Tuesday, January 21, 2014

That sir, is the definition of 'Miracle'

Wow.  It's been a while since I posted here.  But, I have been busy with school, work, and life in general.

I want share a story with you.  Something happened last month that made me realize it's time for me to stop postponing things I "mean to do" and start DOING the things I "mean to do".

Last month I had several strokes.  The doctors disagree on exactly how many I had.  One says several dozen, possibly a hundred or more small strokes over a three day period, but another thinks the number is far smaller.  The only thing they are sure of is that I had at least three.

The "Story" starts on Sunday, December 15th... But, I am going to start on Tuesday night, December 17, 2013.  You see, it was on Tuesday that my wife realized there was a story being told.

Tuesday, December 17th I came home from work, changed into some sweat pants and a sweatshirt because I intended to work on our dining room table that I am building.  But my cat wanted to be pet, so I lay on the bed and began petting her.  And I fell asleep.  While this was not normal for me, I had been working very hard recently and Trish thought I was just tired and needed some sleep.  So, when it came to time to go see a friend's child in his school's Christmas performance, she left me sleeping on the bed, took our kids and left.

When she came home an hour later she found me standing in our kitchen.  I didn't know where she had been.  I didn't know who the child was she went to see.  Then I asked where we were and "why are we here"?  She chuckled and told me to stop goofing around, to which I replied, "I'm not goofing around, why won't you answer my questions?"  And I began to weep.  "Why am I so confused?"

She called my son Jonathon, and when he came into the kitchen I looked at him and said, "Who are you?"  And before Jonathon could say anything, Trish told him "We need to take Dad to the Hospital, he's having a stroke.  Get your shoes back on, now."  She called to my daughter Chyenne and we all got in the car and Jonathon drove us to the hospital.

I don't remember any of that.  In fact, I only remember two things between Sunday and Tuesday (remember, I said the story really began on Sunday...)  I remember that on Sunday at church the offering plate was passed after the sermon instead of before the sermon as it normally is.  And on Monday evening I met a good friend of mine in a parking lot to exchange some DVDs.  I remember meeting with him, I remember our less than two minute conversation, but that's it. 

That's it.  That's all I remember.  I don't remember writing a final paper for the class I was taking that Sunday afternoon.  I don't remember going to work Monday or Tuesday.  I don't remember shopping on my way home from work on Monday (I only know I did that because I found the purchase record on my Credit Card statement last week!  I got a great deal on a pair of biking chamois!)

So, back to Tuesday night... My family took me to the hospital and I was almost immediately admitted.  I don't remember the trip to the hospital.  I don't remember arriving at the hospital, the ER, etc.  I know I woke up in the hospital on Wednesday morning.  I vaguely remember telling Trish goodbye when she left very late Tuesday night, or should I say, very early in the morning on Wednesday.

The ONLY thing I never forgot is who Trish is.  I never forgot my wife.  Everything else.  Literally, Everything else was gone.

My wife came back to the hospital early on Wednesday.  Wednesday was a roller coaster ride.  I was taken out of the room several times for various tests, including an MRI of my brain, some x-rays, and a CAT Scan of my heart and vascular system.

I was seriously confused most of the day, but I was starting to regain some memory and the weirdest part is that today I remember being so confused on Wednesday.  I was confused about everything.  I didn't know what year it was, I didn't know who was President, I didn't know how to take a pill, how to use a fork, what kind of car I drive, where I live, what I like to eat, etc.

It was all pretty downright frightening.  Trish said I was so desperate to remember things that I asked questions constantly.  As I would remember things I would declare it, then look to her and ask if I was right.  "I like to quilt and I have a white sewing machine, Right?"  And when I had trouble remembering something, I would ask and then after hearing the answer start weeping, and asking, "Why can't I REMEMBER!?  I should remember these things!"

The first thing I remembered on my own without any prompting is that I have four children.  Trish said I declared it so loudly people in the hallway could hear me, "I have FOUR children, Joshua, MaryAnna, Jonathon and Chyenne!"  The first several times I declared this I would apparently turn to her for confirmation.  I can not tell you how frustrating it is to actually have to THINK about the names of your own children.  But once I remembered, I was determined not to forget again.  I declared their names about every 30 minutes all day Wednesday.

The second thing I remembered on my own was that I love Jesus.  When I asked Trish, she said, "Yes, honey, you love Jesus very much". I told one of the young men who wheeled me from my room to a test and back again that I had four children and that I loved Jesus.  He said, "Cool.  I love Jesus too!"

All day Wednesday was like this.  I would remember things seemingly out of the blue.  There was no rhyme or reason to what I remembered and what I didn't know.  I couldn't recall that I like cottage cheese, when I took a bite of it I said, "This isn't Ice Cream!  Do I actually like this stuff!?"  I didn't know what fruit was, but when I took a bite of pineapple, I looked at Trish and said, "You like this stuff a lot.  What is it called?"  She was rather amused at that one... "How do you remember what I like when you can't remember what YOU like?"

