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Mystical Forest

Based on a true story...

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Julia in hospital
Julia has suffered a stroke, or something that has the same effect on the brain.

Short form:
Happened last night. She's in the hospital now. Her future, whether or not she'll ever recover, and our lives are very uncertain now.

I'm very scared.

Around 10 p.m. I began to get worried that Julia hadn't returned from her evening class at the UW. About that time I got a single ring on the home phone. I picked it up anyway and I decided to call Julia on her cell phone.

A stranger answered. She said that a lady in a red jacket had given her a number to call, and that she was confused and lost. I went to the grocery store thinking that perhaps a panic attack or something like that was the reason for her getting lost.

No, Juila couldn't communicate. She wasn't slurring her words, but she was speaking nonsense. Aphasia I think it is. I took her to the hospital where she immediately became a candidate for a stroke. She couldn't communicate at all. Writing were scribbles, her words nonsense, and she didn't seem to understand anyone. She couldn't remember her name or my name, though she knew who I was.

You've probably heard of the anti-stroke drug that can be administered if it's done quickly enough after the stroke. Unfortunately, the only person who knew when the stroke happened probably couldn't remember it and couldn't communicate it in any case, so no-go on the dangerous drug.

She was wheeled off to X-ray to determine the cause of the stroke and I was left alone in the ER amongst all the debris that was generated when she was examined and prepared for admission.

Those 30 minutes were the worst I've ever experienced in my entire life. Every possible thought occurred to me and it took everything I had not to simply throw up.

There are usually two sources of stroke: bleeding in the brain and a clot. The X-ray showed neither. Thus, the cause of the stroke was unknown—therefore there was no treatment. A neurologist, however, would examine her in the morning.

Armed with slightly more information than zero, I notified Julia's parents. That's the second worst thing to ever happen to me. If one is going to have the two worst horrific experiences one can envision short of actual death, I can only recommend that they both happen at the same time. Then I notified my parents, but had to leave a message on their answering machine.

Julia was admitted and there was nothng more I could do. She was passing in and out of ... lucidity? It's difficult to describe. Basically some of her words were complete nonsense, others weren't—but she wasn't making any sense 95% of the time. Rarely she would say an actual word that made sense in context. During one "up" period she (sort of) told me to go home and get some sleep, so I left her at 3:15 hoping to return in time for rounds at 7:30.

During the night Julia had slightly improved. I found her having periods of communication and periods of nonsense, and the periods of communication were increasing in frequency, the periods of nonsense decreasing. But throughout she would stall on a random word. She knows it but can't say it.

Also, she has trouble responding to commands, like to raise her right hand. She can physically do it no problem, but she has difficulty understanding the command. Still, even this improved throught this morning and early afternoon.

The neurologist came and examined her and said that she doubted it was a stroke because stroke victims are usually at an even plane of lucidity or not. The fact that Julia was uneven suggested something else. Two theories: a result of a migrane powerful enough to cause these symptoms, or a very bad side effect of the very medicene she takes to combat migraines: Topamax. Even on a good day, a person taking Topamax can "lose words," where they'll be stuck mid-sentence looking for the next word to say. If you've talked with Julia in the past months, you've probably seen that happen. It's frustrating for her, too.

Also part of the exam was coordination. She doesn't appear to have any degradation there. She can move and walk and talk OK. She has feeling everywhere and can walk and balance on her own, and that's good.

The neurologist ordered an MRI to, she said, rule out a stroke. The treatment if it's not a stroke amounts to pretty much nothing. The expectation is that it will either resolve on its own or not, and that's that.

The MRI was taken and the results returned to Julia's floor, but the neurologist won't be on rounds 'till tomorrow.

So I have until tomorrow to worry about whether—or how much—my wife's brain is permanently damaged.

Throughout today Julia's been improving with her words. She knows her name and my name, and even remembered our middle names.

