Seven Miles of Gratitude
This Can't Be Happening!
Even as it happens, I know it's not a dream.
In front of me is a dead man's arm.
With my right hand, I grasp the strange and lifeless fingers. It is then that I realize that the shock of encountering this rare and unsolicited event renders me more than speechless.
I am mindless.
With one frightening exception.
I have a solitary thought coursing through my petrified brain. I am conscious of that singular conception, and I desperately cling to it like a man washed overboard in the frigid Bering Sea clutching on to a life preserver. I cannot--I must not!--lose this thought, yet with each passing nanosecond, my biggest fear is that I am drowning in mental quicksand.
That one thought...
The dead man's arm belongs to me!
Helpful Information about TIA
A mere hour and a half earlier, my wife and I were enjoying a wonderful meal at a Chinese restaurant just across our state's southern border in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. We had ordered our usual vegetarian fare--fried rice, egg foo young, sweet and sour tofu, and a stir-fried dish that included celery slices, water chestnuts, and cashews. I also asked for a small plate of hot sauce. A nice complement to our food was a pot of hot tea.
It was indeed a lovely Friday night date, and we enjoyed a conversation about our adult children, our respective eBay businesses, and plans for the weekend.
When we returned home, I remember placing a small pile of paperwork on the bed. It was at that precise moment that I inexplicably picked my left hand up with my right and, to my horror, experienced that incredible fugue. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't think it through. There's nothing as scary as suddenly discovering that the ability to think has been abruptly taken away. Whatever conceptualization I did at that moment, I did by pure impressions and imagery. I knew something was terribly wrong, and I knew enough to call for help.
The accompanying problem, however, was that I couldn't speak well. I neither had volume nor clarity with my words. I called out to my wife, Rita, but all I could hear was a voice that sounded less like mine and more like an animal's guttural sound: "Ree-ah."
I tried again, willfully calling out as loud as I possibly could, "REE-AHH!"
This time, my wife heard me from the kitchen below and came bounding up the stairs.
Friends, I encourage you to read this captivating hub written by the talented writer and my dear friend, Mary Craig (aka tillsontitan on HubPages)
- TIA or Stroke = Fear
Experiencing a TIA or stroke is one of the scariest things that will ever happen to you. What are the results? What can you do to avoid it?
Yep, it's happening, alright!
She found me sitting on the bed, my right hand still clinging to my left hand, a bewildered and slack expression on my face.
My speech was slurred, but I was at least able to share with her what had happened. I have made fun of my wife in the past for animatedly using her hands and arms in conversations, but I will never do so again. In that moment, communicating with gestures was an absolute godsend.
Later, she would share with me that I actually mentioned to her that the left side of my face was numb. I don't remember saying that at all, either shutting out the memory of it or unwittingly demonstrating yet another significant indicator.
Thankfully, the ground zero moment lasted only a couple of minutes. But the aftershock was this overwhelming fatigue.
From her experience as a nurse for the past three and a half decades, my wife knew that I had suffered a TIA, or transient ischemic attack. Breaking it down to its lowest common denominator, I had experienced a mini-stroke.
My wife gave me three baby aspirins (81 mg each) and monitored my blood pressure. She also called the ER at the hospital she works at. After some discussion, we decided that I would go to bed early, and my wife would keep monitoring my situation.
(Author's interjection: Friends, if an episode like this ever happens to you, don't hesitate. Go immediately to your local emergency room and get some help.)
The Down Side of a Chinese Dinner
That evening, while I slept, my wife went online and found articles suggesting that the ingestion of monosodium glutamate (MSG) can cause pseudo stroke symptoms.
She called the Chinese restaurant, and the woman who spoke with her confirmed that they did indeed use MSG in their cooking. However, at a customer's request, they could prepare their dishes without the additive.
Naturally, my wife and I were somewhat relieved that this was a possibility in my case. However, we did not allow our hopefulness to blindside our rational thinking. There have been relatives on both paternal and maternal sides of the family that have died from strokes. Indeed, I needed to see my primary physician as soon as possible.
So Far, So Good
I had not enjoyed certain side effects of my blood pressure medication so, earlier this year, I decided to get off them. At the time, I was full swing into my walking program and believed that through exercise, healthier eating, and weight loss, I could lower my b.p. naturally.
When I saw my doctor, my blood pressure was abnormally high. Because of the TIA episode, he strongly recommended that I get back on my medication regimen. At this point, I agreed wholeheartedly with him.
He ordered some initial tests.
The EKG (electrocardiogram) his nurses administered to me came up negative (which is doctorspeak for good results).
In another lab room of the hospital, a female health technician tested my carotid arteries with an ultrasound machine. The next day, I received the good news that my arteries were clear.
None of this means I'm out of the woods. In fact, at my age and with my health issues, genetically predisposed and enhanced by so many years of bad lifestyle choices, I'm still at grave risk.
What this boils down to is a concerted effort on my part to continue getting more exercise, eating healthier, and coping better with stress.
The way I look at it, this TIA episode was a wake-up call.
The Morning After
The morning after the TIA episode, I was so happy just to wake up.
I had not yet seen my doctor, but I felt so good and so relieved and so motivated that I just knew that the best thing I could do was to go for a walk.
Now, I don't recommend what I did to anyone else, so please don't follow my example. I had to do what I had to do. When I began my walking campaign on the very first day of this year, I promised myself that I did not want to leave this earth as a rotund and helpless individual lying in a nursing home bed somewhere, my body weak and disfigured and covered with my own waste. No, the box I checked was the one that found me actively engaged in mortal combat with death.
When it is time for me to go, I want to be living life to its fullest, not prolonging an inevitable conclusion while incarcerated in a prison masquerading as a health care facility. Death doesn't afford us the luxury of too many choices, but by God, I want this one choice more than anything.
Every day, then, and certainly reinforced by this TIA scare, I am Dylan Thomas' protagonist, and I "...rage, rage against the dying light..."
So I did what I had trained my mind, body, and soul to incorporate as a learned behavioral response to stress: I went for a walk.
A 7-Mile Walk.
I Am Extremely Grateful to Be Alive
There are seven sections of text in this personal essay.
Each section is complemented by its own photo. The image reflects exactly where I was at when each mile had been completed. At the end of each mile, I paused to give thanks to my Creator for my life.
For my loved ones.
For my friends.
For my livelihood.
For my health.
For my writing.
For my beautiful mind, my engaging heart, and my gypsy soul.
If God has further work for me to do; if He has plans for me to make a difference for the better; and if He's not yet ready for me to go to that final sleep...
...Then I'll just keep enjoying a wondrous spin on this magnificent ferris wheel of life.
My Walking Program for 2013
% of Days Walked
% Towards Goal
Weight on 01/01/13
Weight on 09/01/13
Total Weight Loss in 2013
Just talkin' story on the ol' front porch...
© 2013 Hawaiian Odysseus