Have you ever seen a perfectly functioning happy family to instantly shutter into a horrible nightmare? I have. My long time friend M, somebody I knew since university, met an accident on an otherwise uneventful evening. He was driving his four door sedan to the Walmart near his home in Scarborough, his wife in the passenger seat, little daughter on her car seat behind the driver seat. The truth about the actual reason behind the accident has always been shrouded with doubts and questions (several lawsuits are ongoing) but the fact was that a TTC bus crashed into them, pushed the vehicle across an intersection sandwiching it against a tall light post and damaged it so badly that the firemen had to cut the car roof off to get the passengers out of the mingled metal. His wife died on the spot and he lost both of his legs. Fortunately the little girl, while left with a lifelong trauma, escaped any injuries apart from some cuts, thanks to the car seat that saved her life. [Please use a car seat for your young kids and ensure that they are always properly seated and buckled up when the car is running; I have seen many who fail to do so, too many for comfort.]
Anyway, I am not planning to write about the nightmare he went through since then, not today. Many things had gone wrong for him since but a few went in the right direction as well – especially finding his long lost love and starting a new life was really great. His life could have been a total mess if not for his new bride who not only took control of the family but also provided the little girl a loving environment and an opportunity to grow up with the love of a mother. It is not always easy to work with a step daughter, but persistent and good intention always prevails. Hearty kudos for her.
A few days back we had returned home from a party, little late in the evening, and played the voice mail recorder noticing the red light on it blinking (sign of new message). It was my long time friend H’s voice, who lives about 20 minutes away from me. The message was alarming. M was in Scarborough General Hospital, recovering from a stroke. H was heading there with his wife and wondered whether I planned to do the same. I immediately packed up with another friend F and drove to the hospital. It took us a few minutes before we could enter the special care area. While waiting outside on the 5th floor lobby of the hospital we met M’s next door neighbor who had accompanied M to the hospital.
It was a great relief to see M doing well. He was wired up with several equipments and had to be confined in his movement but looked normal and spoke freely. When I first heard the message on my voice mail I had assumed the worst. At this point I let out a deep breath of relief (it is not totally impossible that deep inside me his promise to create a cover page and some interior art work for one of my English novels might have flashed into my mind). As we made ourselves comfortable into couple of chairs in M’s private hospital room it started to seem very much like a lazy evening gathering. Our presence had clearly cheered M up quite a bit and he spoke spontaneously and even chuckled several times. I had many questions. Obviously he wasn’t of an age that warranted for a stroke of any kind. But things happen. One of my brothers-in-law died in a massive heart attack when he was only 36 – and he was fit, healthy, worked out regularly. He was close to my wife. She cried for days and dreamed him for years. Nobody had any clue about his heart problems. In Bangladesh very few would go for regular checkups. However, we later found out that my brother-in-law might have had ample reason to believe that he was at risk. He was still struggling to establish his business, was not married and apparently did not want to bother anybody with this problem as it would have been an expensive treatment. I wonder how many men and women are there in Bangladesh now who is quietly counting their days. He didn’t have to but he decided to take the path to sacrifice.
Here, in Canada, with universal health care things are taken care of by the government. Emergency treatments are definitely good. Often seeing a specialist can be a lengthy process but overall the system works.
I was particularly interested in knowing the circumstances of M’s stroke. How did it happen? What he thought? How he felt? And finally how did he know it was a stroke? It is always good to get as much information as possible from somebody who has experienced it firsthand.
He did some work out on his version of the treadmill (anti gravity) - with hands of course as he had no legs. Once a week somebody from the health care services came to provide him physiotherapy. As a general practice he worked out only at his (the physiotherapist) presence. However, once a week was not giving him enough work out so he allowed himself some additional sessions on his own. That day he was on the treadmill for an hour or so. At one point he stopped, feeling exhausted. Later he had supper with couple of tortillas and vegetable curry and went to bed around 10 PM or so, as he always did.
He woke up in the middle of the night with a slight chest pain but nothing serious enough to act upon. Often tortillas gave him digestive problem and assumed this was just a usual gas pain. He tried to go back to sleep but the pain continued to grow until it became too much to ignore. Still not sure what to think he left his bed and started to pace in his specious condo apartment. The pain continued to grow. At one point he became disoriented and possibly unconscious as he had no clear memory of the next series of events. We learned the rest from his wife who called 911 and also fetched their next door neighbor. He was then moved to the Scarborough General Hospital by an ambulance and later sent to St. Michael’s where they have more up to date equipments to treat patients of stroke. This is where they diagnosed him of having a mild stroke. He was fortunate to get quick treatment (they used a clot buster to clear up a 30% blockage on an artery) and survived it without any serious impact. He was later sent back to Scarborough General where we were having this mini party of our own. During diagnosis the doctors found his blood to be three times thicker than normal and prescribed blood thinners for him. He needed to be under observation for the next 48 hours in the least.
H and his wife joined us little later. We stayed until midnight and only left when the on duty nurse gently asked us to leave as it was getting too late. We bid him good night and left. Next day was Eid-ul-Adha. Thanks god, this one wasn’t going to be marred with any tragedies.