Tuesday, August 24, 1999, 9 PM was a day, which would be embedded in my life forever. Approximately two weeks before, I was a proud and stalwart person. At that time I paddled around Lake Mattatall, north of Truro, Nova Scotia for seven straight hours.
Canoeing was one of my favorite pastimes, cruising around the lakeshore then testing myself across half a mile of open water across the bay. Loons, ducks, geese, the swirl of water and the forest scenery were needed to overcome my working stress levels.
Going into the woods was my escape, whether it was tenting out on a cold winter night, or hiking for ten hours up and down slopes forming part of the Cobequid hills.
In retrospect, I was a bit of a braggart about my personal conditioning. And from past experiences hiking, camping, hunting and fishing trips I knew I was in great physical shape. My challenges were to be first at everything within my domain, if possible. Even to sit at the table ahead of everyone for a sumptuous meal. No one ever had to call me twice.
And now on this particular night I came face to face with death. A backdrop of sky, with its band of red and yellow pastel colors, masked the scene at the busy Ryland Street entrance of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition in Bible Hill.
Large crowds had already entered this fun place where horse racing, tractor-pulls, food concessions, a midway and other amusements awaited.
A variety of lights flashed from the Ferris wheel. Sounds of merriment and machinery swinging customers in every direction penetrated the sky.
It was this noise and confusion that entered the right side of my head, as I stood amidst the crowd eager to get to the amusement sector. An overwhelming sound like some out of control twister filled every crevice in my brain. I was felled to the ground.
The extreme noise, magnified in my thoughts, threatened to explode my head from my shoulders.
I had visions of a large physical wound, with my head missing. Grabbing the top of my skull with both hands, I kept saying, "Turn the music off. Turn the sound down." Then I began to slowly spiral downwards, leaning to my right.
I remember sitting briefly, feeling nauseous. I tried to use my right arm to hold me up but it had no strength. I slid to the ground and lay on my back. I was talking gibberish then I could not move my lips or any other part of my body. I was comatose, yet someone kept saying, "Don't get up, and stay down."
I was not even aware that I lay in the center of a large crowd. It was as if I was simply in a space without people, but could hear various voices coming from different directions.
"I'll phone your wife," I remember my friend Charles saying from a distance.
There was a gawking crowd while St. John Ambulance and others worked on me. Unknown at the time, they had torn off one of my favorite t-shirts.
"What happened?" someone asked. "Oh, some old geezer kicked the bucket." At the time I was completely still and thought what a rude remark to say about someone, not realizing the comment was directed at me. Then I heard an ambulance siren for a long time, which was heading off to Colchester hospital. At first I could not comprehend it was I in the vehicle.
"Sounds awfully close by," I remember thinking.
It was only as we entered the hospital that I seemed to be able to move at all. And my body parts began to move around, not realizing I had been comatose for about 45 minutes.
I also found out later something quite significant had occurred at the precise moment my stroke attacked my body. That Esther my wife had an urging to pray for me at exactly 9 pm home where our regular Tuesday Home Bible Study group met each Tuesday.
I believe those prayers prevented more serious stroke damage, and pressed into my body the approximate ten seconds I calculated it took me to gently land on the ground.
First I had gone to a sitting position then lay down. Many persons I spoke with during the months ahead said when they had a stroke, whether they were standing, sitting, or lying in bed, they immediately fell down.
At Truro's Colchester Hospital, I went through a series of tests-Had IV, Oxygen Mask, Blood Pressure monitoring, heart machine, EKG and two cat-scans done. Also had three lumbar probes, very painful. First two had a hard time getting through the muscle.
At 11:30 PM doctor said they were sending me by ambulance to Halifax, since it appeared I had a mild stroke, due to what he believed was a leaking aneurysm.
In Halifax two neurosurgeons probed, poked, scratched feet, checked eyes, feeling, muscle strength and took a cat scan. Could not find anything life threatening. Said to come back in a week for an ultra-sound on neck carotid veins.
Thank you Lord for healing what had caused the condition. Before leaving, nurse asked if I wanted gravel for my nausea. I did not know it meant a painful intravenous needle in the left outside hand.
