It’s been a year.
It had started the day before, I was having phases of numbness and tingling in my left arm and leg. For the arm it was actually a familiar thing. For my entire adult life I’d wake up to find it tingling and after a few times flexing it the feeling would come back. And in this case, a short brisk walk was doing the same for my leg. I took this as a sign that I’d let my diabetes go untreated too long, again. It was a Sunday, but I’d resolved to see a doctor about it the next day.
But as I was getting ready for bed, I lost all feeling in my arm and leg. The side of my face went numb. I could barely stand or hold anything. My folks rushed me to the hospital where they immediately began treating me for stroke.
I wasn’t paralyzed. I still had my strength. But I couldn’t feel anything on nearly half my body. I still have no sense of touch in my left hand and foot. But the numbness in my arm and leg isn’t as far up as it used to be. And I can feel pressure within my arm and leg, even to varying degrees my foot and hand. The real problem? It HURTS. Where I’ve lost sensitivity on my left side, I feel pain. Constant pain. In proportion to how much sensitivity I’ve lost. It feels like a sunburn on my arm and leg, to my fingertips and toes being almost on fire. Always. Petting one of the cats is like running my hand across a wire brush. Stepping on something as small as a grain of rice is like stepping on a glass shard. One of the meds I take is for neuropathy, but it’s not working. Perhaps, though, this is just my system trying to compensate. Pain is too general and it’s not pleasant to try to work with my hands or go about barefoot, but I’m not afraid to use knives or cook anymore. (Making an omelet still eludes me.) Nor do I worry that an injury will go unnoticed. I can handle it. After all, they say pain just means you’re alive.
Try touch typing when you can’t feel the keys. I used to be able to do better than 50 words per minute without looking and I could tell if I miskeyed. I still can’t type anything without closely watching my output. My measured words per minute remain in the low teens. Better than when I was one handing the keyboard in the hospital tho.
My sense of balance was gone and I never knew when my leg would go out on me. I still need a cane these days, but only when I go out. I’m not worried as much about falling around the house or in the yard anymore, but once I start to tire my left knee starts to buckle. Thankfully my balance has started to improve in the last couple of weeks. I may yet pull my bicycle out of storage.
At the time, my blood glucose was pushing 400, my pulse sat between 90 and 100, any my blood pressure was so high that it was likely the only reason my stroke wasn’t worse. My diet consisted largely of $1 bacon double cheeseburgers (3 or 4 at a time), 4 to 6 liters of diet cola a day, and chocolate snack cakes. My diet is more restrained these days, and I’m on the medication I need. My glucose, pulse, and blood pressure levels are all pretty close to normal.
I’d let updating my web comic slide, badly. Work had been exhausting me, and afterward I was more crippled by depression than by the stroke. I haven’t been able to get any treatment for depression, but I may be able to get it from the VA. I’ve had to bull through it. It helps that in some way this is all familiar. I’ve gotten over depression on my own before, and I spent nearly a year as an invalid in my childhood. I will beat this. Doing the comic helps. As does seeing the readership numbers increase. We’re at roughly 3 times the readership from just before my stroke, and double what it was in 2009. I’m seeing an increase in ad revenue, enough that I’m asking people to donate to Mercy Corps instead of me. I’m not supporting myself of the comic yet, but maybe . . .
My customer service and tech support skills are probably getting a little dull. But as long as I’m not able to type quickly and accurately, while focusing on other tasks, I’m not able to do those jobs. Being prone to falls makes construction work unsafe for me. And my drafting and surveying skills are 20 years out of date. But I have my web comic, and that may just be my future.
I am not a stroke victim. I’m a stroke survivor.