I couldn’t help being a little confused – no one had actually looked at me and said, ‘You had a stroke.’ If someone did, it must have been back when I was still out of it and don’t remember. Because of that, I didn’t fully understand why I was in the hospital or what had happened to me; just that something had happened, and that something wasn’t going to be an easy thing to fix. I wouldn’t fully understand until a meeting with a ‘higher cognitive functioning’ group where they reviewed my medicines and kept saying the word ‘stroke’. Then it hit me, although I didn’t know exactly what my stroke meant at my age.
In the meantime, I went to therapies and groups as my schedule and Adam instructed me to. In maybe my third week, I began going to a group on Fridays called Fame, lead by Victor, where we were forced to use our affected side for an hour doing repetitious tasks – aptly called ‘forced use therapy’. I both loved and hated that group. My hand would be incredibly tired afterward, but Victor would play music during it and I would get to be stubborn whenever he saw that I needed help. I probably didn’t come across as stubborn as I felt, hopefully, but it was nice to know that I could squeeze something as hard as I wanted to and be applauded for it so long as I dropped it in the correct bin.
One day, Victor put on a CD of classical music. I had almost forgotten that I had studied music for my first major in college. I had gotten over a compulsive tick a few days before, where my head would compulsively tilt right and left to the tempo of any music, much like a human metronome. The technicians on my floor seemed to assume that I just wanted to dance. That day, I nodded my head to the sound of the simple Moonlight Sonata and began moving my fingers as muscle memory of the sheet music came back to me.
Victor spoke up from the computer desk in the corner, saying that he wasn’t sure that he liked the disc that he had put in and asked if we wanted him to change it.
“Either way,” I said, being my usual annoyingly passive self.
“No, leave it on,” Taylor, the lawyer with the TBI from San Antonio, said.
My head snapped up to look at him, surprised to find him already staring directly at me. I smiled in the universal ‘strokie’ way of saying ‘thank you’ and quickly dropped my head back to my work. He and Victor talked a few moments more, and then I found my hands and fingers moving over my imaginary piano again. I looked up to find Taylor watching curiously and dropped my head back to my work. It went on that way for the rest of the season, and then Victor helped us wheel to our respective floors and we continued on with our days. I was discharged before I got a chance to actually say thank you to Taylor.
During the rest of my stay in the inpatient facility, I would be moved to two other rooms because of a snoring roommate and a damaged pipe. My only roommate was in the first room – the snoring lady (who was very nice, just confused) whose jerk of a husband (or, to help you understand a lot, jerk of a human) would sometimes stay overnight. The week before I was discharged, during the second week of December, almost all of the patients I had met during my stay had discharged. I couldn’t understand why I was being held longer.
The week of the twelfth of December, I had two series of phenol injections directly into a nerve in my right calf. They hurt, but they helped tremendously. The injections weakened that nerve so that I would be able to learn to walk again, and the phenol would last for six months. The high tone in my leg wouldn’t let me take steps properly, and Danielle, my PT, estimated that it would delay my learning to walk by around six months if I opted out of the injections.
Needles and I don’t get along. End of story. I waited until I was eighteen to get my ears pierced and twenty-two to get my first tattoo. The only other permanent change from those two events was a chipped tooth from the ear piercings. Needles to say, I was nervous about the prospect of having a needle of ungodly length slipped through my leg and jabbed directly into my nerve.
The initial injection had been scheduled for the Friday before my release. For a reason that I can’t recall, it was postponed to the following Tuesday. I was both relieved and horrified that the agonising wait had been prolonged.