I experienced a variety of conditions. Headaches when standing or sitting, poor writing skills, numbness in right foot, calf, leg, and arm. Extreme tiredness. I awoke in the middle of the night and felt this peace upon me. Remembering my thoughts, I kept saying over and over, "Have a Caring Heart."
These words were so significant to me since my previous full-time position was robbing me of my idealism.
When you work with the business community words like, "Bottom Line," and "Time is Money," dominates your thoughts. The message was like a pricking in my spirit, to return to my "roots."
That kindness, and caring are the makeup of our hearts.
I discovered how difficult it was to sleep because of fear. It was a worry that if I went to sleep, I would not wake up. That I would die.
Then, I thought, what would become of my wife? I had to get up and walk around, and then returned to my bed. With my wife asleep by my side, I asked God for peace, and I slept very well.
Days later I read man fears three thingsGod, Death and one's mind. A friend later witnessed to me that the devil brings sows fear into our very beings.
In another dream I was standing before a huge car lot, where the salesman pointed out new models available for purchasing. It had every conceivable type of car, golden in color and fairly dripping with fancy designed chrome.
The cars were large, bulky, muscle-types, with every eye-catching intricate pattern possible. The feeling I received was they belonged to successful, powerful, and important 'fat cats.'
The message received in my heart was- not to allow materialism and trappings from this world to capture my attention. This view was only temporary, and metal rusts. That lingering thought occupied my mind, "Metal Rusts! Metal Rusts!"
I went to Halifax hospital to have an ultrasound on my Carotid veins. It meant sitting still for about 45 minutes while this lady pressed something across the back of my neck. Apparently it tested the flow of blood into my brain.
It was now possible to see my back-up doctor, since my own had moved to a new locale, and he confirmed I had a stroke. "A mild one," he said.
"Is there such a thing as an acceptable one?" I wondered. Instructions included, "No driving, smoking, watch your blood pressure, cholesterol and to take it easy for at least one month."
"How could a busy person like me sit still for that long?" I asked.
"Find a hammock and use it," he answered.
I decided to keep notes on the up and down behavior of my body.
"Could not sleep on right side, causes numbness in morning. Writing improved, headaches diminished, numbness restricted to tingle in toes, heel and right calf numbness in first hour of morning only. A combination of nausea and headache comes infrequently. After two hours I am very tired. Eyes well, brain good. I even beat my two nephews Paul and Adam at chess!"
Thankfully I was able to get a new doctor who looked at my notes and reviewed what had happened to me.
She said, "You suffered a trauma and need rest. A minimum of 6 wks to two months or more, and a full recovery is within reach. Do not push it. Take it really easy, no lawn mowing, a little walking, drink lots of water, control salt intake, watch diet, sit down after headaches, call her if anything out of ordinary occurs, numbness will diminish over time, walking up stairs ok, ok to water lawn but be careful, a daily glass or two of red wine very good for heart, ok to go to Exhibition to see Mounties, made RX for anti-stress. No working, no driving and that my condition was caused by blood clotting or leaking in head, only way to cause a stroke. But no evidence of anything now."
"THANK YOU LORD!" And I was to come back in two weeks.
It was wonderful having my first get together with our family, to visit my mother-in-law and celebrate my birthday. Of course, in my excitement I did a little too much walking, and had a severe reaction, which included a massive headache, numbness to my upper mouth, hand, leg and right foot.
But I learned a valuable lesson, to take it easy and not try to recapture too soon the ability to fulfill former activities.
And now almost three years later, I continue to recuperate, and am pleased to have completed a video which has been aired many times on our local Cable vision channel. It's about having patience in overcoming limitations, enjoying love and encouragement from family and friends. And to accept gratefully all prayers sent my way.
I now look forward with confidence, when all limitations are behind me. Simply being able to walk across the floor, lift a cup of hot chocolate, and turn my head to watch my wife's smile is a blessing. These are precious recaptured accomplishments, and I accept them with gratitude. Praise The Lord!
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2003
81 Queen Street, Unit 6, Truro, Nova Scotia
Canada B2N 2B2 Phone (902) 897-2344
Word Count = 1,737 for the above story.
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: email@example.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.
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