[present] shoes

last week i went shopping for clothes for the first time in quite a while. i didn't bring that many clothes down from Tempe, so i have been wanting/needing to go shopping. i didn't find much, unfortunately, but i did find this cute shirt at Gap:

ok, now i have a new shirt. what should i wear with it? how about jeans!

got that taken care of. what about shoes? after all, an outfit isn't an outfit without cute shoes. thankfully, i didn't have to think too hard about my footwear selection. it was immediately obvious what shoes would look best with my new ensemble. these!!!!

i know what you're thinking. where-oh-where can i get a pair? don't fret; you, too, can own these babies, and i won't even be upset if you copy me.

in case you don't see the readily apparent awesomeness exuded by my hot kicks, let's take a closer look:

first, please note that these are straight outta the Target men's section. the steely gray and dirty white is nicely complemented by perfectly placed splashes of deep red. second, the slit in the right shoe adds just the right amount of attitude. and of course, who could overlook the most striking feature of all: the twisty laces that hearken back to the glories of 4th grade. (initially, the twisty laces were installed to allow me to tie my shoes with one hand. i can tie regular laces now, but switching would mean i'd lose out on the awesomely quick tighten/loosen abilities of twisty laces!)

aside from their fashionable qualities, my shoes are also completely functional. so functional, in fact, that i am not ashamed to say i wear them every single day. they are the only shoes that fit over my slick AFO:

the AFO is actually super helpful. it helps me walk. without it, my right foot doesn't really behave. it turns in (due to spasticity) and won't lie flat.

the AFO keeps my foot down and also tilts my leg slightly forward so that i don't hyperextend my knee as easily as i do without it, and the joints built into the ankle portion allow me some flexibility while still providing control. when i wear it, i actually can walk kinda well!

when i was at the rehab hospital, my mom ran to Target to get me my shoes. i knew they would be a men's shoe since i needed something a couple sizes larger than my normal [rather large] shoe size in order to accommodate the AFO. i was nervous about what they'd look like. lucky for me, they turned out to be super stylin', not to mention they go with everything!

cute summer dress?

jean shorts?

long maxi dress?

khaki linen pants?



any style i could possibly wear while also needing to walk in public?

you get the idea.

some may think i would want to wear sandals in the hot weather, or that i would miss my Vans…or any other shoe for that matter. no way, jose! that's like asking a bald guy if he misses his hair. and to think, if it wasn't for my stroke, i never would have thought of wearing these shoes. ever.

here's to you, my faithful shoe companions!


[past] president’s day, part three

the first doctor to see me gave three possible diagnoses: a sudden onset of MS, a slipped disc in my back or maybe even some sort of viral complication from the flu. he said his wife had that particular virus years ago and it had paralyzed her for a while. he asked if i had had the flu recently. i told him i had, the week before. maybe that's what it is! that sounds curable! the doc had me swab my nose so he could test for that possibility.

next in was a neurologist. she asked questions and examined me. when she looked down my throat, she called the nurse over to show her something. "see that?" she asked, referencing the hangy thing in the back of my throat. "see how it is leaning to the right? that's something you don't see often."


she ordered an MRI for me. as i waited to be taken in, i went through bouts of panic and shorter bouts of calm. i was so thirsty, but they wouldn't allow me to drink anything. only ice chips, a few at a time, and IV fluid. less than an hour into my ER visit, i had to pee so bad. the nurse brought in a bedpan. i felt helpless but could care less about modesty (a recurring theme over the next month or so).

when it was time for my MRI, they shot me up with Valium to help me calm down. i was already in major shock, and the thought of being in a narrow tube with my head strapped down did not help matters. (it was one thing to be in the tube and lay still if i could have moved had i wanted to; it was an entirely separate matter to be told not to move and know that moving wasn't even an option.) i wanted Troy to come in with me, but they told me that was not a possibility. somehow, thanks to God and the Valium, i made it through. we went back to my "room" and waited.

the next thing i remember, the doctor with the swab came to say the test results came back negative. the paralysis was not induced by flu.
dang it.

the neurologist then returned with a picture from the MRI. this first image is what i saw (the other two came later):

what was that huge spot on my brain? she explained it was an aneurysm of some sort. a brain bleed. i don't recall much else of her explanation.

i had Troy call my boss at work to tell her i wouldn't be in the next day. this will probably take some time to figure out, i thought. maybe i'll have to stay in the hospital for a few days. i called my parents and explained to them what had happened. "do we need to come up there?!" my mom asked. i told her we'd see what the doctors said next and call them back.

i drifted in and out of sleep for a few hours. finally, at around 11 at night (according to Troy; i don't even remember), they transferred me to the ICU. my stay in the ER had not felt like 8 hours, but i could probably thank the Valium for that.

the end of president's day is pretty foggy for me. i know i had nice nurses in the ICU who frequently helped me on the bedpan. my room was dark. there were IVs. i'm sure i said many prayers. i remember Troy's tired face. i told him to tell my parents to drive up from Tucson. Troy tells me now that i kept asking him if i was going to die.

most of all, i remember the headaches starting. deep, painful, lingering headaches like i'd never had before. no amount of Tylenol helped. just as i would drift into unconsciousness, the pain would increase, making sleep for me -- and Troy -- very difficult. i moaned and squeezed Troy's hand, willing myself to sleep and escape a day that had started as a carefree holiday.


[past] president’s day, part two

ski patrol finally arrived and got to work, staring with asking a string of questions. i answered, despite a fog that had started settling over my mind.

my name? [ashley white] what were my symptoms? [i can't move my right side. it's completely numb] what was i doing before they started? [just sitting here] had i crashed that day? [no] had i hit my head? [no] was i sure? [yes!] was i hydrated? [yes] had i eaten enough that day? [yes] was i positive i hadn't fallen? [yes, yes i'm sure!] who was i with? [my boyfriend] what's his name? [troy. he should be coming down soon] did i have any preexisting conditions? [just panic attacks]

"okay ashley, this is probably a panic attack then," said one of the medics while another placed an oxygen mask on me and yet another took my vitals.

