Acting Out

“What did it feel like in your head?” My mind was still working as if the traffic in my neural pathways was bad. With split second pauses before each carefully articulated word, I tried to explain to Cindy. “It's like stop-and-go traffic. You know, like when you're really drunk and you have trouble enunciating and finding the words.”

An hour earlier I'd been on the phone to Cindy. Midway through the phone call I told her: “I'm feeling kind of weird, wonky.” and my words got all tangled up.

I stuttered and slurred. “C— c— can't s— speak. M— m'words gone.”

I tried to articulate carefully. “S'like ummm drunk. I done like it. Ih s— sucks.”

Cindy had to get off the phone, but she promised to phone back to check on me within the hour.

Since the brain surgeries, every great once in a while, I have to enunciate each words separately in order to avoid slurring. Rarely do I stammer. What was going on now was as bad as it's ever been, reminiscent of how I spoke right after the brain stem surgery. I remember lying in my hospital bed, thinking, “Great. Not only do I walk like a drunk, now I also talk like a drunk.”

And once again, here I was, exhibiting one of the classic warning signs of a stroke. Was this another bleed? Or was the bloody brain just acting out as it occasionally does to remind me of its existence?

By the time Cindy phoned back, I was doing a lot better. My thoughts were sluggish and my speech was halting, but the words were to be found, and I was able to speak without stuttering or slurring.

There was no point in going to hospital; even if an angioma had bled, there was nothing they could do about it other than confirm that it had bled. Anyway, there was no one to take me, everyone was out of town. Joyce was in Israel, John from next door was up in Amish country, Bill was in New York, and the kids were away in college. And dealing with my health insurance over the cost of an ambulance ride on the off chance that I'd had a brain bleed... No.

I checked my pupils in the mirror—they were the same size. So far so good. I was exhausted after a busy week at work, so the fatigue was not necessarily an indicator that something was terribly wrong. I did have a bit of a headache, but if this were a bleed the pain would be beyond words, indescribable.

I came up with a plan; if the headache became all consuming, I'd phone Shlomi, a colleague who lived nearby, and ask him to drive me to the closest hospital. Then I'd phone Daniel, who is about an hour away, to apprise him of the situation.

That settled, I went to bed.

I woke up the next morning to a manageable headache.

The relief I felt made me realize just how terrified I'd been.