The week that I was scheduled to discharge arrived all too slowly, yet all too quickly. I was terrified. I had some neuropsychological tests, scheduled over several days, to complete before my discharge. The tests were like parts of traditional IQ tests and part of some other, random, test. I did well overall, but couldn’t wait for the next test scheduled six months out. The changes and developments were sure to be fascinating.
I tried my hardest to keep my balance during the PT portion of discharge. I could only stand by myself for around 3 seconds before losing my balance. Parts of the discharge testing had to be passed over due to my incredibly poor balance. I was angry at the idea of being released before being able to walk, but desperate to see my family and friends outside of the hospital.
The morning of my discharge was odd. It felt surreal; I still hadn’t shaken the feeling that I had spent my entire life in that hospital. That morning, Adam finished packing up my belongings while I waited in front of the door to my room. It slowly began to sink in that my body still didn’t work correctly and I was leaving. I felt panic rising when Adam left the room to take my things to the car. I wanted to stand up and walk to the car – that was how I was supposed to leave. I watched the doorway as technicians, nurses, therapists, and the occasional patient passed by. Life was carrying on, just as it had when I left the apartment to go for a swim the month before. After receiving my discharge paperwork, Adam pushed my wheelchairchair down the hallway and to the ward’s elevator bank.
The best part of my wheelchair was that it was a six-month rental. That meant that I should be walking in half a year, right? Regardless of the expected timeframe, I would walk again and, hopefully, run and bike again. The stroke had interrupted life in the rudest way, but it would get better, and I was determined to make sure of that. I had somehow convinced myself that I would be ‘normal’ again in January. I was in for a nudge from reality on that regard.
We loaded into the elevator and I listened as it lowered us to the first floor. We left the elevator and started down the hall toward the main entrance. I swiveled my head back and forth, desperate to memorize the hallway and have a last look at everything. We rounded the corner to the main exit/entrance and my heart began to pound.
It’s okay, I kept telling myself, you’ll be just fine. I passed the main desk without notice. I would normally be getting ready for lunch by the time I was rolling toward the door. It felt surreal to roll through the main entrance knowing that it would probably be my last time viewing everything from the low angle of my wheelchair. We rolled down the main sidewalk to the parking garage and I suddenly realized that I would have to get into a car. I mean, of course I already knew that, but the event was suddenly very real and about to happen. It seemed very strange and foreign.
Adam positioned my chair on a no-parking spot and dashed to the next row to bring the car around. Everything was suddenly very, very real. I had had a stroke, I would not be able to get into a car by myself, and I had suddenly, at an alarming speed, become helpless and entirely dependent on a man who was merely six and a half years my senior. I could only imagine the burden he must have felt.
I had practiced getting in and out of a car with Danielle, but was incredibly nervous about it this time – it was too real. Adam switched on the emergency signals and came around the car to help me in. I stood with his help and hoped that he wouldn’t notice my shaking legs. It took at least five minutes to settle. It used to take a matter of seconds to settle into the seat of a car.
Adam got back in and started the car again while I took in my surroundings. It felt strange that I had been there for five weeks and hadn’t seen the inside of the parking garage. My things looked foreign, as though they belonged to someone else, piled up on the backseat with a wheelchair peeking around the pile. A few minutes later we pulled up to the exit gate. We were about to leave. I wanted to throw up. After Adam’s exchange with the gate attendant, we pulled up to the street entrance and were off. I was finally going home.