There is nothing more humbling than needing help to go to the restroom when you are 42. I should have been out climbing Mount Everest, reshingling the roof, driving the car-pool, any number of things instead of waiting for a nurse to help me go to the bathroom.
The doctors didn’t know what to do with me. I should not have survived the stroke at all, given that my blood pressure was 237/87. Some had the uninformed opinion that I should be sent to convalescent care and just wait to die. But it was decided in the end that they would try therapy. I was transferred to a hospital better suited for such treatment. This was on a weekend, and I was still mostly out of it.
Six o’clock Monday morning a therapist arrived and harshly got me out of bed. I had ten minutes to eat my breakfast and then we would get started. I was feeling sorry for myself. I was not able to walk at all, barely could talk, could only clumsily hold a fork, and coming down hard from an addiction to Coca-Cola. I had to get back to work, even though I had no clue where I worked or even what I did for a living. Bills needed to be paid, but I had no idea what they even were. I was frustrated that I could not remember these things. I just had barely learned my wife and children’s names.
With no pity she helped me get out of bed and eat. Then right away I was whisked away to begin relearning how to live. They first tested my stacking skills (I didn’t understand this, as I knew my job was something technical). Then came cognitive and reasoning skills, mostly through coloring books. I knew my colors, ABCs, numbers, how to read, etc., but I had trouble seeing because I had double vision (this lasted about four months). Then I was showed basic hygiene, like brushing my teeth and deodorant. These are things which I should have known how to do, but didn’t. It was so very frustrating, but I was willing to learn.
Learning to walk again was very frightening, as I did not have a sense of balance (still don’t). I have to walk with a cane now and can fall over at any time. Getting out of the wheelchair a first step for me, and I did good to shuffle ten feet. Still the therapist put me on a vigorous exercise regiment and showed no mercy. In the meantime some of my memory was restored, enough to at least function. I still had no clue I was gay.
I had my first victory when I went to the bathroom by myself (still had to have help with showering and would continue to do so until I was released). The therapist worked on my cognitive abilities so I could at least make myself understood and relentlessly built up my leg strength so that in three weeks I went from being bound to the wheel chair to being able to use a walker (with assistance) and shuffle down the hall. It was exhausting work. But still though, I kept insisting that God wasn’t done with me yet.
The therapist then moved to Wyoming. I don’t remember her name. I wish I did. I owe her my life.