Then the therapist came to evaluate whether she had a good swallow reflex (don't want to give a stroke victim with loss of throat control solid food). It was here that a shadow crept across the situation. She has trouble reading and comprehending text. She did well with most sentences, poorly with a paragraph. However, she's been trying to communicate almost as much with writing as with speech. Last night, her writing was a scribble. This early afternoon, she was writing many words. The therapist, however, depressed Julia because none of us realized that she was having trouble reading and comprehending.

Also, Julia is suffering from a condition that rhymes with apoxia but I can't remember what it is. She has trouble sounding out words, and it's inconsistent. One sentence the word is "purple," the next it's "blachu" with no rhyme or reason.

The therapist recommends speech and reading therapy after she's discharged.

And that's where it stands right now.

I've returned home to try to find the checkbook (I can't) to pay the maid. And I returned to enter this blog entry. Julia's parents and my parents are being constantly updated, and I'm happy to say that Julia's boss has been calling on his own for updates as well, but this is the easiest method to broadcast that Julia is in very serious trouble right now, and to explain why my participation in things is going to be sporadic at least this week.

I'm going back tonight to be with her and I'll come back home to sleep, then return to the hospital for the all important MRI results tomorrow morning. After that, I expect I'll go back to work because, being paid hourly, I really can't afford not to.

I'm bouyed by her dramatic improvement over the past 12 hours, but looming over everything is the extent of her damage and whether or not she'll reach an improvement plateau. And, with that, thoughts of her losing her job, not being able to work anywhere on top of that, and our losing the house and all sorts of things that make me want to throw up. Oh, and there's the fact that Julia is the Minister of Finance, something I'll have to take over and I have no idea what's going on or where everything is at, what bills are coming, and all that.

I bought Julia a deli sandwich as a treat for when she got home from class. I wonder if she'll ever eat it. That makes me profoundly sad.

I'm very tired and scared.

I'm scared and sad for you both. Is there anything I can do for you? If there is something I can do for her when she gets home, let me know that as well.

Our thoughts are with you both.

I hope things continue improving; keep me updated. If you need ANYTHING, remember that I'm just a phone call away—any time of the day or night.

You have my prayers. That has got to be unbelievably scary.

Oh my god, Eric. I'm so sorry to hear this! Please add us to the list of people you can lean on if you need anything.

Oh. wow. My best thoughts of strength to you.

I won't say I understand, I can't...I can only imagine and what I imagine is a terrible and horrific fear. Please know that Matt and I are here for you both. Anything you need, you call. If Julia wants visiters, we will be there. If you need a break - we'll take you. If she's got a sudden urge to see a shiny thing and you can't find one...call -- ok the phone is probably shiny...but call if either of you need help. In addition, Julia is a process person, I know she has everything under control and filed away as needed. If you need help going through paperwork this week, I'll do all I can to help. Matt and are leaving Friday night. Let me know if you need anything.

I'm so sorry. I'm hoping for further recovery, for you both.

Our thoughts are with you, as well. I doubt there's anything I could possibly do from as far away as I am, but if there somehow is don't hesitate to ask.

Both of you are in my thoughts.

I don't know what to say, except I wish Julia a fast and complete recovery. Please call if I can help in any way.

Oh, what a whole bunch of scary stuff to deal with all at once. I don't think there's a damned thing I can say that would be helpful but I will tell you you're both in my thoughts.

I am happy to hear there are good things scattered among the bad. Update when you're able, please.

Our thoughts are with you. My family has a history with strokes, so I know it's hard when you can't communicate. I hope she continues to improve.

Eric, I'm glad to hear that she's been improving over the last 12 hours. Hang in there, both of you!

If you need any thing -- just company included -- Heidi and I are generally in the south end of town Tuesdays after 11 a.m.

For the finances, don't sweat them too much. Only the mortgage can't wait. For credit cards, you can always call them up and request a one month grace period from the finance charges. If you have anything more complicated, Kate Grubb is a tax expert and generally knows finances; I'm sure she'd be happy to help.

My prayers are with you and Julia, I'm so sorry to hear what happened.

Wow. I'll light a candle for you both.