The Bonus Years
Bob, my husband of 45 years, and I have changed our mantra of CBW (“Could be worse”) to CBB (“Couldn’t be better”) because now we count every year since my stroke as a bonus. The idea of calling every year I have survived a bonus year was suggested by an article in Stroke Connection.
In 2003, I was talking to a student from my Spanish literature class in my office at Plymouth State College when I suddenly lost all use of my left side. I guess I was able to tell her to call 911 because I was medivacked from our local hospital to Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire. That was in February; I woke up in May. I had had a hemorrhagic stroke caused by an AVM that no one knew I had since I had had no symptoms.
I can still remember the first two things Bob said to me: that Plymouth State College was now a university; and that the rock formation called “The Old Man of the Mountain” had fallen off the cliff where he had been for millions of years before becoming our state emblem. I don’t know if there was a cause and effect relationship going on there, but it was a shock.
After spending time in various rehab centers regaining strength, I was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where the surgeon removed my AVM, replaced the bone flap that had been removed to accommodate the swelling of my brain and placed the shunt that helps circulate my brain fluid.
When I cried that I had lost my life, Bob said, “We may not have the same life, but together we will make a new one.” That assurance, and all the strength and love that came with it, made it possible for me to go on.
Now, almost 14 years later, after many hours with therapists and caregivers, I can walk with an AFO (ankle foot orthotic, a brace for the ankle and foot) on my left leg and the support of a cane or a grocery cart or my husband’s arm.
We have continued to travel, to spend time with our son and our two grandchildren in Paris. I try to put 6,000 steps a day on my pedometer, and I swim with a snorkel mask and flippers at least twice a week. I play the piano with my right hand while my friend plays the left hand part. Life is good; I am so lucky to have it. Every year is yet one more bonus. I look forward to many more.
Virginia Garlitz | Survivor
Plymouth, New Hampshire
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