This editorial is quite personal in nature. And before writing it, I thought long and hard about whether I should. But, I thought, that if you’re interested enough in my opinions about political and social issues, that you take the time to read what I write, at the very least, I owe it to you to give you this insight.
Before getting into the story, let me say that anyone who believes that his or her life can’t get worse . . . is wrong. And on the other hand, anyone who says that his or her life can’t get better . . . is also wrong.
THE GUARANTEE IN LIFE IS THIS . . . nothing ever stays the same. And when you think things can’t get worse, they always can and usually do. So, you always need to be prepared to deal with the unexpected, no matter what, because the unexpected is a major part of all of our futures.
All of us can remember an event or events that has at one time or another changed our life for the better or the worse, but generally for the worse.
I remember at ten years old, when I was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever, and my parents hid their tears from me as the doctor told them that I would never be able to have a normal physical life, and that my heart would always be at risk from infection and overexertion.
THAT WAS A LIFE CHANGER FOR ME. I didn’t really understand why, but I knew that I was never going to be normal like the other kids. But, as boys will be boys, I used to sneak off to the polluted Back River that was about 5 minutes by bicycle from my home, which was about a hundred feet wide with a serious current. And I’d swim for hours.
Not only did the exercise caused by swimming against the current not cause more damage to my heart, it actually did the reverse. And by the time I was twelve years old, I was off the antibiotics and had no exercise restrictions whatsoever.
So, I guess I over compensated by participating in just about every sport I could.
About 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer, which required serious surgery and radiation therapy. I survived this too. But, just like the Rheumatic Fever, this also had a huge impact upon my long-term psyche.
When other major events happened in my life, like the deaths of my parents or other loved ones, INCLUDING pets, there was great emotional pain, with a massive empty feeling, but somehow, the misery seemed normal, because even though these nightmares were really close to home, they didn’t touch upon my own mortality.
LAST WEEK WAS ANOTHER LIFE CHANGER FOR ME:
I’m a Type II Diabetic whose Sugar Level is well under control. I eat well, and I exercise more before lunch while taking care of the farm chores, than most healthy people at half my age do in a full week.
Generally . . . I am always pretty healthy. And with the exception of a mild daily dose of Insulin, two Diabetes pills, an 81 mg Aspirin and some Vitamins, I RARELY take any medication.
On January 6th, I started to develop a cold, which was no big deal, for which I took two Advil Cold and Sinus tablets, which are not recommended for people with Diabetes, but I have taken them from time to time over the years without any problems.
January 6th was a bitter cold day. And with the wind-chill, it was hovering around MINUS 40 degrees, which is more or less the same in Fahrenheit as it is in Celsius.
So Anne and I decided to run our errands together. I’d drive to the store location, drop Anne off at the door, and wait for her in the running car, to pick her up as close to the door as possible when she was done, where we would both transfer the purchases (groceries etc) from the shopping cart to the car as quickly as we could.
While Anne was in the grocery store, about a half hour after I took the two Advil pills, all of a sudden I lost 100% of the sensation of the fingertips on my left hand. I’m not talking about a little numbness. I mean zero sensation whatsoever, as if my fingertips no longer existed. And it had nothing to do with the cold temperature.
After about a minute or two, as I sat there in significant worry, the feeling started to come back. But, as the feeling to my fingertips returned, the left side of the rear of my tongue went equally numb.
There was no question in my mind, NONE AT ALL, that I was having a Stroke. So I immediately put the car into gear, and drove across the parking lot to a Pharmacy, where I ran in, purchased a bottle of Extra Strength Aspirins (500 mg), swallowed two (1000 mg), and then waited in the car to see how much worse this was going to get for me before I called Anne.
As I waited in the car, I ran some tests:
1 – Could I make an O with my lips? YES.
2 – Did I know what day it was? YES.
3 – Did I know my phone number? YES.
4 – Did I know my full address with postal code? YES.
5 – Could I speak out loud without slurring my words? YES.
So I started to calm down somewhat, and within a few minutes the numbness left, and full feeling came back.
SHOULD I TELL HER OR SHOULD I NOT?
I drove back to the grocery store where Anne was just coming out with the shopping cart. If this episode was nothing more than a reaction to the Advil, why should I put Anne through the misery or worry, by telling her what had just happened if it was only anecdotal?
But I did decide to tell her of the incident by starting-off with . . . “Anne, I just had a bad reaction to the Advil”, to which she, demanded to know “what kind of reaction, and I better leave out none of the details.”
I WAS FRIGHTENED . . . AND COULDN’T COME TO TERMS WITH THE POSSIBILITIES:
So, after I described to Anne what had happened, her response was this . . . “I think you just had a mini-Stroke and we’re going to the hospital – NOW”. To which I said no; that I was fine, and the only place where we’re going is home, to put the groceries and other assorted purchases away.
For the next few days I really didn’t feel well. I was extremely tired. My eyes were very heavy. My vision wasn’t all that clear. And it felt like cotton was stuffed in my head. Also, I really wasn’t all that steady on my feet.
A few days later, I had to write a very detailed presentation for a large and integrated marketing proposal, that took a great deal of thought and writing skill, so that I could best describe as accurately as I could what our proposal was all about.
At the end of this multi-page presentation, I handed it to Anne for her to review and edit, who found nothing to amend. So all was good.
SHOOTING TAKES A GREAT DEAL OF HAND TO EYE COORDINATION:
I enjoy shooting, and go to the handgun range not far from where we live at least once a week, where I shoot at a distance of about 50 feet. And even though I really didn’t feel right, I shot quite well using my Sig Sauer P226 9mm and my Sig Sauer P226 22LR, and my Carbine 9mm High Point, which I shot quite well at 150 feet.
