There are lots of ways to tell this story. I could start by saying it was June 6, 2006, 6-6-6 and the world was waiting to see if something would happen. I could show you a picture of the hole in my head. With great dramatic flair I could speak about the most frightening moment of my life: when a doctor told me to squeeze her fingers and I couldn’t feel them in my hand. Teardrops would come when I talked about seeing the sunrise the next day, the day they told me I wouldn’t live to see.
Instead, I’m going back to the writing, because after that day, the day I died, writing is what brought me back to life. I’m going to let that girl, the twenty-nine-year-old who was the youngest patient in the Intensive Care Ward, tell the story.
Snuggled into the couch, listening to the rain, I noticed a black spot on the TV screen. It was like the spot you see if you look at a bright light, black with a white outline. I blamed the TV. My rabbit interrupted my mental cursing, desperate for a raisin. My first thought was that he had gotten into something, there was a large black spot on his side, then I realized it was the same spot as on the TV.
I went to the emergency care clinic, thinking it was a migraine. They rushed me back. The doctor tested me with a Wartenberg wheel, a tiny steel wheel with spikes on the outside. I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel anything on my left side. They said stroke, the ER said brain hemorrhage. I learned the two are just about the same thing in the end: a way for blood to kill brain tissue. Before midnight they told me why it had happened, a big medical sounding word that didn’t make it better: Cavernous Angioma. Thirty days later I wrote:
When I cross my legs I realize I can’t feel my left leg. It’s there, my right leg tells me so, but my left leg can’t feel the couch beneath or the right leg over it. I change my seating position. I shift my weight around. Still the left leg refuses to come back. One minute it was here, then something happened and it left. Damn it. Just over 30 days out from the first incident. I didn’t want another.
Cavernous Angiomas affect 0.2% of the population. Some of the victims are children. They don’t live through the first hemorrhage or the seizures that come afterward.
The numbness has left, replaced by pins and needles. Somebody shoot me. Of all the things that could happen I hate the pins and needles the most. Of course the minute I say that I realize I could be left with nothing. Angiomas do that to people, take away a side of the body for a few years, then poof let it come back. Anything is better than being paralyzed right? A dozen tiny pains argue otherwise.
I started writing the day I came home from the hospital, trying to put into words what had happened. I’d tried writing before that, gotten twenty thousand words into a young adult pieces, fantasy stories but there was never any rush, no need to push and get it done.
The neurologist tells me there might be surgery. “Of course, we’d shave your head.”
“Cut my hair and there will be tears and bloodshed.” I want to make my voice menacing, but there isn’t enough air in my lungs.
Suddenly there’s a clock ticking, one that says tomorrow might be your last day, your last chance. Suddenly, I make the time to write.
I wonder when I won’t be angry any more. Doctors lecture me to accept my body, to make friends with this new part of me. How can I when it’s betrayed me this way? When there might not be a future?
But there was a future. Five years of one so far. I gave up on my journal three months after my neurological event at about the same time I started driving again, started worrying about the minutia, where my next trip would be. I gave up on the journal, but not the writing. I finished my first manuscript that October. I wouldn’t have done it without the hole in my head.