Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Yellow Submarine

I love the Beatles, but I didn't much care about their song "The Yellow Submarine".
Is it a curse then, that I now seem to be stuck with that song, forever and ever playing in my head? Yes, I'm not joking. After my stroke, a funny thing happened: Whenever I try to remember a song - any song- any melody - I face a continuous loop of the same insanity:

"In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines"

I try hard to think of other songs, for example: "Twinkle, twinkle little star!" But no - instead:

"We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine"

Maybe something more contemporary would work? I try several songs, both melodies of my mother tongue and in English, melodies from my childhood and present.... But alas...

"We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine"

When I listen to other melodies, I can accompany them internally, but after the music stops, so does my accompaniment. It is almost a short term memory loss of "musical abilities", replaced by a giant submarine.

Monday, December 17, 2007

An ordinary Tuesday at the hospital

The morning ends with the speech therapist coming into the room. Again I cannot produce any sound at all. Then comes the questioning about various objects and concepts. She asks me to point to the "doctor" sign on a sheet of paper. From various options, I cannot select the sign. She points it out. Then she asks me again. After maybe 30 seconds of thinking and evaluating I can point it out too. Gosh, it is really hard work. I have to concentrate very hard. Much later, may be after one year, when I ask my my brother about the hospital days, he volunteers that during those days I was like a very slow processing computer. You put a search word in, hit enter.... and wait... and wait..., and finally the answer would come. But I was not noticing that so much time went by. I was really thinking hard.

After lunch a cardiologist comes, he is going to perform an oesophageal doppler ultrasonography. That means he is to put a tube into my esophagus, and measure my cardiac output. OK.

After he performs the non invasive procedure, he gives me the "All clear!" sign. And tells that I am as healthy as a mule. Of course he doesn't say this with those words! But long story short it is what I take out, or what I need to hear.

Now comes time time for the angio. Nurses come and take me downstairs to the radiology room, they speak among themselves freely, joking...

It is highly peculiar, how this thing works. People who come to the hospital are sick or injured. Most of them are experiencing big or small personal tragedies at the moment they are admitted. At the same time, for the people who work at the hospital, it is business as usual at the "office". Same old , same old... They cannot walk around with grim faces all the time, nor should they. But this juxtaposition leads to one big emotional question mark: the question mark behind what is special and what is common. The emotions float freely between mundane and extraordinary. If you think about it, every human being's coming to this world is the single most unique experience in his or her life -and the people around them- so is every persons death. But at the same time, life as well as death are extremely ordinary. Everybody dies, everybody is born somehow... Sickness and injury are inbetween states. As for the hospital people, they deal with people's most singular experiences in the most unremarkable way.

Sorry for the ranting... The reason why I sidetracked for a while are nurses that came to bring me downstairs. They are joking among themselves and they are also joking with me. "Whazzup?" "How is it goin' eh?", I'm delighted to join in their joyous dialogue. I want to say: "Sugar, Were Goin Down Swingin!" Unfortunately, my communication repertory is limited to four gestures, so I reply by turning my hands around each other. " Yes, right!"he says " Crushing waves! Crushing waves!" Mehmet and I look to each other, laugh out loud. From then on we will refer to this gesture as "crushing waves" movement. With that Mehmet is kindly shown the door, and I am on my own.

The doctors make an incision to the artery in my groin, for a minitube to go all the way to my blocked carotid artery. The operation goes very smoothly, and I'm out in no time. Back to my room.
Soon they will tell us, after deliberating the matter among the "stroke team", the long awaited diagnosis : FMD (Fibro Muscular Dysplasia)

What? (more about that later)

to angio or not to angio

The following morning the doctors come with an important suggestion: They want to make an angiogram of carotid artery, post mortem (!), and see what has caused the stroke in the first place. It will not play any role in my recovery. As far as we could see from the MRI, there is a child's fist size dead region right in and around the broca's area of my brain, which will not recover. This is my brain's picture you see on the left hand side.
They say this is important to prevent other strokes in the future. But it leaves us with an important question: To angio or not. Because there is a 1% chance the the operation will cause another blood cloth that may go into the brain once again. The doctors insist that it is the best course of action. As Mehmet is the physician in our family, I leave the decision to him. And thus I put him in such a difficult position. So difficult... he has to decide about my future... Although I'm physically there, seemingly alright,but because I cannot voice my opinion in any intelligent way, people around me are not sure of my comprehension skills. Heck, even I'm not sure of my comprehension skills! It is much harder to decide in behalf of a loved one.

In the end we go with the doctors suggestion. After they leave my room, Mehmet comes to my bedside, takes my hands into his and tells me :" Whatever happens, Banu, I will always take care of you! Always!". However corny this may sound, it fills my heart with tenderness and love for him.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Meeting my Mom and Brother

That evening my mom and brother come from the airport. I don't know what condition I will find them in. I hope they wont cry. But even if they cry, I know that I will be strong for both of us.

Muammer, another friend of ours, has gone to the airport to pick up my family, so they enter the room laughing and talking, as if coming to a regular family gathering. We hug. It almost feels like coming home. Mom is very strong. She smiles as she looks at me. The only thing that tells me something is awry are my brother's tears that swell up, as I hug him.

Mom tells me that from the moment they told her I had a stroke, she had the feeling all was going to be well. It was with that feeling she spent the last 16 hours on the plane.

After I left my mom and dad behind in Istanbul to come to the US - ten years ago, I have always feared the worst with every ring of the telephone:
'Someday, my brother will be at the other end: "I have bad news." he will say, "We lost Dad -or- Mom." ' Then I will feel a deep regret, not being with them in their last moments. A deep deep regret...
How life throws curve balls when you least expect them. Who would think that my mom was going to be at the receiving end of the telephone?

It is already 11 pm at night. Mom and Emre (my brother) go home. Mehmet, my husband, stays with me at my bedside. For the past three nights he hasn't slept much either.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

my story 6- Meeting with my baby - Kaan

Hi! I'm back after 2 months, been gone to visit my parents, relatives, friends in Istanbul. It's been heavenly.

In the afternoon My baby -Kaan - comes to the hospital. He is 3 years old at the moment, and never left with other people, not even once with a babysitter. So he must be in quite a shock himself, with no mom and dad around. We left him with a couple of friends for that weekend, Zeynep and Emre, who were the only people present at the moment. Until that incidence, he and I have been inseparable, a lot of times he even didn't want my husband around, but me.

Mehmet has told him from the get go, that "Mommy is going to the Hospital, she is going to spend some time there because she is sick. She currently cannot speak, but will be better soon". The moment Kaan enters the ICU, it is a moment of truth. Will he accept the new me, or will he run away? Because Mommy has changed a lot.

Kaan enters the room on my husbands lap. He doesn't run away, but he also rejects to come near me. Of course, I cannot claim to be the Beauty Queen, with all the wires, tubes and pipes going into me or hanging out of me. When he is asked to give a kiss to Mommy, he comes near for my kiss, but refuses to sit on my lap. After that he becomes his 3 years old self again: pushing buttons on the side of my bed to make me go up or down. With that he has a lot more fun. After a while, when he is told that his buddy, Arman, is waiting outside, he goes merrily to the lobby.

One more obstacle down! Kaan seems happy. Children are much more sturdy than we give them credit for!