called a hemorrhagic stroke. He also told me the stroke was deep in the basal ganglia. He said this type of stroke happens in only 15% of all stroke cases. The more common stroke is an ischemic stroke: A blood clot. He said the bleed was 2.5 cm in diameter. I had never seen anything like this before. Truthfully, I had no real idea what I was looking at, but from the gravity of his voice, I knew it had to be bad, really bad. He told me the neurosurgeon and the neurologist were notified, and they would confer and decide what would happen next. In the meantime, Brian would be brought up to ICU.
 Kyle drove from San Diego and joined us soon afterwards in the emergency room. The three of us just stood together in front of Brian. We tried the best we could, to tell Brian it would be alright. But the drugs were starting to take effect, and he was no longer talking. I never felt so frightened. I was trying so hard not to think the worst.

As they were arranging a room for Brian, the boys and I went into a small room next to ICU, and got down on our knees, held hands, and prayed to God that Brian’s life would be spared. 

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