It was a Wednesday when it happened. Mars and I were driving out of The Fort when the first lightning bolt struck me.
It began as a massive ache at my nape, swiftly followed by a spreading numbness in the left side of my body. I tried twitching my toes: check. So I knew it wasn’t that bad — yet. But the spreading deadness on the left side of my face, my hand, my arm was starting to frighten me by the speed of its reach. By then, Mars already made the left turn from McKinley Road onto EDSA.
“Uh, love, I think you have to take me to the hospital”, I said.
“I can’t feel the left side of my body.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before I made the turn? I could have taken you to Makati Med!”
“But I don’t want to go to Makati Med! Take me to Manila Doctors”, I barked back. I didn’t tell her then that Makati Med is where our friend, Relly, contracted hospital-borne pneumonia when he was rushed there for his stroke; no way am I going to the same hospital given that fact.
Mars went through rush-hour EDSA traffic and got me to the emergency room (ER) in 48 minutes, well within the Golden Hour for stroke cases. During the drive, she tried to find out the extent of the damage to me: “Smile!” (I replied with a crooked grin) “Raise your right arm!” (success!) “Raise your left arm!” (I couldn’t, so I gave her lip by raising it with the help of my right hand) “Not that way, raise your left arm by itself!”, she yelled, not at all amused. The rest of the drive had me reading out loud license plate numbers and billboard ads; by the time we pulled up to the ER, I was already slurring my words.
Inside the ER, Mars waited for the duty nurse to finish taking another patient’s vitals before approaching her and saying the key words, “I have a patient who can’t feel the left side of her face, is having an asymmetrical smile, and is already slurring her words.” That did it: the nurse grabbed the nearest wheelchair, stuffed me into it, and ran me inside the trauma ward, where a horde of medical personnel descended on me. It only seemed like minutes before they had an IV and an oxygen line into me, and shot me full of drugs, all in quick succession. Then I was queued for a CAT scan, while Mars filled out the paperwork and answered the doctors’ questions.
By then, the drugs were already coursing through my veins, and I really thought that was it, I can just hop up and off the bed and out of there. Health insurance or not, I was terrified of the looming bill; I just wanted to get myself stabilized and and I WOULD WALK OUT OF THERE. Of course, Mars wouldn’t hear of it. And to put a stop to any nonsense, she took away my wallet, my clothes, heck, even my shoes; she knew I wouldn’t want to be caught dead skulking about the hospital premises barefoot and in a hospital gown!
In the end, I was confined for a week, just to make sure I didn’t develop complications from what appeared to be a transient ischemic attack. Both my neurologist and endocrinologist couldn’t tell me exactly what caused the stroke, except to say that I’m diabetic. Subsequent tests showed everything else was normal.
As of today, it has been three months since I was discharged from the hospital. The only apparent lingering effects on me is that I tire more easily, and that my left arm is not yet 100% there. But I’m getting better, thanks to the love of a wonderful woman who stayed by me while I was at my weakest.