I should be sleeping. I think I was sleeping, but now I'm not. Unless I'm writing this in my sleep. I took the red-eye flight back to New York last night, landed at 6AM, got about 4 hours of sleep, and then went to the hospital to see my grandma. And some of this is probably due to my own lack of sleep, but I don't know what I think. She did in fact have a stroke, but as far as strokes go, it seems like it could have been a whole lot worse. There's no evidence of any motor loss -- she's able to move her arms and legs, the nurse said she walked to the bathroom this morning, there's no noticeable weakness on either side. And her comprehension and memory seem intact -- she knows where she is, she knew who I was when I got there, she was upset I had to fly all the way back to New York a day after flying to LA, she was lucid, she made sense, she wasn't slurring her words, she could communicate what she needed to. The only thing is that she's having trouble finding some of the words she wants to use -- mostly nouns, it seems. And there's not necessarily any reason not to hope that'll come back over the next few days and weeks, and with some speech therapy and good fortune she might be able to restore the speech. Unclear at this point if she's lost any reading or writing functionality -- she apparently wasn't able to write last night, but we didn't try again today, and we haven't tested to see if she can still read normally as before.
But more than whatever deficits the stroke may have caused, the really hard thing today was that she was just clearly in a tremendous amount of distress. She was exhausted, and felt very nauseous -- and I think feeling overtired and overwhelmed and nauseated sort of made the whole thing feel a lot less manageable for her, and it was hard to really get a sense of how to separate the (hopefully) transient feelings of nausea and exhaustion from whatever the effects of the stroke are. And so she was very bleak -- she was saying she's old enough, she can't do this, if this is how she's going to be she doesn't want to be here anymore, she loves us, she doesn't want us to be mad or upset about this happening, but that maybe her time is done. And it was sad and heartbreaking and frightening and whatever other emotions I can't articulate to see her like this. On the one hand knowing what she was trying to say, and feeling like, yeah, she's 92, she has lived a good life, and if she's going to be in pain, if she's going to feel trapped in her mind and unable to live independently and unable to really do anything at all but lie in a hospital bed, uncomfortable, tired, nauseous, frustrated, then of course what's the point, and how could anyone want to go on like that. But on the other hand feeling like if we could get past the nausea, and if she can get some sleep, and get hydrated, and we're just dealing with the language issues and can figure out how to tackle those, she might see this all differently, and she might be able to get back to a very well-functioning place. So it became a matter of trying to convince her she can get better -- that she'd only been in the hospital barely 18 hours and she needs to trust us and believe that she will feel better, and the language might be able to be restored, and the nausea will pass, and it won't seem quite so bleak in another day or two. And that there might very well still be life left to live and life worth living. But at the same time, the idea of dragging her through months or years of pain and worthless torture for a quality of life that may be pretty dismal at best seems cruel and inhumane and entirely horrific.
So I'm just hoping and hoping that she can get some rest, despite being in a hospital bed (with a roommate who apparently screamed throughout the night last night, and this afternoon had trouble breathing and they had to take her to the ICU), and the nausea medication they were going to give her works, and she can feel well enough physically that her spirits can be restored and she can realize that this isn't necessarily as bad as she fears -- she hears the word stroke and it terrifies her as to what has happened, and I'm not sure she's aware of how much function she still does have perfectly intact -- and she'll want to fight through this and it'll be okay. But at the same time, I'm -- I don't know if this is the right word, but I'll use it anyway -- resigned to the scary possibility that she may not be able to get through the nausea and exhaustion, and her body might be starting to shut down and it's not going to get better from here. She's really never been seriously sick in her life -- a few hospitalizations in the past decade, pneumonia once or twice, but really nothing much at all, and so she doesn't have a real perspective on how much the body can recover from, and I'm worried she's resigned herself to believing this is orders of magnitude worse than it might in fact be -- and I'm sure she's scared out of her mind. She was so insistent on saying she loved us, she knows we love her, she doesn't want us to feel sad about this... it's so scary that in an instant -- and I know, it happens to everyone eventually, and often at much younger ages than this -- someone goes from active and stable and functioning to something much, much more tenuous.
What's scaring me tonight -- what's keeping me awake, I think -- is fearing that she's in that hospital bed right now and not completely aware of what's going on, or of the passage of time, and doesn't realize we'll be back to see her in the morning, that it's only been a day, that she's not merely all alone and left for dead in a storage facility for the elderly, which is pretty much what this hospital felt like today. We ordered her the TV, but I'm not sure that even before this she would have been able to find the remote control on the nightstand and figure out how to use it. I kind of want to find some sort of portable radio for her, just so she can flick a knob and hear live voices, and realize she's not just marooned somewhere all alone. I don't know. I used to think -- by "used to" I think I mean until this afternoon -- that if anything ever happened to me, as long as I could communicate, even just in a partial sense, it would of course be worth it, that life is worth it even in a very, very limited state. But seeing her this afternoon, clearly in distress, clearly not knowing what the future held, and so scared of what was happening to her body, I don't know if I still think that makes sense.
Hopefully a better day tomorrow. Hopefully.