After ensuring that my parents’ house was secure, I tried to think about sleep. I had been running on adrenaline for seven hours and I was determined to be at the hospital when my mother woke up. At 2:00 A.M. my parents’ house phone rang, and it was my father. Evidently, he couldn’t sleep either. He wanted the contact information for my mother’s nurse. ICU hospital rooms don’t have telephones—actually, most of them don’t, but I digress. Each room has a special access code that family members can use to contact the nurse. I told him that I had that information, but that it was in the car. I had to laugh when he told me he’d wait while I retrieved it. I assured him that I’d be there in 3-1/2 hours and promised to check in with him shortly after seeing Mom.
During my road trip to Temple, the medical professionals told me that with therapy my mother would eventually regain some of her speech. Not knowing what to expect, I was at the door of my mother’s room at 5:30 A.M. Drew, the nurse, was still there and said that we could now wake her. Relief overwhelmed me when she opened her eyes and said, “Hi, Melody.” She was able to speak, although she was very confused. I had never realized what a stroke was like from the patient’s side. She had no pain, no idea why she was there, no memory of how she got there, and she was pretty certain that she was fine. However, when I saw her CT scan, it was obvious to me where the bleed had occurred.
Shortly thereafter, a steady stream of doctors, fellows, residents, therapists, aides, and who knows who came through my mother’s door. My California-born mother sometimes has a difficult time understanding some of her native Texas friends. This teaching hospital is teeming with personnel from across the globe, most of whom speak rapidly and are very polite and soft spoken. I finally asked them to let me translate all of their requests. While testing her cognitive impairment, they asked her to spell “world” backwards. After two hours of sleep that followed almost 24 hours awake, I was pretty sure that I couldn’t spell it myself, and would probably fail their tests.
Meanwhile, over in CTICU in the north tower, my father told his surgeon that his wife had suffered a stroke and was in the south tower. I don’t know whether the surgeon breached any hospital protocol, but he arranged for a nurse to take my father to my mother’s room. At 12:30 P.M., he was wheeled in and it was a great reunion. How I wished that I had the presence of mind to photograph the moment with my phone. The two of them touched their fingers that sported the pulse oximeters. It looked like an ET moment when their two lit fingers touched. How I wish that either one of them could recall this meeting.
I went back to my parents’ house so that I could phone family and close friends of my parents. Some of the neighbors saw my car and called for an update on my mother’s condition. After witnessing the collection of emergency vehicles the night before, curiosity and concern were running high.
Shortly after 1:00 P.M., my dear friend Rhoda arrived from Houston. She had called me early in the morning to see if she could come to Temple for a few days to help out. I surprised us both when I quickly accepted her offer. I wasn’t sure how she could help, but with my mother in the hospital and my father due to be discharged soon, I was pretty certain that the next few days would be hectic and that she’d be able to help.
Turns out, she was a godsend.