Okay, so here it is, in it's most accurate chronological order I can come to without opening my medical discharge folder sitting inches away. Yes, I'm that tired. I'll be guessing as to some of the dates. Try to follow as best you can:
November 27, massive stroke inside a porta-john (hereafter known as the "Blue Tube of Death") after running 3 miles, turning, and doing wind sprints for a half mile back before deciding to stop and pee. Granted, I was only wearing shorts, my music player and shoes and could have waded into the ocean. I didn't want to risk getting my phone/player wet with saltwater so I opted for the only porta-can on the six mile run that I do.
I entered the smelly catacomb covered in sweat and although gasping for air, breathing only through my mouth so I couldn't smell anything. You know how it works.
I couldn't get my shorts untied in the dimly lit potty. I couldn't feel the knot with my left hand and thinking the knot shifted, I reached down with my right to undo my pants. At this point, I fell on the floor hitting every part of that grotesque plastic pipe on the way to the ground. Thinking I'd stepped in a depression in the floor that my unadjusted eyes had yet to notice at my feet, I came up like Kramer on a Seinfeld episode: flailing away and not quite getting up the first time. On my second trip to the floor, I hit my jaw bone and chest on the men's urinal which left an impressive bruise across the front of my face and torso.
At this point, I'm really angry and thinking I'm going to be a reluctant star on a YouTube video. I turn to exit but cannot get the door to open with my left hand (which I still haven't figured out is paralyzed). I reach with my right, open the door and prepare to lay into a group of practical jokers with serious force. There was no one there of course. Just sun, blue sky, the ocean, beach and me standing next to an outhouse that had tried to swallow me whole.
At this point, I had to ask myself "Did I just have a stroke?!" I could not feel my left side at all and my arm was as if someone had painted it on. I couldn't move a thing which would explain why I couldn't get my pants undone and why I kept dropping my phone/music player. My head phones had broken too. Still, I spoke out loud and noted my speech hadn't started slurring (yet) so I figured it was a pinched nerve in my back. I did one more windsprint when I got back to the beach (about 100 yards between each marker) and decided to call it quits after that because I felt weird. I walked the remaining 2.5 miles back to my truck, angry, very smelly and wondering what the hell happened. I drove five miles home after making sure I had a blanket to cover my seat with. GROSS!!!! When I arrived home, Cristal told me "I look pale and the left side of my face is sagging". NOW my speech slurred horrendously as I tried to explain the fact that a shower is my first priority as I'd just break-danced on the floor of a porta-john in Jacksonville Florida. She offered to call 911 but I needed a shower and I wanted to research it first, just to "make sure".
I called Ed Zachar first as I'd remembered his wife had a bout with Beck's Palsy that went away after a few days. Mr. Zachar told me "Michael. You're having a goddamned stroke. Get to the hospital now!" I said "Nice talking to you again after all these years and thanks for caring. Sorry if I panicked you." I then hit Google with 'stroke' and the first lines were "time is your enemy". From there, I headed to the hospital, St. Lukes. Within the first day I'd had X-Rays, MRI, MRE, EEG, EKG, Echo Cardoiogram, Ultrasound, a zillion blood tests and tubes of various sizes and shapes shoved into every orifice of my body. All of them.
It was determined I have a birth defect in my heart that had four or so passages, not just two, so my DE-oxygenated blood gets mixed up on it's path. Because of my healthy lifestyle, the opening took a while to show itself. Whatever it was (I'll tell you soon) shot into my brain through a door in my heart and that caused the stroke. I'd had one before in 1997 while camping in the Olympic National Forest and awaiting the fairy over to Victoria B.C.. The guy who came in with me died on the table. I was told I had a T.I.A. and that it probably would never happen again. "Probably".
My overnight stay in Florida after my "real stroke" turned into a six day stay and even then, I was out early. I got on a medication regimen of Lovenox, Coumadin and Zor-something to get my blood stablilized for heart surgery the following week. December 4, I headed to the doctor's office to get my heart surgery scheduled. I was in a lot of pain on my RIGHT side now. I could barely lift my foot off the ground and I could not sit without writhing in pain. Sucks to be me at this point. But wait! There's more!
I "okay" the heart surgery (experimental as of yet) and the doctor suggests I hit the emergency room as I look "really uncomfortable" and he "doesn't believe the drug to drug interaction could cause these symptoms". So, I go- reluctantly, as you can imagine after just spending six days in there. The pain got exponentially worse not too long after I checked in so I'd have most likely had a red light escort on the way back. Cause of pain? Right Renal Kidney Failure. A chunk of my fully engulfed cancerous kidney had most likely broken off and caused the initial stroke when my heart failed to channel it in the right direction. The meds I was on was causing it to act up and put me in a LOT of pain. The doctor's words: "There's no easy way to say this. Your right kidney is black and needs to come out. It's cancer. It's probably what caused your stroke. You're lucky we found this now." I WAS feeling pretty lucky at that point (rolling eyes).
We move the heart surgery up to the next morning, pull the kidney out after the weekend and there I lay from the 2-17 Dec. Now I was in pain from two surgeries and still wondering if I was going to get nailed by another stroke. The rest is a blur for the most part. I've walked on the beach each night since I've been home and have a lot of thinking to do with respect to the direction in my life from this point forward. Thanks to everyone who was there for me in spirit and most of all to Steve Zachar, for offering me one of his kidneys. Thanks man. I need to reach the levels of success I know I'm capable of now but starting a lap down is going to be difficult for sure. I'm not nearly as afraid of dying as I should be. I am afraid of living and not enjoying the majority of each day. I'll let you know when I run 7 miles again, swim 500 yards and get through an hour of weight training. Thanks to my dad for coming down on short notice and quarterbacking this operation (so to speak) and my girlfriend for offering a smile and an opposing view whenever I needed it!