The first 24 hours after Ricardo’s hemorrhage were very difficult. We sat in the room by him anxiously watching his cranial pressure and blood pressure. I decided that Ricardo was going to have to be extremely strong in order to get through this, so I could be strong too. There were moments when I cried, but I tried not to, I tried to be strong for him and to distract him when he was awake and miserable. Already I can barely remember the first night, and it’s only been 16 days. I think sometimes the brain wants to forget nights like this. I don’t remember sleeping, I just remember looking at his mom and us trying to keep each other from crying so that we could be strong for Ricardo.
We weren’t sure if Ricardo would be able to move. The first day we became certain that he could move both sides of his body, at least a little bit, so that was good..His movements looked more like convulsions, but he was definitely moving both sides of his body. That was a positive, so I focused on that.
I thought a couple times that Ricardo was responding to my voice, but I wasn’t sure if it was just random movements or if he could, in fact, hear me.
Almost exactly 24 hours after the hemorrhage I was starting to get pretty depressed wondering if Ricardo would ever be able to live any semblance of a quality life.
Then something magical happened.
Ricardo woke up because he was coughing and gagging on the breathing tube (this is not the magical part, this is horrible to watch, and I can’t imagine how horrible it is to experience). I was talking to him and he looked right at my face with his eyes open. He was biting on the breathing tube and I told him he needed to open his mouth, and he shook his head “no”. No one else saw it, but I was almost certain he shook his head no. Then he squeezed my hand tight. Ricardo still knew who I was! And he was responding to what I said! The implications of that brought tears to my eyes. He was still in there! He was still aware! And he understood what I was saying and could respond. Suddenly my depression was replaced with immense gratitude and hope. I still had my Ricardo!
By the next day he could give a thumbs up to the nurses when they asked him to. He could respond to people in both Spanish and English! Even the doctors were shocked with how well he was doing. His prognosis suddenly brightened, but we weren’t out of the woods yet.
The following days have been a roller coaster of emotions. Moments where he moves and responds to you, you feel elated. Moments when his inter cranial pressure or his body temperature rises, your heart stops as you relive your worst fears. His 31st birthday passed, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years, each day just as normal and equal parts hopeful and terrifying as every other day. On one hand you feel so grateful that he is doing as well as he is. On the other hand you fear the worst and you endure painful moments watching him suffer an inconceivable amount.
It has now been a few hours more than 16 days since the hemorrhage. Just a few hours ago I was seated by Ricardo’s side. He held my hand with his left hand and gently and determinedly stroked my hand. I can’t tell you–cannot. tell. you.–how much that means now. I told him he is my best friend and that I am so glad he is with me, and that I love him, and he started to cry a little bit. Tonight I think those were tears of both love and frustration. Many times I have seen tears of absolute and utter fear as well. But tonight I think it was mostly love. I am grateful I know him well because I often feel I know what he is thinking just by his subtle body language–the stroke of his finger, the way he tries to open his swollen eyes to look at me. He is suffering a lot. I try to tell him that this is temporary and he just has to get through this hard time and then it is going to get better.
I feel a lot of hope.
I have heard a couple stories of nearly full recoveries from bad hemorrhages like Ricardo had. And even if he doesn’t have a full recovery, if he can be mentally aware and have some capability to move at least one arm and hand, I think life would still be worth living for him. He can still watch little Andrew grow up. He can still cuddle with me and his teddy bear (i.e. Allie, our dog), and hopefully he will still be able to work, since I know that is very fulfilling for him. I really do have a lot of hope.
At this point it looks like he may loose his peripheral vision. He may loose his ability to move his right arm and leg. He may loose a few other things too. But he may not.
He still appears to have much more in tact than he lost. The doctor told me he believes Ricardo will still be able to communicate. That is a big one.
He will probably have to relearn many things people shouldn’t have to relearn at 31 though, things like how to move and talk.
But he’s young. And more importantly, he’s determined and he’s strong. When Ricardo decides something is going to change, it changes, and I think his determination will go a long way.
And more importantly than all that, is what he still has. He still has me, Andrew, his family and friends, our dogs. He still has his ability to make decisions. He has movement on his left side (he even scratched his nose and ear yesterday).
And I still have him.
It’s amazing just how much that means!
I still have Ricardo. I still get to love him and I still get to be loved by him. He still loves me. He’s alive.
Those might sound like little things, but it takes something like this for me to realize those things are not little at all. Those are the biggest, more important things I have and have ever had. And I may just get to keep them for now.
I hope I don’t take that for grant it ever again.
Last night I got to hug my mom good night. I got to wake up and caress my baby boy when he cried. Tonight I got to hold my husband’s hand and he teared up when I told him I love him.
Treasure the things you love. Life is so fragile, yet so full of love and so good. So treasure it, live it, love it. That is what I am learning, and what I share with you.