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.