Even as this is posting, I am headed to Colorado for a ski trip. That makes me the same as quite a few other people. Church youth groups, college coeds, and families head for the slopes during spring break every year.
This is my first ski trip in quite awhile. In fact, five years ago on this very day (March 20, 2006), I was skiing down slope when I had a stroke. An artery in my brain ruptured flooding the lower right cerebellum with blood. It would take 24 hours for them to discover that; yet in that instant, all I knew was that something was really wrong. Since I was still skiing, I had to figure out how to get prone (fall!) and how to get help. (Believe me, they come!)
I spent a week in a Denver hospital, spent several months regaining my sense of balance, and even made a trip to Mayo to determine the cause of the stroke. I missed the entire 4th nine weeks of school. (I wrote more about it here.)
During those first few weeks, I held onto walls when I walked--which I didn't do very often. I felt "carsick" or dizzy most of the time. I would lie in bed and look at the ceiling. I slept. I couldn't watch television (rapidly changing camera angles), couldn't use a computer (eye tracking made me sick, not to mention a flashing cursor), and I couldn't read (again with the eye tracking problem).
I finally figured out that my brain would learn to "re-wire" itself if I took things gradually. I walked inside and finally outside, but only on the Mr.'s arm. I read large print books one page and eventually one chapter at a time. I had a Myspace page created for me to lure me back on the computer.
By the end of that first summer, I could walk by myself for a mile or so. That fall I returned to school. I avoided the halls because all the moving bodies brought back the nausea and dizziness. I didn't make U town's home football games. There were too many people, and I was often claustrophobic--like my perception of the world was off.
Gradually, things started feeling more normal. By late winter, I even attended a few home basketball games and other crowded events in big arenas. The halls of Tiny Town High no longer bothered me.
By the summer of 2007, I began running again and even entered a couple of races. I finally got back on a bicycle. Biking made it look like the world was moving while I moved. It took some time before I could go very far. As soon as I could, I was back to biking 7 to 10 miles--always with the Mr. following closely behind to check my progress or provide a sag wagon. That summer, part of our vacation included a 26 mile bike ride on the KATY Bike Trail.
By '08 I was strong enough to help our town and school recover from a devastating tornado. In the past five years, I have flown on an airplane several times. Only last summer, I went out on a boat for the first time since the stroke.
But there was still one thing that I wanted to try again, and that brings us to today--or rather, tomorrow.
I haven't been on skis since my stroke. I love to ski. I love the smell of the snow, the view, and the fresh air. I don't ski fast. I'm not a daredevil. I just like pushing myself to take new runs and stay upright.
The Mr. has finally consented to two days of skiing. My dad is less than thrilled. The LBB (little big brother) asked me if I was just like my students. "Have you learned nothing??!!" K and L haven't said much. I think they know I can do it.
So this is one last thing to conquer, and then I'll be satisfied that I have recovered. And it has only taken me five years to get to this point. I am a survivor. Tomorrow is a celebration of that. Feel free to picture me on a beautiful snowy slope. I'll be the one in a yellow ski jacket with a great big smile on my face!
There are two links on this post. If you click on the words in green they will take you to previous writings on my stroke..