The week had been planned as a mini-vacation of sorts; I would be burning off five vacation days that I had carried over from 2014 with nothing really planned other than two shopping expeditions (one being to IKEA to pick up some new storage units for my home office). It didn't happen exactly that way though.
The call same very early Sunday morning; with tears in a voice, I was told that a family member had a stroke. My immediate reaction was to get dressed and to head over to the hospital. Given that the hospital in question is 30+ minutes away and my desire not to personally smell, the combination of showing and driving got me to the Emergency Room within about an hour. Not bad timing actually.
The initial prognosis was not good. This was a younger person...younger than me actually...someone who really shouldn't be "stroking" (plural, as another stroke was happening as I got into the ER room) at all. But yet they were, and it didn't require many mental calories for me to figure out the how's and the why's of it all.
Eventually there were positive signs, due in large part to the wonders of modern day clot busting medications, and I was encouraged by the almost virtual presence of a Neurologist from Hershey Medical center via video connection. The video screen and assorted stuff reminded me of a scene for the television show Big Bang Theory.
The RoboDoc device, in consultation with the terrific local ER staff, decided that specialized treatment in Hershey, Pennsylvania* would be required for the patient. The only problem? The snow/ice storm of Sunday prevented the helicopter transport that would be normally used in these instances, so the trip would be need to be made by ground transport. Of course it wouldn't end up being that easy (as if a two hour drive in a snow/ice storm wasn't complication enough), so it took a full 90 minutes for the transport crew just to get to the hospital in the first place. Mind you, I was told that timing is everything when it comes to stroke treatment. Anyway, the ambulance arrived at the hospital, and I made ready for a trip myself down to Hershey.
The actual ride down, with the family member who initially called me riding shotgun, was sheer terror. I'd like to thank my GPS for finding every single twisty country rode off of I81 that could used to get someone to Hershey PA. We made it though in something like three hours. Not exactly a land speed record, but getting there in one piece was enough of a reward.
Upon arrival, there was good news: the clot busting medication had worked its designed miracle, and there would be no further treatment required. The strokes had caused some damage, but with therapy it's hoped that there can be an almost complete recovery. If.
People younger than I should not even be having strokes, all things considered. In this particular case, we actually know what caused the series of strokes, and while I'm not going to go into any details, it's sufficient to note that those causes simply didn't need to exist. They just did not.
When you're a teenager some degree of rebelling, I guess, is part of the business of growing up. I get that, and hopefully we all learn a good lesson or three as we grow into adults. When, however, that same rebellion lasts into years 40+, well then that's a whole different kettle of fish. When we get to "our age" it's understood that we should be old enough to know better, if for no other reason than as adults we hopefully have had the opportunity to see the concept of "cause and effect" demonstrated time and time again to us. Sometimes in very personal ways. Yes, while I do not claim to be the smartest man in the world, even I know that there are some activities in life that take far more than they ever could give.
So here I've landed. My mini-vacation is nearly over, I am starting a new graduate class this week, and my family member is resting quietly at home, as the patient has refused any additional in-patient care and as a result was discharged from Hershey Medical Center yesterday.
I have sympathy for the people that immediately surround this individual, and I will do whatever I can to help them going forward. For the actual patient? No amount of help would be beneficial until a threshold of understanding, if you will, is crossed; think of it as being the common sense revelation of "self destruction is actually really bad for me".
(*) In addition to being home to Hershey Foods and an amusement park, Hershey PA is also home to the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, the teaching hospital of the Pennsylvania State University.
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