"no, it's NOT." i said emphatically. "i know what a panic attack feels like. this is NOT just a panic attack. i can't move my right side at all."

"well you are moving it."

i looked down. my arm and hand were moving on their own, but i couldn't even feel it.

"i'm not moving it on purpose…"

where's troy?
i kept looking over to my left, searching for his gray jacket.

after more examination: "ashley, we are going to recommend you get to the hospital as soon as possible."

"what is wrong with me?!"

"we don't know, so you need to be examined at the hospital."

"am i having a stroke?"

"no, i don't think so. but you should go get checked out. would you like us to call an ambulance?"

i knew the answer was yes, even though my need for an ambulance meant my condition was more serious than i was willing to accept. this was not something simple, though; i could feel it.

troy finally came into view. he was running toward me, his face painted with worry. man, was i glad to see him. i told him what was happening, and despite his concerned look, he assured me that everything was going to be ok. i wanted to believe him but felt so scared. (he tells me now that he wasn't just saying that to help me calm down, but that he actually felt that i would be fine.)

the ambulance arrived and i was loaded on board. i wanted troy to ride with me, but i braved up and let him take his truck down instead so that he would have a car. the lady inside the ambulance started an IV. searching for somebody to give me answers, i asked her if she knew what was wrong with me. she said she didn't. i don't recall what else she said, but i remember it definitely didn't make me feel better about the situation. i tried to relax and pray. i calmed down a little bit and just focused on the interior of the ambulance and the bouncing and clanking noises caused by the winding road.

we went down the mountain without lights or sirens, so it took about 30 minutes to get to Flagstaff Medical Center. once there, i was rolled on a gurney to one of those curtained "rooms" in the ER. troy got there shortly after and sat next to me, holding my hand and trying to calm me down. i was constantly moving my left side to make sure it still worked. my biggest fear, aside from dying, was that my left side would go out, too, leaving me completely paralyzed. (this fear hung around a while -- about three weeks.)

nurses gathered around me and asked many of the same questions that ski patrol had posed. as i answered them this time around, i noticed that it was difficult to form my thoughts into words. there were times i was trying to talk and would just stop mid-sentence, and then wonder why i had stopped. i also had trouble reading paperwork because the words blurred together.

at the first possible moment, troy closed the curtains and gave me a
blessing. i had wanted one back at snowbowl, but there was no time for it. after the blessing, troy told me that he felt very calm about the whole thing, that he knew i would be fine. i grasped on to his hope to fill the gap where mine had almost vanished.


[past] president’s day, part one

february 21, 2011. the day i think i'll always want to remember and try to forget. the day this new chapter in my life began.

on friday the 18th, i drove up to flagstaff to spend the three-day holiday weekend with my boyfriend, troy. that night, we watched the Dark Knight. saturday we drove into the woods and played in the snow.
sunday was church and a yummy homemade dinner. i don't remember what we made, but i know it included biscuits. the whole weekend we talked about how we wished it would snow really hard so that i would get snowed in and have to stay in flagstaff longer.

on monday morning, we got up early, jumped into our longjohns and thick socks, filled our camelbacks and headed up to snowbowl for a half day of snowboarding before i had to head back to tempe. this was only our second snowboarding trip of the season. i was pretty sick during the first one up in brianhead, utah, so i was really hoping to have a solid day at snowbowl. even before we got up the mountain, though, i was feeling nervous and not as excited as i had hoped. looking back, i wonder if i somehow knew what was going to happen. but to be fair, feeling nervous is definitely not new for me -- i'm a worrier (that's why my friends call me whiskers. <--- if you get this reference, consider me impressed).

worried or not, i didn't want to ruin the trip for troy, so we bought our lift tickets and started riding. my worry eventually subsided, and we had several fun runs. my right leg was hyperextending a lot, making carving very difficult. i figured it was leftover weakness from my broken ankle that hadn't returned back to normal yet. in fact, i had started seeing a physical therapist to try to strengthen my muscles. so, i just chalked it up to a weak leg.

around 1:30, i told troy i was going to take a break and rest my leg. i unstrapped and walked into the lodge to go to the bathroom. my right leg was like jelly. i almost couldn't walk. dang, i thought. maybe i should call it a day. so i limped back outside and sat down by the lift and waited for troy to finish a run. when he made it back, i told him i was going to rest a bit more, and then i'd join him again after his next run. he left. i pulled out a leftover biscuit and started eating. i saw troy get on the sunset lift and start his ascent. the next hour was the scariest of my life.

like a typical right-hand-dominant person, i was feeding myself the biscuit with my right hand. after the third or fourth bite, i noticed my arm felt heavy. then really heavy. then it was gone. i couldn't lift it. and i couldn't move my leg. within 30 seconds, i had lost all movement on my right side, and it was completely numb.

immediately freaking out, i scrambled for my phone. dead. there was a girl and a guy sitting close to me. i frantically asked the girl to use her phone and fumbled over the keys dialing troy's number. no answer. redial. no answer. one more time. nothing. my freak-out had now turned into intense panic.

"please!" i yelled to the girl and guy, "please go get ski patrol! i need help!"

"uh, ok," they said. but they didn't move. more urgently this time, i begged them to hurry and get help. the guy got up and went toward the lodge.

i laid back on the snow, trying to get ahold of myself. i prayed and pleaded for Heavenly Father to help me. my hyperventilating was causing my left side to tingle and not work properly. i'm losing my left side too, i thought in terror.