Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Dance of Death

with 14 comments

Saturday I was having a normal day, puttering about my apartment, being berated by my cats, playing around on line. At around one o’clock I got up, and my legs were like rubber, it was weird, I’d never experienced anything like it before. Denial of course immediately kicked in, and I decided I was just suffering from stress, and I ordered a burger from across the street and went to pick it up.  I made it across and back a busy street, but it was scary. And in retrospect,stupid. After eating I decided to take a little nap, and hoped my legs would feel better when I awoke.

Nope. When I awoke an hour or so later I could still barely walk. I realized this could be very serious, I grabbed my cell phone and charger, stuck a key and a note under a neighbour’s door asking them to feed my cats if I wasn’t back that evening, and went outside. Even then, clinging to the building’s gate to stay upright with passersby staring at me, I still wasn’t quite ready to dial 9/11. I staggered into the furniture store on the first floor of our building, collapsed into a chair, and accepted my fate. I handed my phone to the concerned store clerk, and asked her to call 9/11. Minutes later I was surrounded by concerned EMTs, and a few minutes after that I was in the ER at Highland Hospital. It was the first time I’d ridden in an ambulance in 35 years. It was about as fun as I remembered it from the first time.

In Highland a couple of increasingly puzzled doctors examined me. My heart sounded fine, I didn’t have any obvious stroke symptoms, there didn’t seem to be anything to explain why my legs were rubber. After a couple of hours they decided I had pinched a nerve somehow, told me to stay off my computer chair for a few days, and come back if the symptoms didn’t improve. I was a little dubious, but along came a nurse and I staggered towards the hospital exit. The nurse watched me walk maybe twenty feet, if balancing on two rubber stalks as I careered down the hall can be called walking. Then she said “Did the doctors see you trying to walk?”  Well, no, they hadn’t actually taken that particular diagnostic step. She took me back to the nurse’s station and asked some doctors there to watch me walk. I staggered passed them … and five minutes later I had wires attached to every part of my body as I was strapped to a gurney and wheeled into a giant humming machine.

24 hours of CAT scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, X-Rays, and various other tests followed … and the now team of doctors assigned to me still didn’t know what was wrong. Between tests I lay on a gurney in the ER listening to people scream as various medical procedures demonstrated the limits of human pain. I didn’t sleep well. And I still couldn’t walk. Monday morning they got me into an MRI, a far more unpleasant experience than I had imagined, and we finally had our answer. A one cm piece of my brain had died, I was now officially a stroke survivor. Even better, Sunday night they had finally assigned me a room and I was no longer living in the ER.

Monday and Tuesday I spent slowly recovering in my room, talking to my roommate, and still wired up like a Christmas tree. I learned a lot being there. For example if they announce a “Code Pink” over the PA, it means a baby is missing. And all the interior doors close and lock. And a “Code Grey” means a combative patient. There were  several of both while I was there, I guess hospitals are as exciting as they show on TV. I’d be upset about being prematurely discharged, but it was an understandable mistake under the circumstances. I didn’t have any of the classic stroke symptoms, and I had confused the issue myself by thinking both of my legs had turned to rubber. By Monday I realized that my right leg felt fine, and likely had all along. It had just felt so weird losing the use of a leg that I’d thought both legs were malfunctioning.

I’m home now, slowly but surely getting better. And I’m lucky as a stroke survivor, my speech and cognition are fine (or as fine as they ever were,) and there’s every reason to believe I will make a full recovery. Well, most of me, the 1 cm part of my brain that died is going to stay dead. And I will be with me the rest of my life. I can’t help but wonder, does this mean that I’m now part zombie?

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, as its creator has been dead over 500 years. It’s a woodcut called “Dance of Death” by Michael Wolgemut in 1493. I’m the one laying helplessly on the ground. I chose it for many reasons, mortality has become a much bigger issue for me the past week.)


Written by unitedcats

October 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm

14 Responses

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  1. I, for one, am glad that you’re a survivor! Good luck, my friend


    October 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm

  2. I, for two, am glad you are with us. And I’m thrilled to see an entry from you pop up on my reader. You have so much to share, and I want you around for a long time.

    Isn’t it something about the nurse? The saying is that if you are in the hospital and you have a question, ask a nurse. I’m relieved that there was one on staff who was paying attention. Many hugs,


    October 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm

  3. yes, the code pink and code grey are relatively new. everyone or most everyone remembers what STAT and code blue are and crash cart. (STAT is short for statim in latin which means immediately. and code blue is the heart has stopped bring the crash cart which usually has the defibrillator aka shock paddles)

    sadly thought i fear my hospital as apparently some of the cleaning staff do not take code pink seriously. i know this as sis in law works there.

    very much glad you are well and glad that the nurse noticed you staggering. i often wonder if nurses don’t do more of the doctor’s work and that the doctors are just people that did enough work and now that they have the title can make the nurse do everything else they just have the official and tenure that require that signature?


    October 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm

  4. Staggering news, if you pardon the pun. But I guess the saying is true: you never walk alone. There just might be a nurse watching. I wish you a good recovery! And if you actually are or do become a zombie I’ll be jealous. (no not really ;) )

    Steffen M. Boelaars

    October 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm

  5. An adventure dying is life done right. Bravo!


    October 7, 2011 at 3:03 am

  6. Oh. And by the way, we are all already and always were zombies.


    October 7, 2011 at 3:06 am

  7. I am happy that you are home. Best advice is to adhere to the instructions of your doctor. Being in the hospital numerous times myself made me realize that no matter how miserable I was there were so many poor souls worse off than I. Enjoy life, Doug. Live each day fiercely. God bless.


    October 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm

  8. My right hip gave out the other day, I found myself one minute standing, the next minute trying to find a safe place to land and winding up safely in a chair, fortunately. Not that this was unexpected in the long run, I’ve known my hip was deteriorated, due to my genetic condition. On the plus side this will probably help my disability case so that I can finally apply for Medicare.

    Our bodies are only temporary, and they do wear out. Yet nothing ends, only new beginnings follow old.

    Mahakal / מהכאל

    October 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

  9. All the best Doug. Regardless of anyone’s religious beliefs, that nurse was a angel.
    Just want to say I found your webpage after thinking about what I’d do if I survived a nuclear war. I ran a search in google and your article about the pillow cases came up. Been reading your articles ever since.


    October 8, 2011 at 3:11 am

  10. Good to hear that you are a survivor, sad to hear that you were hit in the first place.
    I have been reading your articles for some years now, and especially enjoyed your insights on history and warfare. I sincerely hope you will be able to share your thoughts with us for still many years.

    All the best,
    (or in my native tongue)
    God bedring!


    October 8, 2011 at 8:10 am

  11. Its been 40 years since we met. You introduced me to tomato sandwiches!

    So glad your better. lets both work on our health.

    Your friend always.

    John Galt

    October 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm

  12. Sorry to read about the stroke, but glad you survived and hope things improve. While you recover at least you will have more time to blog.


    October 15, 2011 at 11:25 am

  13. Sounds like you dodged a bullet. I found your blog while searching for more information on the Gloria Ramirez story, I stayed because I like what I have read. Obviously the little part that died had no affect on your writing! Be blessed.


    October 20, 2011 at 11:23 pm

  14. I am glad you survived! I am only 57 years old, and have already had a fatal heart rythym and a mild heart attack.
    I had a small artery in my heart 90 percent blocked.
    They put a stent in, it is a drug eluding kind, supposed to not close up like the old stents ?

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