I’ve been putting this off for a long time now. I know that I was in the middle of writing about my first December after the stroke, but I finally feel like I can give more detail about what happened when It happened. I’ve been putting off going into more detail about it, partially because I couldn’t remember much of It until recently.

So, here goes.

November 2, 2013

I don’t remember the morning of the day the stroke happened. I know that I spent it with Heather. I think we finished painting the living room of the home she and Eric had recently moved into. There’s a sense of excitement when a couple buys their first home together, and they had that excitement. I can remember wondering when Adam and I would start that chapter of our life together. I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to rush. We had been married just over a year and a half. I was 24. We had plenty of time.

I remember going to Chipotle for lunch. On our way in, I told Heather and Eric about how I’d washed a load of Adam’s white laundry with a colored item, and had hidden the load because… I don’t remember why. We laughed. Silliness.
We went to Target. Something about a giant trashcan, a white porcelain owl and Hefty bags.

“Hefty, hefty, hefty!” Heather chanted, mimicking the commercial. We giggled. Eric laughed, shaking his head and then joining in.

Maybe we went to Target before we went to Chipotle. I’ll have to ask Heather.

Costco next. I bought a slate lazy susan cheese server and a giant tub of laundry detergent. Boring things, with the exception of the cheese server. I loved cheese back then. I was overly excited about that cheese serving set. I had no idea that I wouldn’t be opening it.

Our last stop was at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I don’t remember what Heather and Eric bought. I remember picking up a set of sheets and feeling tired. It had been a long day, and I hadn’t gotten up early enough to go for my training ride that morning. I’d do that when I got home.

I don’t remember going back to their house or driving home. I don’t remember turning off my car, carrying my mundane purchases (Except for that cheese tray. Far from mundane. That cheese tray was just brilliant.) across the parking lot, or fishing the apartment keys from my purse and opening the door while holding my bags and stepping around the two cats who rushed to greet me. I used to be able to move so easily, without having to think about every motion. I miss that, so badly.

I set my bags on the kitchen counter and went into the bedroom to check on Adam. He hadn’t been feeling well that day and had retreated to our bedroom for a nap before dinner. I stood next to the bed and put my hand on his forehead. He felt warm. Don’t worry about riding with me tonight. Go back to sleep. I’ll wake you when I get back. I love you. Sleep well.
I quickly changed into my favorite pair of cycling shorts and a jersey, pulled on my socks and cycling shoes, then waddled (walking in cycling shoes = waddling) into the living room to fill my bike’s tires.

A few moments later, I sighed in frustration. The tube in my rear tire had somehow been punctured. It had been fine when I had put my bike up after my most recent “bike day”. I reached into my bike pouch for a replacement tube. I felt around. Where are my tubes? I grew annoyed. Where were my spares? Had I been riding without my spares and not realized it? Maybe Adam had used them and had forgotten to tell me. Dangerous, but it could happen. We never figured out where those blasted tubes had disappeared to.

I eventually gave up looking for them and, grumbling, I stomp-waddled into the bedroom to change into my swimsuit. It was supposed to be my long cycling route day, so I figured I’d just replace it with swim drills and work on my butterfly stroke. I pulled on my suit, felt Adam’s forehead and tucked the blanket around his shoulders.
My duffel was on the table by the front door. Athena, Adam’s cat, glared at me from her perch on my bag. She loved sleeping on it and somehow always seemed to know when I’d be taking it from her. I slipped my flip flops on, grabbed my duffel, keys and wallet, and headed to the gym.

I don’t remember the drive to the gym, checking in or getting into the pool. I know that there was a pair of swimmers in my usual lane, so I moved to the next lane over. I would normally have gotten up at 4:30 or 5am for my swim, gotten into the lane next to the stairs, done my warm up, then secretly would have raced against the army guy who usually swam in the lane next to mine. That evening I swam in his lane. Maybe that’s why I sometimes think the stroke happened during a morning swim. I’m not sure how to explain that in a way that makes more sense.

Anyway, I started my warm up. I always loved the feeling of streamlining through the water before moving into a rhythmic freestyle. Right, left, right, left, breathe. Keep your chin tucked. Roll your hips. Pattern. Structure. I love swimming. I love cycling and running. I’m not able to do those things again, yet. But I will. I love moving.

I was on the far end of the lane. I pushed off and streamlined, then came up and turned my head for a breath as I made my first stroke. Right, left, right, left, breathe. I feel funny. I was probably a little past the halfway point of my lap when I began to feel…odd. At the end of my lap, I moved to the wall and put my arms over the edge. I must have pushed too hard for a warm up, I thought to myself. I started to feel a little dizzy. This is weird. I wonder how Adam’s doing.
The dizziness didn’t let up. It began to increase, and my irritation grew with it. Then I realized that I was slipping from the wall, the right side of my body waving back and forth in the water as I desperately tried to grab the edge of the pool with both hands. My left hand clung to the ledge. I don’t know where my right hand was. I couldn’t tell where it was anymore. Where had my arm gone? Wait, where had my leg gone? I could tell that they were still there, but I couldn’t tell exactly where they were or what they were doing. I couldn’t feel the lower parts of them anymore. My spatial awareness had already begun to go.

I turned my head to look at the lane to my left, my usual lane. The pair of swimmers who occupied it were looking back at me. They were looking back at me and the female swimmer’s mouth was moving, but she wasn’t speaking English. But she was. I couldn’t make sense of it and everything was getting loud and muffled. I couldn’t understand what she was saying as I tried to lift my head out of the water. How am I going to get out of this one?

Dull pain in my chest. I was coughing, lying on my side next to the pool.

“It’s okay. You’re okay.” Someone was patting my back. Something about Gatorade.

“Are you diabetic?”

No, I thought to myself.

I should reply. So tired. I don’t know if I replied, but I think I did.

Movement. The gym lobby. People. I’m tired. The inside of an ambulance. Can you turn down the lights? The people in the ambulance began talking. Where did their faces go? I don’t understand. I’m tired. Something about my name. But I couldn’t remember. Confused. Tired. Adam?

I don’t remember anything else. I spent a day or two in a medically induced coma, but I didn’t wake up. I woke up the next day. Something about a snake in my throat, so I pulled it out. It was my breathing tube. But I could talk again. I think. I don’t remember. I don’t remember the breathing tube, Adam yelling for help, my screaming as they tried to hold me down, tried to keep me from causing more damage. I don’t remember.

Then breathing treatments for the aspiration pneumonia, nurses, visitors, faces, machines that swallowed me and made too much noise before spitting me back out.

I didn’t get to finish my swim.

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