It happened late Monday morning while I was watching the President's Inauguration. All of a sudden, I felt something. It wasn't pain, but I knew right away something was wrong, as my left arm suddenly felt cold and my left hand became weaker than usual. Nothing else was obviously amiss. Maybe on a busier day, it might have passed with less notice. But it was a holiday. I was at home. I probably would have gone into the office later that afternoon, but there was nothing that really had to be done, nothing to distract me from the suspicion that something might be going wrong and the mounting anxiety I was feeling about it.
By the time the President's inspirational inaugural address was finished, I was ready to make my decision. The choice was between staying put and fretting the rest of the day about what might or might not be wrong, or going to the ER to get checked out (even though that would almost certainly mean imprisonment in the hospital overnight).
Well, I went to the ER, and I wasn't over-reacting or being a hypochondriac after all. While the EKG was ok and so was the CT scan, an MRI confirmed a small "mini-stroke." Fortunately, subsequent ultra-sounds of the heart and the neck revealed no further problems. So it's aspirin and new medications from now on!
I'm happily back at home now after two days in the hospital. Being hospitalized is no fun. It's boring, but one can't get much sleep (at least I can't). And one gets repeatedly poked and prodded and stuck. Still, I want to acknowledge the good care and the genuinely kind treatment I received. It's a true tribute to the Sisters of Mercy's legacy in Knoxville, that the hospital they founded is still so suffused with their spirit!
The whole experience was a scare - perhaps never more so than in that initial hour when I had to decide how seriously to take it and how to respond. The tests and waiting for a final diagnosis were frightening too, of course, although at least I had no more immediate personal decisions to make!
It is also a reminder of the limits of "health" and the ultimate challenge of aging, of bodily limitation, and also of the relative transitoriness of so much of what one does and aspires to do.
The soon-to-be repeated invitation of Ash Wednesday that we are all dust and to dust we will all return wil be that much more vivid for me this year, as I pronounce those ancient words over and over again that day!