It is pretty uncommon, these days, for a stroke to be fatal unless it's a massive one. Owing to the fact that there was no evident paralysis, this wasn't a massive stroke.
What it was, however, was in or near the basal ganglia--according to the CAT scans--which is why she was aphasic. The problem with that is that if there is swelling, it can have an impact on the autonomic nervous system.
By the time it was obvious that she wasn't going to improve, she was too unstable to move; they couldn't take her down for an MRI or another CAT scan, so we have no idea if the stroke evolved or not. Does it really matter? Dead is dead, and "dead of a stroke" is the same as "dead of a bigger stroke than we thought at first".
Mom's expressed wishes were for no invasive or extreme life-support measures; she saw how miserable Dad was when he was intubated and wanted no part of that. We stuck to the letter of her wishes.
We do know that there was no intracranial bleeding, which is about 5-8% likely when the clot-busting drugs are administered. At least, there wasn't any when she had a CAT scan this morning.
Mom had fervently hoped to go out the way my Aunt Bea did: suddenly. One shot and bang, you're talking to Jesus. Well, she didn't get that; but she only had to endure one bad day, and she was semi- or unconscious for most of it; she didn't suffer greatly and didn't linger the way my Dad did.
I realized--while trying to cope with the fact that she was suffering and that there was nothing I could possibly do about it--that's why God allows the dying to suffer like that: because when it's done, it's done, and those who have been left behind can say, "Well, the suffering is over." It's a small consolation, but it helps.
Of course my eyes are red and puffy, and still leaking--I had a few minutes on the drive home where I could see clearly--so everything is going about the way it's supposed to. It hurts, but I'll get over the worst of it soon enough.
Considering the situation, though, it's not really all that bad. Mom had that tumor removed from her bladder in July; there was a spot in her lung that we were trying to get diagnosed but which was probably a tumor, and "lesions" in her spinal column which the radiologist suspected of metastatic disease. If Mom actually did have cancer which had metastasized, then going out this way is probably preferable. At least, it seems much easier than dying of cancer.
And come on: she lived to be 83 years old--a bit more than three months shy of 84--and she was pretty active until she was 81. She was roller skating at age 80, for crying out loud. She got to see her children have grandchildren, and she lived a pretty good life.
More, one cannot ask for.
* * *
As for me--
I think I might have gotten as much as four hours of broken sleep between the time I left the hospital (at 6:45 AM) and the nurse called at 6 PM.
Normally, you might think, 12 hours would be plenty of time in which to rest properly, but oh no, not when you're me. No no no.
Phone call number one came at 9:00, just as I was beginning to drift off to sleep. Heart in mouth, I answered the phone, worried that it was the hospital; it was a machine. I hung up in disgust. It took me forever to calm down enough to sleep; at the best of times it takes a while for the flywheels in my brain to spin down, and this was not the best of times. I don't know how many times I had to tell myself, "Okay, stop thinking about this and go to sleep already."
Phone call number two came at 9:30, just as I was beginning to drift off to sleep again. This time it was my oldest sister, wanting an update; so I did what I could and rang off.
Phone call number three came at 10:30, just as I was beginning to drift off to sleep again. This time it was the ICU nurse who wanted an "admission history". She was just doing her job, so I couldn't hang up in disgust. I had to switch on "nice mode" and answer her questions. The conversation lasted long enough that I was fully awakened, and I ended taking until well after noon to fall asleep again. Especially when:
11:05: cat brought toy into bedroom and meowed at me.
11:40: cat came back into bedroom and meowed at me again. I put the toy in an inaccessible location and returned to bed; this shut up the cat.
I finally fell into real slumber some time after one PM.
Phone call number four came around 4-ish, when my brother called from the hospital to clue me into his plans. The news he gave was encouraging, so I decided I was going to remain home tonight and go to the hospital tomorrow morning. I may have fallen asleep by five.
Phone call number five came around 6; I got out of bed and went to the hospital.
...this, after getting six hours of sleep Sunday afternoon and then spending ten hours in the ER. So "tired" doesn't really cover it; in fact, just about the only thing keeping me from going to bed right frickin' now is that I need to eat something.
I got to the hospital around 6:20 and ended up leaving around 8--at my sister-in-law's insistence--to get some food. Hit McDonald's, grabbed 2 Big Macs, and could barely finish one. (Body needed food; brain didn't want any--brain won.) I was sitting my rocking chair and moping around 8 when my sister-in-law called me and told me I'd better come back to the hospital.
Two hours later--yeah. *sigh*
So I'm pretty much a wreck, which is normal and natural considering the inhuman stress I'm under at the moment, so I don't feel even remotely bad about this. (Hunger and fatigue don't help one iota.) One of the few times in my life I can be a total freakin' wreck and no one will hold it against me--pity I'm not the kind of guy to milk something like this.
* * *
Thanks for the kind words and thoughts in the comments for the previous post. I can't express how much they mean to me.
UPDATE: By the way, how's this for news of the weird and unexplained? My mother's sister--several years older than Mom--was hospitalized with a stroke on the exact same day Mom was. I think my aunt is stable, though.