My mother called from Hawaii one day in October and asked to speak to the doctor in our family. She wasn’t feeling right, she said, and she listed her ailments to my husband over the phone—headache at night while watching TV, blurred vision, dizziness upon standing suddenly, a sore and stiff right shoulder, and tingling in her neck and cheek on that side. He told her that if the blurred vision, dizziness and tingling persisted to call 999 (it’s 911 in the USA, I reminded him as I became concerned), and he told her to check with her own doctor for some tests. After hanging up, he told me not to worry but that she had described to him the symptoms of a possible TIA (transient ischemic attack, which is a medical term for mini-stroke) and she would be fine as long as she saw her doctor right away.
I called Mom the next morning (UK time) to see how she felt, and she said her bad cholesterol levels were up and her doctor told her to eat better and keep taking her cholesterol medicine. Otherwise, he felt that she was fine; so did she. I balked at telling her my husband’s diagnosis as I felt her doctor knew best.
She had a full-blown stroke three days later.
I flew to Hawaii immediately and was shocked and sad upon seeing her condition. Those first few weeks were whirlwind days of scans, tests, and evaluations. I spent all of November with her, attending her physical therapy sessions, learning about TIA and strokes (most people affected are over 55, but they can happen to children and babies) and was gladdened and relieved when she took a turn for the better.
I arrived home yesterday, happy to see my husband and children, but happier knowing that Mom has improved very well and has gained many of the motor skills she lost at the time of her stroke. I’ve had plenty of time to think about mortality and I know I’d like to see my mom alive and healthy for 30 or 40 more years. “So do I,” she said when she called to see if I’d had a safe flight. “I plan on getting better and stronger every day so I can fly to England soon and see and play with my grandchildren.”
And deep in my heart, I know she will.