I have had a brain stem stroke. My stroke was caused by blood clot that formed after the main artery in the right side of my neck was severed. I had always had severe headaches. To the point of vomiting at times. I also had loss of sensation in my left upper thigh. An EMG was done for that. It didn’t show nerve damage of course. My leg wasn’t damaged. I had that performed on my own at the age of 22. In the meantime I lived my version of life. Love, school,the fire, a big move, pregnancy, a big move, cancer, then more, more until the point of this post. My stroke. My work up until the year of 2011, was not heavy labor. I’m not really built for that. Ok, let’s be honest. I’m not super in shape. Yet since moving to our current town I had found no good job opportunities. I was working at Wendy’s which was a serious downgrade from my previous jobs. Now granted just previous to that I was at a daycare. Keep in mind however I went to school for Early Childhood Education. I was making decent money. Before that a grocery store, very short term. Before that however, and finally whence I was struggling to be, I was at a corporate office. I was working for 6 nurses and felt I was important. I had benefits, a 401K, staff meetings, birthday lunches, you get it. 

I see a job online. It is a vaguely worded description of a job at a medical supply company. I am thrilled. Wendy’s treats me decently in as far that as I get paid. As in I that get a paycheck. I’m not above anyone but this job is boring and customers are just awful. Please, if you are reading this, remember, that person serving you could very well just have fallen on hard times. 

I called to get the interview set up. I find a nice outfit and for the first time in 5 years feel hopeful that I could get back behind a desk. I loved computer work. Filing. Part of my work was also helping people and that made me feel good. I was in the mail room too. I loved sorting and getting things to where they needed to be.

When I got to my interview I knew immediately that I had over dressed. The building was small. The building was an old church later shut down. For mold. Anyway, the interview went well but I was told that to start with I would be a lab assistant. I would also be doing heavy labor. However, at a later date a more administrative job should open up. So it began. I worked hard. The office moves to larger building and during that time I became friends with my boss. I also badgered others who would listen, about getting an administrative job. It worked. I began training. It was fun and caused a big problem. My boss was furious. This was a betrayal. I genuinely think this person thought it was about them. It wasn’t. I was never interested in being a laborer. I don’t exaggerate when I say my boss was furious. She wore her rage openly. It turned into a full blown screaming match in the warehouse.

I hated that damn forklift. Every time I got on the machine and she was watching my brain became electric. My hands would fumble and my vision would go to hell. My boss knew this. 

“Ok Amber, get those pallets over there and take them around that stack!”She is firm and a bit louder than necessary. Something we have in common.

“Why do I have to go around it? This is too much. I can’t see.!” My voice is whiny and I feel embarrassed. 

I can’t line up the prong of the forklift to the pallets. I throw it in park, rip the keys out and burst into horrible sobs. Sobbing in the middle of a stupid warehouse. One that has carpet mind you. Good grief that place. I cry uncontrollably for a long time. I take it to the restroom. I’m amazed at my own reaction.

 After a long while I go to my trainer. My direct boss abhors my trainer. I just sit and cry. I practice my new job.  Anything to keep my boss away. I stay until my boss leaves. My trainer asks over and over what happened. I can only say the truth. “She embarrassed me and it hurt. I couldn’t see.” I don’t really think about what I’m saying. It doesn’t register in my own mind how serious this is. I think I’m offered a ride home. 

I get home and collapse on the couch. More tears and my husband is there to comfort me. So is tequila. 

I sleep hard and the next day my husband says I need to stay home. He takes me to lunch. We have such a nice time but I’m distracted. This job is killing me. I cried so hard and it feels odd like I got punched in the back of the head. 

It’s Saturday and I’m laying on the couch. My head is still pounding and I just don’t feel good. 

“Here honey.”

I look up and my husband is handing me a cup of coffee. Exactly what I want. I take the warm cup gratefully.

“Thanks babe.” I smile at him. He’s so sweet and I can see the worry in hs eyes. 

“You might have the flu. Go to the doctor on Monday or the ER. You look sick. Fuck that job.”He doesn’t mince words.

“I’m fine.” I assure him. He walks away, looking doubtful. I lay back down and rest. 

About an hour later I wake up and I’m very thirsty. I reach down for the coffee and gulp it down. I feel a tickle in my throat. I begin to cough and the world goes black as my throat just slams shut. What the hell? I’m panicking. Ok, ok. I stand and the world tilts. I fall back on the couch and hack up the grounds. You’re OK. You’re ok.

I know I’m not. My throat feels funny and my thoughts are detached. Floating above me. Anxiety. Ok. Get a Xanax. I try to stand and fall. Get up! I can handle this. It’s just anxiety. I stumble into the dining room and hang onto the table. I get the pills and somehow manage to get one in my mouth. I just stand there holding onto the edge of that counter. My brain is drifting away. 

“Jesse. Jesse. Something isn’t right.”

I fight my way to the bedroom and collapse on the floor.

“What did you do? What happened”

I can’t feel the left side of my body. I can’t walk and my mind feels so seperate from my body. Floating above me. Spiritual almost. I can see parts of this from ABOVE. 

Here’s the part that will exasperate some. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t see straight. But money was so tight I called  around to see if we should go to a walk in clinic or the ER. We settled on the ER. 

Once there we were asked a slew of questions the first being if we were there to have a baby. Nice. The absolute scariest moment in that ER was when I was left alone some where. I was in a wheelchair and had closed my eyes just waiting for someone to tell me what was happening. Suddenly a lightening bolt of pain shot through my head like nothing I have ever felt in my life. It was sharp and hot-cold at the same time. I screamed for someone to please help me, over and over. I begged for god to let it stop and suddenly it did. I thought I was dead. No one could survive that pain. Yet, here I am. 

I was almost released from the ER. They did an exam. I was told that I simply had a pinched nerve! Well! That’s great news I say! So what do we do? A shot and some pain meds and you will be good as new. Thank goodness another doctor came in and checked my pupils. Granted, it’s unlikely I would have made it out of the ER as it was only moments later that I began to vomit. I was transferred to another hospital where I remained in SICU for 9 days. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t eat. I had blinding nystagmus. I couldn’t stand the light or any noise. 

The stroke has left me disabled. I am disabled. I hate it. I hate being misunderstood for it and being told how I need to be disabled. It’s not right.But I lived. And I Fight. I fight this and I fight cancer and AVN and Wallenburg syndrome and sexism. I love more than I hate and that’s what gets me through. I have a wonderful family and we have carved out a pretty good life. We are struggling with some burdens. We will persevere. I don’t know how, but we will. Love wins. If I can do this we get through this.


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