❝ If I were just your average 23-year-old girl, and I called the police to say that there were strange men sleeping on my lawn and following me to Starbucks, they would leap into action. But because I am a famous person, well, sorry, ma’am, there’s nothing we can do. It makes no sense … I am just not OK with it. It’s as simple as that. I am just a normal girl and a human being, and I haven’t been in this long enough to feel like this is my new normal. I’m not going to find peace with it.
I don’t post personal shit here much at all. I try often to separate my personal life from my online life. I’m a film critic, and as such, a journalist. I report, and in that reporting, my perspective comes into play. But that’s as personal as it gets for me. But I had to get this off my chest.
Yesterday at approximately 12:45pm, my dad and I got into his car to go get lunch. No plans for Black Friday shopping other than a brief stop at AT&T to replace my broken phone. The mood was light and we were chatting as always. My dad turned his car on, and as soon as he reached for the gear shift, his hand flicked at the wrist oddly, and he couldn’t reach the stick. He made a grunt that I didn’t discern at first, but after a few seconds, I noticed he could no speak and had no control of his right hand. I asked him immediately if he was ok, and if I needed to take him to the hospital. He nodded and grunted, and we immediately changed seats. He was having a stroke. What followed was perhaps the scariest 20 minutes of my life.
Within 60 seconds, my dad could speak again and had regained full motor controls, only to come out of a stroke and jokingly remark “Wow, that was weird.” I remained calm but my mind was racing at what needed to be done, asking him a series of questions to test his memory, vision, and motor controls. He seemed perfectly fine, save for his speech coming back to him fully, but with a bit of a halting effect, struggling with a word or two every other sentence or so. I drove him to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, which was only 5 miles away, but felt like 20, during which time we called my mom and sisters, all three of which were far more panicked than I was. We arrived at the ER, he said he could walk in and check in while I parked. I followed him in shortly after, and then my mom and sisters arrived. By the time the ER technicians were runnings tests, his speech had returned to 100%, and nothing appeared wrong with him on any level. After a series a tests and a teleconference with the neurologist, he was admitted to the hospital for 24-48 hours for a series of tests and observation in the ICU. His doctor said he had suffered a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), which is code for mini-stroke. These events can be isolated incidents that never occur again or maybe once again, but have no long term damage, or they can be a precursor to a series of attacks or one massive attack that can lead to long term effects, or death. The main takeaway being that once you have one TIA, you are technically at risk for another stroke for the rest of your life. Eventually the mood lightened and everyone was joking and handling the situation with levity. We all staggered home eventually, having just had one of the longest and scariest days of our lives.
My mom told everyone that I was holding up better than anyone else, that I was being strong and calm. While that’s true to an extent, my mind was racing the whole time. I’ve always been the kind of person to take charge of a stressful situation and be a leader, helping everyone to keep calm and perspective. But I never thought I’d be the sole witness to a moment like I witnessed yesterday, and it shook me in a way I never anticipated.
My dad has rarely, if ever, been sick. He and his family have no real medical history to speak of, save for things that were natural occurrences of old age, etc. He’s a man who I’ve always grown up seeing as being tough as an ox, and while he was hard on me sometimes, he never laid a hand on me, though lord knows I probably deserved it once or twice. We’ve become very close in the last few years, and I can’t imagine a world without him. Watching him experience a moment of true vulnerability in a state I never once thought in a million years I’d see him suffer was shocking and terrifying. All this to say that I’m just simply not ready to see my parents go, and yesterday was a stark reminder of just that.
My dad has been in the iCU since yesterday evening, mostly bored and wanting to go home. There is nothing visibly wrong with him, and after a series of tests, he’s been cleared to go home tomorrow afternoon, which three very mild prescriptions to help stroke prevention, as well as a series of guidelines to help improve his overall health. He needs to lose 20 pounds, lower his cholesterol and sodium, and exercise more. Nothing insurmountable at all, but simple things that he’s needed to do for a while, but it took a stroke to get him to get serious about! (We’ve joked about that, so it’s ok to laugh at that line)
The point of all this being that, as patronizing and old hat as it sounds, life is fucking fleeting. It can be taken away in an instant by things you can’t control, and when you brush with a wrath of nature, you become hyper-aware of that. My dad was never someone I ever pictured having a stroke, but here we are. Take care of the people you love. Never miss an opportunity to just give them a hug and express how much you love them. Because I swear to god, if the last thing I’d said to my dad was about the advantages of where to fucking buy a new phone were, I’d be furious with myself. There are so many things left unsaid, no matter how close I’ve gotten with my family as of late, healing so many past wounds. Just don’t take your family (not just blood relatives) for granted, or you’ll end up regretting it. I almost did.