THEN IT HIT ME:
On Sunday January 12th, I sat down to write an editorial, and when I looked down at the computer screen after typing some of my thoughts, all I saw was gibberish. And as I kept hitting the keyboard, nothing that I wanted to appear on the screen even came close.
And the harder I tried . . . the more babble appeared.
I write for hours ever day, and I have for as long as I can remember. I can write on a keyboard about as fast as I can think, with few mistakes. Now, all of a sudden, I couldn’t write two words together that were intelligible.
AND IT GOT WORSE:
I couldn’t remember simple words. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and put on the computer screen, but couldn’t.
The weather had broken somewhat, to the point that it wasn’t as bitterly cold as it had been for the past couple of weeks, giving me the opportunity to change the oil in the generator, which was important to do now, because our electric provider had sent a warning that there was going to be a planned four hour power outage to repair some broken lines.
The generator is 6000 watts, permanently located outside (covered) on the balcony with limited access. So, even under the best conditions, changing the oil, which really should be done at least once a year, or after 24 hours of use . . . was due, and took some skill.
So, given my mental and physical condition, how was I going to handle it?
To my tremendous relief, I was able to change the oil without incident, which gave me something not to be more panicked over, which also gave me hope, that whatever caused the first incidents of numbness that resolved themselves, might just as likely resolve what was currently going on.
BUT NOT TO BE.
On Monday, my inability to type was getting worse if possible. I was getting less steady on my feet. The haze that enveloped the inside of my head was getting thicker. I was struggling even more so to remember words and form sentences, and the feeling that my head was stuffed with cotton was becoming even more pronounced.
So, at about 6:00 o’clock I suggested to Anne that it was time to go to the hospital, which gave her great relief to hear.
The Canadian Medical System has its flaws, but with warts and all, it is really first rate in comparison to anything America is going through with Obamacare etc.
I told the triage nurse who I saw within the first few minutes, that I think I was either having a stroke or had a stroke, and described my symptoms. To which she measured my blood pressure, took my temperature, asked some memory testing questions and directed Anne and myself to sit in the waiting room until we’re called.
I don’t think that Anne and I waited for more than 5-minutes before a nurse came to get us. And once in the examining room, she had my shirt off, and wired me to an ECG, took my Blood Pressure reading, measured my pulse, my temperature and drew blood.
Not more than a few minutes later, the Emergency Room Doctor came in holding my chart. He introduced himself to Anne and myself, asked me some memory and mind testing questions, took my Blood Pressure reading, and said that I did NOT have stroke.
I NEVER HAD A BLOOD PRESSURE PROBLEM BEFORE:
What I did have according to him was excessively HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE at 225 over 115. He asked how long I was feeling this way? And when I told him that it was more than one week, his response was that I was lucky to be alive. And this is the type of condition that easily leads to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease etc.
I ASKED ABOUT MY MEMORY and ability to write, form sentences, and type coherently, if they were going to come back, to which he said not really.
He described memory as being like a write-on board, the words are all there until you erase them, and after they’re erased, you have to write them all over again, and until you do, you won’t have them.
He had no idea how much damage was done, and how much of my functions I had lost. But he did know that there was a rebuilding process that lay ahead of me. But, first and foremost he said, I had to get my blood pressure down, so medication and a night in the hospital was next on the agenda.
I’M ON THE PATH TO RECOVERY:
It’s been a week since this hospital visit, and I’m still not right. My Blood Pressure is lower now, but still too high. I still struggle to remember words and put phrases together, but I’m compensating. My typing skills are still wanting, but far better now than they were when things were at their worst.
THE SOLUTION IS NO PUNISHMENT:
All in all, I am 100% confident that I will recover fully, now that I know that I had a problem, what the problem was, and what the solution is to fix it. In my case, I’m extremely lucky that the solution is the one thing I love doing most.
I LOVE to write, read, plan and understand, which is the best treatment and medicine I can hope for. Getting the Blood Pressure down is mechanical, that will be resolved with medication prescribed by a doctor and a salt free diet, not that I ate that much salt anyway.
But, writing a lot will help me the most. Continuing to organize and plan political and social activism is medicine for me. And organizing the PLEDGE RIDE of NEVER AGAIN will be more therapy for me than I could ever otherwise hope for.
WHY I LET YOU IN ON THIS VERY PERSONAL PROBLEM:
Every one of us will at one point be forced to face our mortality. Some of us might be really lucky and avoid serious challenges until the very end. But most of us won’t. And no mater how bad we feel we have it, we should always accept the reality that it could be worse and go about doing whatever we can to make things better.
And never think that you’re the only person on the planet, who is so challenged, that your life will never be good again, when what happens is very often up to you.
Anne is turning herself inside out trying to keep stress away from me, since stress is a big factor in High Blood Pressure, but it’s part of life. So, I have to relearn how to encapsulate everything and simply change the way I think about some things, and the way I do others.
I still muck-out the horse stalls with Anne every day. We still blanket, turnout and feed the horses together every day. I still maintain the property using all of my appropriate farm equipment, for which I have no problem. And we still go about our normal daily house keeping, shopping and cooking, of which I do about 99% thereof. And not to brag, I’m a REALLY good cook, of which I lost none of that talent.
Under normal circumstances, this editorial would have taken me several hours to write and edit several times. But now, this has taken almost two days.
I will know when . . . and will be able to measure my progress by the amount of time and ease it will take me to write future editorials. But I can tell you right now, that my progress has been incredibly encouraging.
So, when you read my forthcoming editorials, if (when) you notice that my grammar, spelling and diction might not be the best, please cut me some slack, because whether you like it or not, you have now become a serious part of my therapy and recovery.
PS – Anne and I went shooting on Sunday. And at 50 feet using my Sig Sauer P226 9mm, the paper targets never had a chance.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov