On the morning of April 15 I got a call from the hospital. My mother had suffered a stroke. Massive bleeding in the right hemisphere of the brain. I rushed to the hospital to find her paralyzed on the left side of her body, almost unable to speak and the features of her face distorted. It was quite a shock to see her like that. The doctor told me that they feared she would not survive. Because of her age and poor health they had decided against an operation. In fact, if she got worse they wouldn't even attempt to reanimate her. That was the exact opposite of what someone wants to be told in a situation like that. But there was little I could do. She was brought from the emergency care ward to the stroke unit and the doctors said the first 24 hours would be crucial to see if she would live or die.
In an instant my life had been turned upside down and I went home still in a state of shock. I turned on the TV to see footage of the Boston bombing and it just didn't register with me. I got almost no sleep at all that night and every time I heard something outside, a bird signing or a car horn, I thought it was the phone and was wide awake.
The next morning I went to the hospital to see how see was doing. When I arrived the nurses wouldn't let me near her bed, I had to wait in the hall. A moment later two of the neurologists rushed past me and went to her bed. They stayed there for a while and walked out with grim looks on their faces. They asked me to go into their office and have a seat. I was already expecting the worst. They told me that the day before they informed me that the 24 hours would be crucial and it appeared that my mother's condition had gotten worse so it was expected that she wouldn't make it. But there was still a chance that she would pull through and recover. The next six days would determine that.
For the next six days I visited her ever day, for 8 to 10 hours. I would talk to her, tell her stories, read to her, try to get her hopes up. After a week she was still alive and slowly but surely she began to improve. Her voice was still very weak and distorted, but she would tell me things and remember things so I was happy that she was on the road to recovery.
A few days later one of the neurologists called me to make an appointment to discuss my mother's condition. Since she had improved so much I assumed they would tell me she could leave the hospital. But to my astonishment she told me the exact opposite. That she had not recovered and that she was getting worse. They said it was their recommendation to unplug her from the feeding tube, stop giving her medicin and water and let her die. I was stunned. I argued that, in my perception, she had indeed recovered and I was able to talk to her and her memory was back. But to no avail. The doctors wouldn't budge and I was give two days to make up my mind.
It took me only two seconds to make up my mind. There was no way I was going to let her die. But when I arrived in the hospital two days later I found my mother with all the tubes detached. The doctors had seemingly expected me to go along with their advice and let her die. But I wasn't. When I sat down with the neurologists I informed them of my decision and said that I wanted her moved to a different hospital so that I could get a second opinion. They refused to cooperate with that. The once again said that it was their medical opinion that she would never recover and that I should let her die. I said that it was unacceptable for me and they tried to persuade me to change my mind. Of course I wouldn't, so they reluctantly agreed to hook her up to the feeding tube again and to resume giving her medication and water.
When I went home that day I tried to contact other hospitals to see if I could arrange her to be transported there to get a second opinion, but without the consent of the neurologists in the hospital she was already in such a thing proved impossible. Later that day when I went to visit my mother again, one of the nurses said they neurologists wanted to talk to me again. I was expecting another clash, but instead they informed me that they had taken another look at my mother and learned that what I had been telling them was actually true. That she really could speak again and that her memory was intact. Because of that they reversed themselves and withdrew their advice to let her die. I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because they agreed with me that she could recover and sad because a mere 24 hours earlier they were convinced she should die and even try to persuade me to go along with that. Imagine if I had.
A few days later she was brought to a nursing home where she remains. She has improved a lot since then. I'll never forget the joy the first time she was able to take a sip of coffee again and eat a bit of apple sauce. Today her voice is back to normal. She can eat and drink again. Her left leg is no longer paralyzed and her left arm is getting stronger as well. Her memory is as good as ever and she even tells jokes and during the Christmas dinner she was singing and clapping along with Jingle Bells.
And as she's a big Seinfeld fan I even put up a Festivus pole in her room.