Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ants Come Marching In

Chuck Hofvander is a stroke survivor and fellow camper. He is writing short stories for this blog. These are cut and pasted from other sources and as a result Blogger does some automatic formatting I have no control over. Other than that, they are presented in their original form, and have been approved by those he is writing about. 

After my stroke in March 21, 2004, I began having seizures. After each one I had set backs in my recovery and often could not speak, read or write. This story is about some of the experiences I've had but one in particular. Enjoy.

Hope you enjoy this story. I enjoyed writing it.

I welcome any comments.

Ants Come Marching In
Chuck Hofvander


“Oh no, it’s happening again! It starts with a feeling of a lite switch thrown in my whole body. I try to speak but can’t. My eyes move from side to side but without my focus. I try to move different parts of my body but I have trouble controlling them. Finely I lose consciousness. I’m having a seizure. The whole process lasts under five minutes. My family decides whether the seizure is serious enough to be hospitalized and if so they call the ambulance. In the ER the doctors decide whether I should be taken to Critical Care (CCU) or just an observation hospital room.

I’m a frequent visitor to Northwest Community Hospital. In fact, I’m there so often I asked for “frequent flyer” discounts. I go there for lab tests, physical therapy, conversation groups, and inpatient visits where I stay from three to six days.

On many of my visits to the CCU, I was seeing ants crawling up the walls; ants are forbidden in CCU, I saw nurses that weren’t there and on one occasion laughed in my sleep for ten minutes. The CCU nurses thought something was wrong but my wife assured them laughing in my sleep was normal for me. The nurses kept an eye on me none the less.

Another time I thought the TV was talking to me. It was Sunday morning and I was watching Face the Nation, all of a sudden Bob Schieffer was talking directly to me! Then Bob asked me a question. That was too much! I switched the station to NBC. The host of Meet the Press did the same thing! Was I going crazy! I switched stations again, this time the Three Stooges were on; finally I was sane! Then Curly said “Moe, Chucky, Larry the cheese”! I WAS CRAZY! My wife convinced me that I wasn’t going nuts but I still had my doubts.  

But the most memorable time occurred in CCU.  Early one the morning I was worried about my wife, she was late; she always arrives by 6:30am. Time passed slowly and I got frantic. I pulled out the various needles stuck into my arms, yanked off the monitors, climbed out of bed, took the hospital gown off and proceeded to leave my room.

Now, I am six feet four inches tall and in pretty good shape. The nurses came running when they heard all the bells and whistles going off and were quite startled to see a man standing there bloodied, naked, confused, determined to get out of the hospital anyway he could. My plan was to hail a cab to go home.

They tried to calm me down but I was on a mission. The nurses were inches away from strapping me to the bed when my wife arrived and said “What is going on here”! I then timidly crawled back into my bed and said “But the ants said that it’s OK to leave”.

The moral: The mind can play tricks on you, you can’t trust ants, and sometimes it pays to not tell your wife the accurate story.

I told this to one of my work friends and he came back with the following:

“I find that this story contains a lot of the situations and behaviors as when we worked together.  You were mostly out of it; saw stuff crawling up the walls; and you spoke in strange tongues.  On several occasions we had to ask you to put your clothes back on.

Are you sure you had a stroke?  I guess that’s why I think you act pretty normal now because that’s the way you’ve always been.

Note:  That’s also why you were not allowed to have scissors or any pointy objects in your office.  Reading your notes in felt tipped pens did present some challenges.”

Ninety nine percent of what I wrote is true. You, the reader, can decide what is not. 

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