Yes, I Had a Stroke. Here Is What It Feels Like

By Stefan Yablonski

Imagine walking into a store — suddenly starting to sweat profusely as everything around you spins violently in a kaleidoscope of hallucinogenic colors like a scene from 1960s TV cop show. You collapse into a nearby chair and vomit “The Exorcist” style.

It’s not a scene from a movie. It’s real life.

My life.

It was an unusually warm winter day, so I decided to run a few errands. However, my world changed in the proverbial blink of an eye. There were people hovering over me; paramedics asking me a barrage of questions — do you know where you are? What day is it? Do you want us to take you to the hospital?


I remember being carted out on a stretcher, needles being stuck in my wrist and my vitals being checked. I don’t recall much else. The ambulance ride to the ER was bumpy and seemed to take forever. The next thing I remember was being on an examination bed, a lot of voices, more poking and prodding. I kept my eyes closed so the world would stop spinning, and concentrated on not throwing up again.

(I want to go home.)

The afternoon turned into evening. The next morning I was still there. Several people had pulled the curtain back to peek in on me. The ER was rather cold, with ambulances coming and going at all hours and the doors opening and closing. Luckily, I was still wearing my clothes, sneakers and coat. A flimsy blanket provided some comfort.

At some point, the next day, I was moved into a private room. My sneaks were tugged off. My jeans and shirts were next. Everything was crammed into a big plastic bag and shoved onto the shelf by the window. I remember thinking, “my reading glasses are in my coat pocket — probably broken in two by now.”

I was outfitted with a hospital gown, more needles, heart monitor, an IV and a thicker blanket.

Time was meaningless. I was flat on my back, starring at the ceiling. Vertigo meant I couldn’t really move my head, without the threat of more nausea.

(I want to go home.)

Day and night as I tried to sleep, I was interrupted by people waking me up to take my temperature and blood pressure, give me myriad medications, and take my blood. I was given an injection in the right side of my stomach, the left side the next night, then the right side again. For the next few nights, they decided it should be in the “love handles.” I was pricked so often it’s a wonder my body didn’t deflate until I was flat as a piece of paper with just my eyes bugging out!

OK, the hospital is where you go to be well taken care of — it’s not a place where you can actually rest.

I was given fluids —a lot of fluids. However, I couldn’t get up to relieve myself. I was given a couple plastic containers. Over the course of the next couple of days, they were used, emptied and reused numerous times. One nurse, on the third or fourth day, asked me if I had pooped. When I said “no,” she said I should poop every day. I informed her that I hadn’t eaten in about two and a half days.

The next morning there was a tray, with scrambled eggs, toast, juice and some fruit on the table next to my bed. I grabbed the fork with my left hand and nibbled cautiously, all the while my right hand was clutching the plastic barf bag that I appropriated from the ambulance (and retained —just in case).

Seems like every time someone came in my room, they asked me my name or what day it was, my mother’s maiden name, my best friend’s name from kindergarten — or some darn thing. I was too out of it to even think about giving a smart-alecky answer. Guess I just wasn’t feeling sassy.

After a few days, I got my very own walker and started physical therapy.

Late at night, or was it early in the morning, I leaned on the contraption and trundled over to the bathroom. The motion sensor turned on the light. I saw myself in the mirror. Holy crap! Is that scraggly old man really me?

I was subjected to a variety of tests — EKGs, ultrasound, a couple MRIs and probably some I don’t recall. Maybe even carbon dating, I don’t know.

A couple more PT sessions and they said I was doing a lot better. Just not well enough to go home.

(Did I say — I want to go home?)

When I finally got my discharge papers, all the needles were removed from my hands. And blood percolated from the little holes … and wouldn’t stop! Oh, that’s because of all the blood thinners. Keep pressure on it for at least 10 minutes, I was told. It was also suggested that I shave with an electric razor and not a blade — so as not to nick myself and bleed profusely.

I sat at the dinning room table to go over my meds blood thinners, blood pressure, something so my blood doesn’t stick together and stuff for a UTI that I didn’t know I had. One of the pills is teensy tiny. I was told to take a half dose daily — that meant I had to cut the minuscule pill in half and save the other sliver for the next day. And, of course, there is nothing tiny about the cost of these wee wonders of modern medicine.

I had to get that “hospital smell” off me. I went into the bathroom, tossed my clothes into the hamper and turned on the hot water in the tub.

Kaablam … boom, rattle! The room shuddered. No one had thought to tell me the town had been working on a water problem down the road. Service had been shut off for quite some time. And, since I hadn’t turned on a faucet for weeks, the amount of air lingering in my pipes was rather impressive.

So, when I finally reclined in the hot bath, I blissfully relaxed — and dozed off, only to awaken in ice-cold water.

This recuperation process is going to take a while.

Top image: Stefan Yablonski is a writer and works as associate editor of In Good Health — CNY’s Healthcare Newspaper. He lives in Oswego.