Developing Resilience: How Rock Bottom Became a Solid Foundation
Part 2: The Aftermath
The morning after I came home from the hospital, I woke up at 7 am to get ready for physical therapy. For the foreseeable future, my life would be mundane. 3 days a week, I would have someone drive me to physical therapy, as I was unable to drive until cleared by a doctor. The rest of the day would be spent resting and recovering. I also had a meeting with administration at Penn State Behrend to determine my future as a college student later in the week. I didn’t look forward to the meeting, and after speaking with several people involved in administration and those that worked with students with disabilities, it became clear that there wasn’t an easy solution to my situation. “School will always be here, maybe you should take some time to recover,” is what I was told. With that, my mom and I agreed that medically withdrawing from school was the best choice, and I filled out the paperwork to withdraw from the college I had worked most of my high school career to attend. As I walked off of Penn State’s campus, I left my confidence and passion for life behind.
I returned to work training dogs about a month after I came home from the hospital. While my parents were worried I was returning too quick, I didn’t care. The house had become something like a prison to me, and I needed to occupy my time. I struggled with severe fatigue and limited motor skills in my left hand, which made some jobs difficult, if not impossible. Life was an endless routine of physical therapy and work. When an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class was available for me to take through the fire department, I jumped on the chance. While I had my firefighter training already, I did not have my EMT certification and was eager to earn it. It was through these things that I kept my mind off of the thought of heart surgery that would be happening whenever the cardiac surgeon called me to schedule. While I tried to keep my mind occupied, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was suffering with severe depression. I was constantly angry; wondering what I had done so wrong to deserve these cards I was dealt. I eventually decided to try counseling, where I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression caused by PTSD. I refused medication, and I told myself that I wasn’t like the people that needed antidepressants. I was somehow above medication, and I would be just fine on my own. Looking back, it was my stubborn tendency to refuse the help of others that would cause me to spiral into a horrible mental state.
Heart surgery was scheduled for February 13, 2019 at 7 am. The night before, we traveled the two hours to Pittsburgh and stayed in a hotel near the hospital. I didn’t sleep at all, and before I knew it I was being wheeled into the operating room. When the surgery was over, I was told there were some very minor complications and that a needle had most likely nicked a vein, causing some uncontrolled internal bleeding. The result of this bleeding was a hematoma that made sitting up or moving my legs incredibly painful. Back spasms caused by laying flat to help control the bleeding had me in so much pain that I began begging for something to help me rest more comfortably. After the pain was regulated, I stayed in the hospital for one sleepless night before I was discharged the next evening. After a long drive home, I began a regimen of blood thinner injections and slowly getting back into the physical shape I had been before the stroke. The endless rollercoaster of health problems and the rapid changing of my life as I knew it left me discouraged, confused, and unhappy. While I knew I was in a dark place, I didn’t know how, or if, there was a way out of it. All I knew is that I wasn’t done fighting yet.
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