A Night to Forget

Crazy turned into tragic. Ricardo suffered a hemorrhagic stroke on December 17th after a procedure to fix the AVM in his brain.

He was going in to have an embolization to shrink the size of his AVM. A couple hours after the procedure I went in and saw him and when they took the oxygen mask off he asked me how the operation went. I told him it went well, even though I had only talked to the Interventional Radiologist who did the procedure for a few brief moments after the procedure and he looked both hopeful and a little worried. The IR had told me he had been able to block off more of the AVM than anticipated, almost completely blocking it off. Then he told me he was somewhat worried about a stoke from a clot forming in the one artery leaving the AVM that no loner had blood flow to it, so he was going to put Ricardo on a blood thinner. When Ricardo asked me after the procedure if it had gone well, I told him that I thought it had.

They asked us to go back out to the waiting room to let him rest. A few minutes later a woman walked into the waiting room with a paper. She said words you never want to ever hear in an OR.

I’m sorry. Your husband is in critical condition. He hemorrhaged very badly in the basal ganglia, deep in the brain. He needs a life saving operation immediately to drain the fluid.

There really are not words to describe what it’s like to be told your best friend, your spouse, the father of your 14 month old child, is in critical condition. I had already read enough about a brain hemorrhage in the basal ganglia and thalamus in preparation for the original procedure to know that there were no good outcomes from a hemorrhage like that. Death. Or, if you’re lucky, severe and permanent disability. Loss of speech, loss of the ability to interact with ones surroundings. I already knew that’s what they meant when she told me, “I’m sorry.”

His mother was sitting by my side, in shock, just like I was. I started to hyperventilate and had to try to calm myself down. My head was screaming, “No, this can’t be happening, no, no, no, no, no.” I threw a coat over my head trying to seek privacy in the crowded room as my heart tore in two. I’d like to say that in that moment I had faith that he would be okay, but I really, honestly thought Ricardo was going to die, and I just didn’t know how to deal with it. His mother kept saying, “ten fe, se va a recuperar” “have faith, he’s going to recover” but I figured she was in denial. I already knew there were no good outcomes to a hemorrhage like the one I had just been told my husband had suffered. And I was distraught.

After about an hour of waiting I pulled myself together. I still didn’t know the outcome and I figured it was best to calm down and face the tribunal a little more pulled together. I thought to myself, “I just want him to be alive. Even if he’s not the same. I just want to still have him in my life.” And that’s what I plead for, not really believing it, but trying to have faith that maybe it was possible.

Part of me was desperate for those long hours of waiting to end as we sat anxious to find out how Ricardo was. Part of me just didn’t want to know.

Finally they took us to the ICU. I still wasn’t sure if Ricardo had survived or not. When we entered the room and saw him, my heart sank. I honestly couldn’t tell if he was alive or not. He was pale and his eyes were open, staring straight at the ceiling. Tubes were coming out of everywhere.

I asked someone in the room if he was alive. She told me he had no brain activity but that the nurse would be in in a minute to explain to me what was going on. Terror. That is probably the best word to describe how I was feeling in that moment. Nothing in life really prepares you to hear words like that and to see your spouse like that. My heart got really heavy as it sank in that I was going to have to make a very difficult decision about what to do.

And at that low of all lows, looking at my spouse, who appeared to be dead, and being told that Ricardo had no brain activity, trying to wrap my head around a future without the man I knew and loved and had talked to just a few short hours before, trying to gather the courage to make it through what was beginning to sound like prolonged death, I just wanted so badly for Ricardo to be alive.

Then Ricardo’s nurse came in and gave me the good news. The other woman was in fact misinformed and Ricardo was actually very much alive (but in an induced paralysis to keep his body calm). He hadn’t been hooked up to the machines yet, which is why she thought he had no brain activity.

It’s amazing how much you learn to start appreciating the little things in life at a moment like this. I was JUST SO RELIEVED HE WAS ALIVE.

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