Dying on the floor of a hotel in Mexico was never part of the plan.
Dying on the floor of a hotel in Mexico was never part of the plan. But, this was the position I found myself in 7 weeks ago. It was August 14, 2020, I had just finished another routine day at work, and was looking forward to a relaxing evening. Why I am in Mexico working is part of a 2020 legacy of projects moving me from one Covid hotspot to another. I started the year in Fremont California and after successfully completing that project, I was assigned to a short term project in Hermosillo Mexico.
A little about me: workaholic, good shape for a 49 year old, independent, military veteran, never sick, runner, strong, high endurance; all of the stereotypical descriptors for a man that doesn’t need to monitor his health. This is the same man now lying face down on the hotel floor, paralyzed on the entire left side, not understanding what happened, but fully comprehending he may be dying. Only an hour before my collapse to the floor, I was enjoying a large lemonade on ice (it was 115 degrees almost every day), resting on my bed in the air conditioning, scrolling through random news on my cell phone. That is when I felt it, I call it a twinge, but it wasn’t very sharp, more of a fuzzy feeling in my head. Instinctively I tried to stand-up, feeling like I was dizzy from lying on my back, only to find the left side of my body unresponsive, and collapsing helplessly into the wall adjacent to the headboard. My head hit the wall, stars ensued, but as fear gripped my body, I attempted to stand upright a second time. This attempt caused me to stumble to my right, falling into a bookcase, desperately reaching for my cell phone on the edge of the bed, knocking it to the floor with me.
On the floor, I lay flat for a few seconds, assessing what I thought was a heart attack or likely a severe case of dehydration. Releasing, I lay silent, motionless on the floor, my only thoughts were focused on those I loved and the reality of being found dead on the hotel floor. Luckily, right in front of my eyes was my cell phone. I called one of my coworkers, who notified the hotel, 911, and my English interpreter from the office. An hour later I was transported to a hospital in Hermosillo Mexico, undergoing a CAT scan that would reveal an Inner Cerebral Hemorrhage. Now I felt the pressure in my head, the paralysis, and the reality of what had occurred. I am fortunate the hemorrhage and follow-up CAT scans revealed the bleeding had stopped and I would be able to begin the recovery process within 36 hours of being admitted to the hospital. Although I was still 95% paralyzed, the therapy sessions I received in the hospital were excellent, and I independently pushed myself hard to not be dormant in bed. I was fully aware that my only option of traveling back to the USA and home (Ohio), was to get enough strength and balance, to get on an airplane in Phoenix. Due to the Covid pandemic, I could not get a flight from Hermosillo Mexico to any destination in the USA, I had to rely on a coworker driving me 6 hours to Phoenix for a direct flight to Detroit.
I spent one week in the hospital and a second week in a hotel with daily nursing and therapy sessions. Leaving the hospital I was able to walk 3-4 steps with a walker, three days later in the hotel I was walking 20 yards with a walker, two weeks after the ICH; with a wheelchair and walker, I was boarding a plane for home. I returned home primarily bound to a wheelchair, but I was determined to find small ways of increasing my strength and muscle control. In a few days, I was taking uncoordinated steps on my own with no walker, determined that walking would be the key to balance and overall strength improvements. In addition to visiting my Family Practitioner, referrals to a Neurologist and Physical Therapist; I immediately started receiving weekly Chiropractic adjustments. The adjustments relieved the pain caused by the paralysis, tonus muscles, and pinched nerves. Without the Chiropractic adjustments it would have been increasingly difficult to continue with any physical therapy. I also purchased a TENS unit that I used daily for muscle development and what I hoped would improve my neuroplasty with nerve and muscle stimulation.
Today, I am cleared for a return to work, jogging 3 miles, eating a heart smart diet, eliminated caffeine and alcohol, and maintaining a normal blood pressure level with medication and lifestyle changes. My hope in writing this is that someone or someone's loved one will remind them of how important regular checks of their cardiovascular and heart health are. I neglected this for years assuming my good physical condition was a reflection of my overall health. What I could not see or feel is what almost killed me. I also have a gained empathy for the impacts of stroke on both the body and mind.
The only way I can describe the paralysis is: devastating. I was fortunate enough not to fully comprehend what my limitations should be and was driven to overcome what I saw as temporary obstacles. I was focused on my goal to get home and the only possible way to do that was to increase my strength mentally and physically. The progress was small every single day, but consistent.
I would like to be able to share that encouragement with others suffering from Stroke; especially those that need to find the path to recovery for themselves, family, and career.