Once I had remembered Jonathon's name, and he saw that I was beginning to remember a few things, and after hearing Mom laugh at me for remembering what she liked, he started having a little fun with it all.  As he was leaving once, he whispered in my ear that I should "Be sure to order ketchup with your food... You love ketchup."  Good thing Trish was doing the ordering... I hate ketchup!  He also got excited when I thought I drove a red car... "Yes Dad, you do drive a little red car..." (My old car, his current car, is a little red car...)  Again, Trish set the record straight.  "No honey, you drive a blue Chevy Cruze."  And I responded, "I drive a BOAT!?"  That led to some laughter and some explaining...

Toward the end of the day Wednesday, the cobwebs were beginning to clear.  I remembered our Youth Pastor when he came to visit, but when he brought up Belize, that drew a blank for me.  Until we talked about it.  Then I remembered a few things about the mission trip.  A spider crawling all over the face of one of the teenagers.  I remembered the rash that I got which caused me to grow out my beard, which remains to this day (the beard that is...)

I fell asleep several times Wednesday, each time sleeping only 10 to 20 minutes, and when I would wake up I felt like I had slept a full night.  Each time I woke up, Trish would have to tell me, "No, honey, it's still Wednesday."  I was frustrated, tired, and still very forgetful and "foggy".  At Trish's suggestion, the doctors sedated me so I could get a full night's rest.

When I woke on Thursday it was as if nothing had happened.  I remembered everything.  (Except for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  The doctors say I may never regain memory of those days.  As of this posting, I still have gained no more memory of those days).  But everything else is back.  All of my confusion, gone.  I can remember being confused.  I can remember the things I was confused about.  I can remember NOT remembering.  I can remember how frustrated I got TRYING to remember.  But, on Thursday it was as if a veil had been lifted.  I was "Me" again.

The doctors were blown away.  They couldn't believe it.  There was and still is no real explanation.  All the tests they had run Wednesday were pointing to stroke, but there was little evidence of a stroke, at least not a stroke large enough to cause the memory loss I experienced.  I say that because there was some evidence of "stroke activity" in my initial MRI.  They saw three small (very small) spots of "damaged tissue".  The "damaged brain tissue" was so small, the doctors all agreed that the spots may not even be real, but artifacts of the machine.  So they sent me back for a second MRI.  If the damage is real, it should show up in exactly the same places.  If those spots were due to the machine, they wouldn't be there the second time.

The damage is real.  My second MRI shows the same tiny (think half a small pin head) spots of damaged brain tissue.  So, there is hard evidence of strokes.  Three of them.  To make things even more interesting, the two larger spots are exactly opposite each other in the right and left hemispheres of my brain.  Both appear to be spherical.  Both Neurologists said this is extremely odd.  Neither had seen anything like it before.

But.  Aside from the three spots on the MRI, there is nothing else in any of the testing that indicates that I had any strokes at all.  There is no indication of where a blood clot would have come from to cause the strokes.  My heart and vascular system was looked at via Echo Cardiogram, Transesophageal Echo Cardiogram (a TEE, a rather invasive Echo Cardiogram), and the CAT scan.  Everything is working as it should.

My blood was drawn so much I teased one of the nurses that they needed to leave me at least a little bit.  She giggled and said, "Yeah.  Sorry Paul, we have taken a lot, haven't we?"  My brain was looked at and tested with electrodes, powerful magnets, etc.

Every single test they did (save the MRIs) came back  "normal".

After two days of testing, I was released.  We had tested all we could test.  We know I had at least three strokes.  We don't know why.  And the evidence of the strokes doesn't support the magnitude of the symptoms and memory loss I experienced.  In fact, as one of the Neurologists said, "It doesn't even come close to what we would expect to see".

So.  I experienced a traumatic brain injury due to stroke, but I have returned to normal with no explanation at all.  There is enough damaged tissue that it can't be ignored, yet it's not enough to explain the trauma.  I believe I experienced a miracle.

For whatever reason, I had at least three strokes.  I had hundreds of people all over the globe praying for me, and I believe God heard those prayers and answered them with a miraculous healing.  Trust me, I don't by any means think I am special or that God loves me more than someone who has not experienced a miracle.  I do believe He wants me here, fully capable to fulfill whatever it is He has for me in the future.  I believe this is why I was healed.  Jonathon pointed out, "If nothing else, this will make one heck of a sermon someday!"

There may be another reason, too.  As I have said several times, I had two Neurologists looking after me.  One is a believer and agrees with me.  A miracle is the only explanation that makes any sense at all.  The other is not a believer.  I thank God for him, because he was determined to figure this out.  He is the one who ordered the second MRI (the one that proved I DID have at least three strokes).  He is the one who has ordered extra blood tests.  He is the one who, after seeing the Echo Cardiogram decided to do the TEE so he could see my heart more clearly.  He didn't want to accept "A Miracle" as the answer, but even he eventually admitted, "Sometimes the human body does things we just can't explain..."  To which I replied,

"That sir, is the definition of 'Miracle'".