After the nurses assembled around me they pinned me down and pulled out a needle. The shot did not fully knock me out but it took the fight out of me. I remember several people rolling me down the hall. They rolled me into another room and transferred me to a hospital bed. People were all around me working franticly. I remember someone cutting my jeans off with scissors. Someone else was hooking up my air supply and somebody injected me with something, which I later learned was Heparin, right below my belly button. A middle age doctor started talking to me in English with a heavy French accent. Every five minutes he would ask me to touch my nose with either hand. The first few times I could do it with no problem. Each time thereafter my arms grew heavier and heavier until I could no longer move. I was half asleep and very confused. I did not ever pass out and was ALWAYS cognizant of EVERYTHING going on around me. I had a breathing tube down my throat and another tube that went into my lungs to remove the fluids that were quickly building up. Someone then threaded a tube down my nose for feeding purposes. Also, my hand was pricked and an IV line was started. I HAD to be in a unit equivalent to the American ICU. People were swarming around me rattling off French and did not leave until mid-afternoon when I finally stabilized.
I was living a real life nightmare. I could not talk, I thought only because I had a breathing tube down my throat (I did not find out that I had permanent speech loss for three weeks), nor move. I could see and hear and understand everything going on around me. The only movement that I had was eye movement. Later, I would learn that this is called being locked-in. I could understand bits and pieces of what was being said about me. I had been in France several times and this trip had just started its third month. I could understand the French language much better than my speaking skills. What I picked up was scaring me to death.
Immediately after my stroke I could not speak. While I was in the hospital in France, I had a tube down my throat because my lungs were constantly filling with fluid. I thought that this was obviously the reason that I could not talk. Also, I knew that there was a small diameter tube threaded into my nostril, through my throat and into my stomach. I was awake when they put the feeding tube down my nose and I was angry because it was so uncomfortable. The doctors put a breathing tube down my throat, too. I could imagine how I must have looked and I did not like it one bit! I was ticked off because, in my mind, all of these tubes were unnecessary. In my mind, I could still eat and breathe on my own. I was angry that they had forced me to submit while they did all of these things to me without my permission. Let me tell you the story of why the breathing tube was removed.
On the second day after my stroke, I was woken up early when a gurney was wheeled into my room. I had no idea of what was going on. The attendants seemed to know what they were doing and occasionally muttered something in French to each other. Keep in mind that I was cognizant of EVERYTHING going on but did not have the ability to move anything below my nose.
The attendants transferred me to the gurney, made sure I was covered with a blanket and they guided me out of the room. They push me out of the room and made a sharp right turn past the nurse’s station. We went a few more feet and made a sharp left. We rode down a long corridor and then I lost my bearings. It is not easy to lay flat on your back on a fast moving gurney and remember where you are going. Your only point of reference is the ceiling. I could not even turn my head. I just remember the halls being poorly lit with individual light bulbs. The hospital had the feel of being something out of WWII.
We made a couple more sharp turns and then went into a narrow elevator. We obviously were going down because I heard the whine of the elevator and felt the downward movement as we dropped several floors. We I could hear the doors open and suddenly I was moving again. Several dozen ceiling panels passed, as we must have moved straight forward a short distance and then we abruptly stopped. I heard a male and female voice speaking softly in French and then my gurney was pushed into a small dark room that had a bright light coming from the center.
I was very confused about what was going on. I had no idea of why I was moved from my room or where we were now. The only voices that I heard were speaking French and nobody had even tried to tell me what was going on. The next thing I know I was being transferred to a narrow bed. Again, I felt myself being covered up with a blanket. The next thing I saw and felt was a plastic mask being placed over my mouth and nose. The room went completely dark in seconds and I remembered nothing of what happened next.
I woke up back in my room still on the gurney. The gurney was positioned parallel with my bed, as if they were about to transfer me back to bed but had suddenly been called away. I opened my eyes and looked around the room. The windows must have been open. A hot breeze was coming across the room. The hospital had no air conditioning. In this hospital that meant that every window was ALWAYS open.
I was not in pain but I could feel something hard on my throat and could feel gauze on my neck. Had I been operated on… without me knowing about it? Yes! The bastards had given me a tracheotomy and did not even have the decency to forewarn me! I was immediately livid with anger and frustration. I was in disbelief. What kinds of people were these? They just gave me a tracheotomy and did not say one word to me about it? I was also upset that they would leave someone in my condition unattended? It was almost as if they did not care how I felt. It made me feel violated! I had been warned months ago about the French disdain for Americans. Was this what I had been experiencing all along at this hospital? My French friends at work were terrific and were generally warm. The French people at the hospital were cold and unfriendly. What was next? I was soon to find out.
Suddenly, a figure walked in and I immediately noticed his black suit and white collar. I almost fell off of the gurney, figuratively, of course! My immediate thought was that he was there to administer my last rites. I could not believe that this was happening to me! I just knew that I had just had a stroke and was in VERY bad shape; I must be getting ready to die! To be continued ….
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