Learning to Live Independently Again

  • By Springible Contributor
  • Reading Time About 3 minutes
  • PostedSeptember 6, 2017
  • Category

One night, nearly three years ago, I was battling an awful headache. That wasn’t unusual; headaches were a part of my life. I felt worse and worse toward the end of the day, so I went to sleep. I woke up 2 a.m. the next morning to ringing in my ears. I couldn’t walk well and my balance was off. I phoned my parents and we drove to the emergency room. The CT scan showed my brain was hemorrhaging. An MRI was ordered next and we called the neurosurgeon.

I had a brain-stem stroke. A stroke can be ischemic or hemorrhagic, meaning blood flow is blocked or bleeding enters the brain. Injury type depends on many things, like the location of the blockage or bleed. I had a cavernous malformation hemorrhage in the “Pons” region. This area controls basic bodily functions such as: respiration, heart rate, swallowing, gag reflex, speech, facial movement, eye movement, and balance. I lost my ability to swallow, so food and water had to be delivered through a feeding tube. My heart rate was extremely high; I required a respirator to breath. My left hand could still work but I am naturally right handed. Writing on a grease board was my means of communication.

I never thought I would lose functionality in my body. I miss my old eyes. They can’t move horizontally; only up and down. Constantly. The medical term is “nystagmus.” Sometimes I even have double vision. It makes reading difficult, so I have to take medication that calms the bobbing, but not entirely. Before my stroke, I had 20/15 eyesight. I never needed glasses… I took that for granted.

Then there’s the whole balance thing. Most people don’t think twice about placing one foot ahead of the other when walking, or bending to grab something that you dropped. Let me tell you, though, when it’s not working, you miss it. I technically walk each day at our local YMCA, but I need someone to hold onto my gait belt (a walking trainer) that I wear around my waist so I can balance better. I can travel a descent distance, but when I lose my balance I might fall if I have no support. I fall when I’m by myself but I can get myself back up into my wheelchair. Ah, my nimble wheelchair. It allows me to move but I want it gone! I would just love to wake up, walk to my car and drive to Starbucks for a morning cup of coffee. But I can’t right now. I miss that independence.

But I have not lost hope. I have learned to compensate where I can, and fortunately, I have regained much of what was injured from the stroke. And while I still want normalcy, I believe that medical technology will find treatments for my vision and balance. I will walk again, and I will not stop working until I reach that goal.

– Maggie McClellan, Springible Contributor

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