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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My AVM Story: Walking Toward Light

On Tuesday night, my friend Harry's wife, Heather, died very suddenly. All of us who knew her and Harry were shocked by her death.

I haven't seen Harry for quite some time, and I didn't know Heather that well. I mainly kept in touch with them through Facebook. I heard reports from mutual friends that saw them over the last couple of years that they were very, very much in love. They got married in July 2011, and both sounded very happy with married life.

It's difficult to write about their relationship in the past tense.

The final ruling on why Heather died isn't in yet, but her doctors believe it's because a blood clot formed when she broke her foot several weeks ago, and traveled to her lungs.

It's so difficult to wrap my head around the fact that Harry and Heather got up on Tuesday, went to their teaching jobs, came home to dinner together, and got ready to go to school the next day, never suspecting that they were doing those things together for the last time. And yet, when I had my first stroke, I wondered myself if I had gone through my day for the "last time" myself.

A lot of us that know Harry and that knew Heather talked online on Wednesday, and there were a lot of "I love yous" going around. It's amazing how much something like this reminds you that life can change in an instant, and that you should never pass up a chance to let people know that you care about them.

The Worst Headache of My Life

When my first stroke came on, I thought I had meningitis. My head felt like it was going to burst open. My neck and shoulders quickly become stiff and painful. I got through the job interview I was in at the time, and I got myself to the doctor - but I didn't trust him when he said that this was likely just a flu. It didn't feel like any flu that I'd ever had, and I'd been around my friends' small children that week. I needed to know if it was meningitis. So I called an ambulance.

I was a little panicked. I knew that people died from meningitis. The ambulance driver calmed me down enough to get me through the ride to the hospital, intake procedures, and the lumbar puncture. By that time my landlady had showed up to sit with me for a while. But she was gone when they came back and said that there was blood in my spinal fluid and that I needed a CT scan.

I knew that blood in one's spinal fluid wasn't good. It started to occur to me while I was waiting for results from the CT scan that I really did have a chance of dying in that hospital in British Columbia, when my family was half a continent away in Ontario. My best friend in the area was back in Ontario visiting family. My landlady had called my other close friend in the area, and she was in labour.

"Where's your family?" the doctor asked.

"In Ontario," I said. "Should someone fly out?"

He paused a moment. "If they can manage it...they probably should," he said.

Oh wow, it's that bad, I thought.

It was. I was bleeding into my head. It was all beginning. It was a while before I was really, truly sure that I wasn't going to die.

"Hi, Dad? I'm having a stroke..."

I'm kidding. I don't remember what I said to my father when the doctor handed the phone to me. I think I tried to reassure him that, except for a terrible headache, I was doing okay, because he was pretty upset...I'm not sure what the doctor told him.

And I didn't learn anything more that night except that I was going to another hospital the next day, where they'd be able to run more tests and get a clearer picture of what was going on.

Walking Steadily Toward Light

I was light-years away from where I thought I'd be when I'd gotten up that morning to go to my part-time job at the Parksville Pharmasave. It was the beginning of a journey that took me...light-years from where I'd be in my life right now.

Just because my life turned out differently than I thought it would doesn't necessarily mean that it turned out worse than I thought it would.  There's light along this road, and light at the end of it. But it also doesn't mean that there haven't been some dark times in the last twelve years.

For Harry...and For Heather

Harry, I know it looks dark now. I wish with all my might that you didn't have to go through this. But the quickest way through the dark - is to just walk right through it. You've got lots of people who care and who want to help.

Rest in peace, Heather.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Sarah... My sympathies to your friend Harry.

    It's funny, the other day I was thinking about birthdays and anniversaries and thinking how odd it is that we don't/can't celebrate that other major milestone of our existence - our date of death. Life is a terminal illness and none of us is getting out of here alive but the when is really important. I'm rather partial to the James Taylor song - "Shower the People you love with love, show them the way you feel"

    There were two very famous men who did regularly celebrate their date of death (unbeknownst to them) - Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 4th of July, 1826 - 50 years to the day since they had both signed the Declaration of Independence.