In the early hours of January 29th, my mom was found on the ground next to her car at work. Discovered, an ambulance was called. She was then flown over an hour away to a hospital that could better care for her. She’d had a stroke.
Upon arriving at the emergency triage, I saw the extent of the damage. Mom writhed uncontrollably in bed, Slipping in and out of consciousness. I wasn’t aware at the time that only half of her body was moving. She responded to my voice, making eye contact with me, but I’m still not sure if she saw me, let alone understood.
I spoked to the doctor. He said mom had an aneurism burst so deep within her brain that they couldn’t operate. It was unlikely she’d survive. if she did, she’d likely be unable to care for herself or even walk.
I was devastated, but didn’t cry. It was weeks before I allowed myself to cry.
I’ve never been described as a momma’s boy, but I have a good relationship with my mom. She has supported ever crazy endeavor I’ve pursued. She was often there as I climbed mountains in search of the perfect composition. The love of nature itself was a gift from her. She was the first to understand who I am, the second and only other person being my wife. Even as an adult with a busy life, I'd take my mom to lunch once a week.
Devastated isn’t nearly a strong enough word to describe how I felt. I was pulverized. There’d be no more lunches. No more text messages. No more hikes.
She was at that hospital for about two weeks. She bounced around from ICU to general population. Fevers and swelling was a constant concern. Mom wasn’t able to speak. She couldn’t feed herself well. But she seemed to see us and understand. She was later moved to a rehabilitation center about 30 minutes away from me.
That cold morning, mom remembered having a sharp pain in her head. She lost control of her body and fell to the ground. A passerby asked if she needed an ambulance. She responded and remembers nothing of the next three weeks. I’ve often wondered if it was her body protecting her mind from the trauma of it all.
The thing that haunted my thoughts and dreams those early days was the image of her on that cold ground, alone. I had no idea how long she’d been there before she was discovered. I was tortured by the thought of her being cold and afraid.
It was weeks before I learned, from mom herself, that she’d only been there a few minutes. She wasn’t afraid, just confused.
During this time, my sister and I were working frantically to secure mom’s insurance, begin disability enrollment, and all those things that people shouldn’t have to deal with under such tragic circumstances. My father is illiterate so he couldn’t help. It was up to me, my sister, and my wife.
I could go into what a nightmare it is in dealing with insurance companies and the government, but will spare you from what many already know. Let’s just say it’s convoluted at best. But we did it, and are still doing it.
The rehab facility had just been built. Mom had her own room with a large window that opened on a beautiful meadow that deer often played in — a vast improvement over the dirty cityscape of the room she’d just left.
Early on, mom regained some of her speech. Simple words. Yes. No. Victor. I think it was one of the things that really stoked the fires of the frail hope we’d been carrying for so long.
I visited every day despite the hour roundtrip. My sister visited as frequently, and my wife would go with me on the weekends. You’d think that with daily updates, mom’s progress would’ve been barely noticeable. Wrong. Let me tell you something about my mom.
She’s a badass.
She’s worked hard all her life, and always with a smile on her face. Rehab work proved to be no different. We were constantly told by staff how much they loved her, and what an incredible spirit she had. She worked hard everyday, stayed positive, and defied ALL odds. There was a noticeable improvement every single time I visited!
It’s been months since she has left the rehab facility. She has her speech back, although she sometimes must search for a word due to aphasia. She can walk with the assistance of a cane despite numbness in her right side. She can even care for herself. She continues to improve each day.
Doctors make their prognosis based on the evidence available to them. Expectation of anything more is unreasonable. The thing that couldn’t be accounted for, the thing that saved mom’s life, is her spirit and drive. She’s fighter. I knew this, but am so proud that others witnessed it.
I have a very small circle of people who care about me and support my dreams. Chief among them is my mom. I would’ve given up on many things long ago had it not been for her. Here I am, standing strong, because of her influence. After seeing her power and thirst to live, I’ve only become stronger. All who witnessed mom’s spirit manifest into something that propelled her into denying all odds became stronger.
Life is a damn mess. There’s no nice way to say it. It’s full of incredible highs and unimaginable lows. I survived the lowest point in my life earlier this year. Only because I’m born of a determined woman who refuses to take no for an answer. I’m sure this won’t be the only low point in my life. It likely won’t even be the lowest. But I know that I can overcome anything because I was cut from steel that’d make Superman envious.