By Lisa Smith
I have been a sufferer of headaches for as long as I can remember, some have been really bad but this time was different. The date is April 25th, 2009. I am visiting a friend. Out of nowhere a migraine hits that literally feels like my head is going to “POP” off my shoulders. I feel sick, the pain is unbearable. I take a couple of my “go to” headache meds and lie down. Nope, no lying down for me. My scalp feels like it’s pulsating, my gut tells me that something is wrong. This is more than just a headache. The waiting room at PRHC is packed. It takes everything I have just to lie on the floor. Other patients can sense my urgency and encourage me to take their places in line. I will be forever grateful for that moment and the kindness of strangers. Time is something that was not on my side. What felt like an eternity and a series of tests later, doctors find blood in my spinal fluid. I have a bleed in my brain and I am being air lifted to St. Mikes. Life following is what I can only describe as a mash. I am unsure of what I actually remember and what I have been told. All know for sure is from that day forward my life was forever changed. 4 aneurysms were found, one leaked. Emergency brain surgery and the dynamics of my circumstance left me on life support. A stroke rendered me paralyzed and rehab supported me with learning how to walk and talk again. Moments feel like months and life now consists of trips back and forth from Peterborough to Toronto, additional surgeries, pain, fear, isolation and intrusion. May 24th weekend 2011 – Instead of camping, socializing and shenanigans I am moving into Saint Josephs at Fleming. Is this my new life? ‘” I am only 37 years old. The next 3 years are nothing less than challenging. Confusion and sorrow, appreciation and gratitude, anger and anxiety, loneliness and bitterness, boredom, happiness and joy are the emotions I feel, sometimes all at the same time. I was happy to be alive and so grateful for what I had, yet I wanted so much to be out of there and to have my life (pre April 25th, 2009) back. March 15th, 2014 -Instead of wanting people to learn how to knock before just walking into my “room” I am moving … this time it’s into my own apartment. With a lot of help from the big guy upstairs (aka Granpa, James D. Smith) and the supports from KPP arranged through David Ross, the Central East-Local Health Integration Network Acquired Brain Injury Systems Navigator, I felt, for the first time in a long time a sense of “freedom”. I couldn’t believe it was real. My very first “own” place, totally accessible, totally cute, totally perfect.
It has been almost a year since my transition from LTC to Independent living. I am reminded daily by my limitations and triumphs how much life has changed. I can’t do things the way I used to and this can be frustrating but I have learnt how to be strong. I miss dancing and driving, I even miss shovelling snow but…1make my own decisions, I decide when and what I eat. I come and go as I please without having to sign out and I stay up as late as I choose. My perspective on life and the reality of what people (myself included) take for granted has dramatically shifted. This experience has taught me so much. Lessons to carry me through and an appreciation for the beauty of life I would have not acquired otherwise. I can finally relate to what “everything happens for a reason” means … and with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face I am thankful for my ability to seek out what those reasons are.