It was supposed to be the start of the good part of my Christmas holiday. For someone with mental illness, the holidays tend to be more stressful than enjoyable. But, I had made it through all the gatherings and I had 6 days until I had to go back to work. Awesome right?
Not so much.
Around 9:30 a.m. I was standing in the kitchen when I heard my brother call my name. His voice sounded weird so of course, I made fun of him. Then I walked around the corner and saw him and all thoughts of laughter fled my mind.
Nick was halfway down the hall leaning against the wall. Not right. He told me he didn’t feel good. He sounded drunk. Extremely not right.
I grabbed him and helped him to the couch and then, for some reason, put on my cheerleader’s voice and told Eric to call an ambulance.
“Okay, we’re gonna go sit down on the couch! Eric, please call an ambulance!” Calm soothing tones? Slightly hysterical? It’s hard to remember.
The rest of the day was a nightmare. Certain parts are a blur. Other parts are seared into my brain forever.
Seared Memory: Nick walks down the steps from our porch, with the help of the Paramedics, and onto the gurney. That’s the last time he walked.
When we got to the ER we were left to wait. We didn’t wait long thanks to Nurse Gloria. She had 4 spots left and she picked Nick for one of them. I truly think she saved his life.
I remember Nick telling me to text his girlfriend, Ines, to say he wouldn’t be able to make it to the movies that day but not to say why because he didn’t want to scare her. I am a terrible liar so I told her everything and she came straight away. She is a beautiful person whose heart is bigger than her hair.
Nurse Gloria got us seen to and Nick started getting checked out. Doctors thought it was a stroke. But it was presenting weird. They gave him treatment for a stroke even though they weren’t 100% sure that’s what it was. Better safe than sorry.
At that point, I had to call my parents and tell them what was happening. My mom burst into tears. I kept it together on the phone. Nick said they didn’t need to come and I relayed that message. My dad came anyway. Of course! My mom just had her knee replaced otherwise she would have been there too. For sure!
As all this was happening, Nick was getting worse. He was losing the ability to move. His speech was getting worse. His vision was getting blurry.
Seared Memory: Nick starts crying and I hug him. “I’m having a stroke,” he whispers. I don’t know what to say to that, or how to make it okay. I just hug him.
Nick has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. He has been the most constant source of love and friendship in my life. I don’t count cats here; their shorter lifespans give them a disadvantage over amazing brothers.
Whatever has gone wrong, whatever I’ve faced, I have relied on him. Whatever has gone right, whatever I’ve celebrated, I have done so with him.
For some reason, he’s always thought I could do anything and I’ve always tried to make him proud of me.
He has faced medical difficulties his entire life. Hospitalized for months at a time with asthma when he was a kid. Chest surgery. Ear surgeries. Allergic to the entire world. He’s been through so, so much.
Now this. This was bullshit. How was this even happening?! What was it that was happening? Was it a stroke? Was it something else?
We ended that day in a place called SIMCU. “It’s one step down from ICU” they kept telling us and we took solace from that.
My brother, my best friend, started the day off normally; watching TV, eating some toast.
My brother, my rock, ended the day paralyzed and alone in the hospital without any definitive answers as to what was happening.
We left the hospital that night scared and confused. Hopefully, the next day would be less scary and we would get some answers.