On Anniversaries II

December 13th 2014

“They’re calling me the Kunta Kinte of Rap! Claiming a brother from the continent never spit it as confident as that.”
I rapped along to 3-Card, as my head bopped to the beat and my fingers clacked on the keys.  Despite the upset stomach and foggy brain, my final essay on Environmental Planning was coming along surprisingly well. Jiggling my head back and forth to clear the wooziness, I-
5 seconds later

My head reflexively snapped back as I came to, suddenly realizing I had blacked out for a few seconds. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. The walls caved inwards and started shifting around me. I batted my eyes and struggled to keep the weight on my eyelids at bay. Jiggling my head back and forth to clear the wooziness, I stood up. The walls continued to spin as I focused on inhaling and exhaling.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

I need to lie down.

Cramming my laptop and books into my backpack, I stumbled out of the basement, crashing into several walls and corridors along the way. As I climbed the staircase, I took two steps forward, for every one step back. My brain and body were out of sync, but I had one mission to fulfill.

Get back to my room.

5 minutes later

I propped my body up by jamming my right hand on my bedroom door frame. It took me five minutes to carefully maneuver my rickety left hand and open the door. The door swung open. I tossed my bag onto the ground and tossed my body onto my bed. Everything faded to black.

December 14th 2014

Missed Call from Philomena

Missed Call from Philomena

Missed Call from Philomena

Missed Call from Philomena

Messages

Philomena
Please pick up your phone!!

Mugabi
I’m sorry, I’m not feeling well enough to come to the phone right now but I can text?

Philomena
I don’t even know what to say!!
I’m so sorry!
I’m glad you’re okay, but now I’m worried
If you ever need ANYTHING, please let me know!!
I know I’m far away, but know that I love you so much! You’re like the brother I never had.
You’re family to me. How have the doctors planned on monitoring this?
I’m literally shaking right now. So many questions. What? With who? Any triggers? What’s happening? How are you mentally/emotionally/spiritually/physically?? Are you sure you’re fine talking about this over text? :(((((((((( I so want to give you a hug right now!

Mugabi
I’m going to type out the very long story, this may take a while but is WAY better than talking

Philomena
Are you 100% sure that you’re fine with typing out everything???

Mugabi
Yes, I’m fine typing. So, I was working on a paper for my finals and I started feeling my stroke symptoms resurging. This is the FIRST TIME EVER in my life that I have felt those exact same symptoms. It was beyond terrifying. Terrifying doesn’t do it justice. I’ve told you time and time again, that the only two things I’m genuinely sensitive about are:
1) having another stroke
2) any more of my immediate family and best friends passing away
These are my two greatest fears in life. These are the two things nobody ever steps on or I will snap. These are the two things that I fear even more than my own death. And one of those fears came true

Philomena
I love you.

Mugabi
I love you more

Philomena
Take all the time you need typing up your long story. I’m here for you and always will be.

Mugabi
Thank you 🙂 So, I was sitting down in the basement of my co-op working on a paper, when I felt my stroke symptoms resurging. I was freaking out! I thought I was having another stroke! So, I packed up my stuff and went up to my room to lay down. While trying to rest, I faded in and out of consciousness. I was hyperventilating and panicking. I started flashing back to my childhood stroke:
1) one of the worst headaches of my life: check
2) heaviness of my right limbs: check
3) high fever: check
4) tingling and numbness all over my body: check
5) feeling weirdly hot in some places: check
6) dizziness: check
7) a lack of balance: check
8) the right side of my face drooping: check
9) feeling lightheaded: check
10) loss of ability to speak: Hmmmm

I could still speak! The last time this happened I was screaming “It’s Nadin’s turn” but no sound was coming from my mouth. Taking deep breaths, I decided to test out my voice.
“Hello” I timidly said. and what happened next was incredibly strange. My voice wasn’t gone, but, it wasn’t coming directly from me. It felt like I was a ventriloquist.

Something was definitely wrong. I grabbed my medicine, grabbed my roommate and went to the emergency room. Inside the emergency room, I got jabbed by a million and one needles, had doctor after doctor come in and talk to the ‘fascinating case’ and had a CAT scan done.

6 hours later, most of the symptoms I was feeling had significantly reduced. I was feeling back to normal, albeit sleep deprived. I had been administered an IV and rested. After 1 more hour of observation, the doctors came in with a final diagnosis. They said I had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), also known as a mini-stroke.

However, the worrying thing is; a TIA is often a warning sign for a future stroke. The doctors have absolutely no idea what caused this TIA. The doctors have absolutely no idea whether I am going to have another more dangerous stroke. The doctors have absolutely no idea if they can stop another stroke from happening. The doctors have absolutely no idea if the next one is going to kill me. The doctors don’t know anything! I’m 22 years old and I’ve already had one major stroke and one mini-stroke, how much more of this can I take?!

Philomena
You are dealing with a hell of a lot right now Mugabi. How many people can say that their worst fears ever in life were realized more than once? You are incredibly terrified right now, I get that. You are alone, without family or close friends in a place you have barely been in for a few months. You are encountering a terrifying medical emergency. You are in an incredibly stressful situation (having to deal with this on finals week of all times).

Ugh. I wish I could be more reassuring right now, but I have like zero neurological knowledge. Always know you can tell me anything. I’m so incredibly sorry that you’re dealing with this, but if there’s anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m your sister from another African mister. You’re my brother from another African mother

Mugabi
Thank you so much! I love you so much! I’m going to try and get some sleep

Philomena
Have a goodnight and let me know if you need anything, love you ❤

13/12/2016:

At twenty two years old, I suffered from what was initially misdiagnosed as a TIA but was later diagnosed as a second stroke. My second stroke left me suffering from a deluge of newfound chronic illnesses, namely:

1) severe chronic widespread pain, which makes every single part of my body feel like it’s on fire and being crushed for every single second of the day

2) severe chronic fatigue and weakness to the extent that I could not get out of bed for the majority of last year because I did not have the energy to

3) chronic dizziness and lightheaded feelings

4) sensations of intense heat and motion throughout my body

5) violent, painful seizures lasting anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 hours

6) hot flashes and feverish feelings

7) insomnia, I am in too much pain to fall asleep without medication

8) migraines and a chronic headache 24/7

9) a deep depression

My second stroke came out of nowhere. I have known since my first stroke, that more strokes were likely in my future, but never expected to actually have another one. My second stroke was followed by a third stroke, which will likely be followed by a fourth stroke. My health will likely deteriorate after every stroke, as it has done thus far. I will likely die from a stroke. There is nothing any health professional or myself can do about this.

My second stroke was an incredibly hard lesson in acceptance. My second stroke was a hard lesson in the unfair nature of life. Sometimes it doesn’t get better. Sometimes you can’t win.

My name is Mugabi Byenkya.
I am a stroke survivor.
And I am damn proud of it.

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