Caleb returned home after dinner.
Parenthood had both challenged and flourished their relationship in ways they could not fathom before their son arrived.
But the challenges seemed to be outweighing the growth as of late
and Gemma felt herself stretching too
t h i n
the way she had the first four months of their son’s life when
she never slept and somehow forgot to eat and
take care of herself while she gave
e v e r y p a r t o f h e r s e lf
to her son.
Now not only was her body exhausted,
but her mind too.
“I feel really bad.”
Gemma said, curling into a ball on the couch.
“I hate this feeling.”
She began to cry, and Caleb seemed frustrated by this emotional outburst
but still proceeded to bring a yogurt over for her to eat.
She whispered and did her best to eat
and drink two full glasses of water.
“I think I’ll try and take a shower to feel better.”
Caleb nodded quickly before continuing to play with Forest on the floor.
The warm water did not soothe her skin the way it usually did, instead she felt
d i s o r i e n t e d .
She was worried that a migraine was about to take place when a sharp pain
pillaged the bottom of her skull.
But the pain only lasted a few violent seconds.
She quickly finished up before stumbling out of the shower.
She couldn’t stand straight.
Something was happening.
Holding firmly to the railing with both arms, Gemma slowly descended the long stairway to where Caleb and Forest were eating fruit in the dining room.
“I’m really sorry.” She said,
“I know you’re tired but I really need to lie down I think.”
“Okay.” He said.
Gemma looked at the clock before heading back upstairs.
It was almost five O’clock, which meant her sister Kylee would be finished work and be there in an hour. Gemma hoped to feel better by then.
She tried to fall asleep but she could feel a
r e s t l e s s n e s s
begin to invade the entire right half of her body.
Every time she did her best to relax her muscles, her right arm and leg would seize.
She lay there for hours,
going from overwhelmed to d i s c o n n e c t e d ,
still breast-feeding their son on demand
until finally she felt the need to relieve herself and tried to go to the bathroom.
When she sat up, the world began to spin.
When she tried to walk, she fell down to her right side.
She stood back up, forcing herself to walk as straight as she could manage, but could still feel herself leaning to the right side.
She used the bathroom before making her way downstairs to where Caleb and her sister Kylee were sitting watching television, as Forest was sound asleep in their bed upstairs.
Speaking was difficult, and her voice sounded foreign to her.
Kylee looked at her and seemed extremely worried,
Gemma said as slowly and carefully as she could,
She grabbed the nearest book, belonging to her son and tried to read it,
“There...there was...I...I can’t.”
Gemma let herself fall to the floor and began to cry uncontrollably.
“I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“Caleb, are you okay to watch the baby?”
Gemma tried to tell her.
“Well there is some milk that you have stored,”
“if you aren’t back by the time he wakes up,
he will have to try..”
Gemma nodded but felt a knot in her stomach at the thought of leaving her son,
even for a few hours.
He was nine months old and still exclusively breastfed, which meant Gemma would only sometimes run a quick errand or grab coffee alone for an hour every few weeks.
Every other second was spent nourishing and in the company of her son.
But Gemma knew that she had no choice but to have herself examined. She was fully aware that hers were the symptoms of a stroke.
Kylee placed Gemma in a wheelchair the minute they arrived and brought her into the emergency room.
At the main desk stood two nurses chatting away behind the glass, completely ignoring the two girls.
Kylee did not have patience for this nonsense
, “Excuse me?” She demanded angrily,
the two nurses looked at her immediately,
“Is it an emergency if she’s losing the feeling
on her right side and can’t talk?”
A nurse with dark curly hair stepped forward, and despite her disarrayed state, Gemma recognized her as someone from her childhood.
She was the mother of her and her sister’s childhood friend, Allison.
“You’ll have to wait for the next nurse on shift to come in.
We aren’t on the clock.”
She looked at the girls sharply before turning around to continue her conversation.
They waited and waited, but no one came to the window to help, until the old man they’d been observing, who was a volunteer at the hospital, stopped with a worried look on his face at the sight of Gemma in a wheelchair to ask what happened.
Kylee explained everything as Gemma could no longer articulate.
“But No One is helping us.”
“I’ll go and get help.”
They old man disappeared behind the doors
and quickly returned with another sourly looking nurse.
She said simply and Gemma handed it over.
“Go to the next window now.”
She said before walking away again.
The old man who was still looking out for them helped to wheel Gemma over to the next window.
“Her sister is going to explain because
this young lady cannot talk.”
Kylee began to repeat the story of how they came to be there, but in the middle of a sentence, she was cut off.
“I need to hear it from the patient or else
I can’t determine what’s really going on.”
“She can’t talk, are you stupid?”
“She’ll have to try.”
Gemma did her best to string together a sentence, but the nurse lost patience and simply demanded the rest of the ordeal from Kylee.
Gemma was immediately brought to the back where they examined her and saw that her ability to speak at least was slowly returning. They hooked her up to a Holter monitor,
“We think it’s probably just a
So there’s no need for serious testing,
we’ll just keep an eye on your heart for an hour or so
to make sure everything looks fine before you go home.”
Gemma nodded, and lay there for forty minutes listening to the nurses grumble about Gemma wasting their time until she had enough and ripped the band from her arm.
The sound of Velcro separating caught the attention of her nurse who immediately came over.
“Is something wrong?”
“If you think I’m here for nothing then I’d like to go home.
I have a baby.”
“One second, I’ll go and grab you a release form
since you haven’t spoken to the doctor yet.”
“You didn’t even tell me I was going to.”
Gemma mumbled as she walked away.
She returned with the form and a seemingly new attitude.
“You know we would really like it if you stayed.”
She said, imitating a sweet voice.
“You said it’s a migraine,
and now I can talk a bit better.”
She signed her name and Kylee helped her walk out of the hospital and back home.