I woke up puking my brains out. I was nine years old and I knew instantly that something was wrong. I quickly realized I couldn't use my right arm and I was throwing up all over my bed. I remember trying to call out to my parents, but I couldn't talk or come up with a simple word. That was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me, even some twelve years later.
Realizing that I had a weakness on my right side, I kept trying to come up with some way to wake up my parents. It was three in the morning on a Monday, I was helpless and horrified, and then the doorbell rang. My mother heard the doorbell, woke up, and went for the door. I was still trying to get her attention from my room at the opposite end of the house. I was told later that the late night visitor had been my intoxicated uncle. My drunken uncle showing up at my parents' house at three in the morning wasn't a regular occurrence. I heard him and my mother talking (more like my mother yelling at my uncle about coming to her house at such an early hour waking her up when she has to work in the morning, and that he'd better go home, and she knew he just came from the bar). I remember hearing her slam the door in his face.
Mom's regular ritual was to check on my older sister and then to check on me. I saw my mom open my sister's door (which was right across the hall from me). My older sister was sleeping so my mom shut the door and walked the two steps to my room, she saw that I had gotten sick all over my bed, frowned, and started yelling about how she had to work in the morning. Then she woke my father. They came back and my dad carried me down the hall to the living room, while my mom changed the sheets and started the washer.
It was early in the morning so they didn't talk to me; they just thought I had the flu. It had been going around and I had it the week before after a party at my friend's house. A couple of people who attended the party came down with it as well. I had been to the doctor the day before and he said I was fine and had probably come down with the same flu. Even at nine, knowing that I couldn't talk, couldn't walk, and was disoriented, I knew this wasn't the regular flu. My mom and dad went back to bed. I woke up again at 10 a.m., still on the couch, my mom had gone to work, my sister was at school, and my dad had stayed home from work and was watching T.V.
The next thing I remember was my mom coming home for lunch. The first words out of her mouth were "How is Candra?" And the response from my father was "The same, she hasn't left the couch, and she hasn't talked all day. I tried to get her up to go to the bathroom, but she wouldn't walk."
All the attention turned to me, as my family was asking me questions that I could not answer because I could not talk. All I could do with the one hand that worked was point at the ceiling. My mother got so angry, she said, "If you don't talk we're taking you to the doctor." My thirteen year-old sister said, "She's just doing this to get attention."
My mom finally broke down and called the doctor to tell them we were coming, and my dad carried me to the car, while my sister grabbed her coat.
I don't remember the ride there, but it was about twenty minutes. We then sat in the waiting room for what seemed like a decade, and then went in to see the doctor. Moments later they acted as if something was very wrong and sent me immediately to the E.R. I don't remember the majority of that day, or how many hours I spent in the E.R in Grand Junction, but I do remember the next thing: I was in a helicopter with two doctors and my mother.
I remember looking out the window. We were flying in what looked like the biggest snow storm of the century. I had no clue as to where we were going, or what was wrong with me, or where my dad and sister were. This was one of the scariest things that had ever happened to me, and to recap, I was only nine. I had taken my vitamins and was overall a healthy, happy kid. All I knew at the moment was that I was so tired and it was dark again, so I knew a day had passed. Another twenty minutes passed and we were landing on the top of the hospital in Denver, Colorado. Then, I remember the two doctors placing a heavy raincoat on me, unlatching the helicopter door, and pushing me inside the hospital through the heavy storm. I stayed one month in two hospitals; there I learned what had happened to me. I had had an Ischemic Stroke on March 7th 2000. It occurred on the left side of my brain from an inflamed blood vessel. The left side of the human brain controls the right side of the body. To this day, I am still amazed that I had to learn to walk and talk again when I was nine.
Later, I learned that while my mom and I were flying to Denver, my father, sister, and grandmother had been driving through the snowstorm and were one of the last cars to get over the pass before they closed I-70. It had been snowing very hard and there were many wrecks on the interstate that night. In all, I spent one week in Presbyterian Saint Luke's Hospital and three weeks in Children's Hospital attending occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech lessons. After my release, I attended outpatient therapy for the majority of a year. I missed the last three months of 4th grade. I also had two seizures in July 2002, two and a half years after my stroke, which caused me to be admitted to the hospital for a couple of days. To this day, thirteen years later, I have Permanente Hemiplegia, as my right arm does not work and is paralyzed from that horrifying night.
Throughout this learning experience with life with one functional hand I have followed my goals to change legislation in the state of Colorado to make the life of post-stroke patients less stressful and more functional by more funding for the research of heart disease and stroke. Also I am an advocate for stroke and heart disease because of the way it can affect other peoples lives and can aid them with the correct educational information on what to do in such a timely manner if this dreadful situation happens to a loved one in a timely manner. Knowledge is power!
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