It’s so cliché, “everything happens for a reason,” isn’t it? But if the saying is a source of comfort and greater understanding, is there such a thing as overuse of the phrase? As I continue to reflect on Mom Season and other events that have brought our family to this point, I continually take comfort in my belief that, inconsequential things aside, everything happens for a reason. Of course, at the time, we don’t always recognize or understand the reasoning behind certain events.
This was the case with an event that took place three years ago this month. It was Memorial Day Weekend and we still lived in Southern California. My husband had already left for his swing shift at the hospital. My cousin was having a BBQ and swim party at his home. I decided to bring the kids to the party on my own. I let the girls swim with family, while Auggie and I sat poolside. It was time for us to go home so I went in the bathroom to help my daughter get out of her swimsuit. I wanted to wash my hands before helping her, so I reached out for the soap and my left arm went limp. It came down like a ton of bricks and knocked the soap over into the sink. Before I could even process what had happened, my left leg went limp and I leaned into the sink to hold myself up. I remember being inside my head saying, “Call for help! Scream! Why can’t you talk?!” No sooner had panic sunk in when all of my strength returned and I was able to talk and move about as if nothing had happened. Still shaken up from the strange event, I left my daughter in the bathroom to let my aunt know what had happened. I asked her to check on me if I didn’t come out in a normal amount of time. I still felt fuzzy headed and disoriented, but I seemed to have all of my facilities about me so I pressed forward.
Not knowing what to do and having no witnesses, except for my unaware daughter, I tried contacting my husband to get his insight. No answer. I shared my event with a couple of family members, as I was concerned about driving home. However, seeing that I was now fine, it was presumed that the heat had gotten to me. Having lost my strength in my left arm, I had immediately thought that I was either having a heart attack or a stroke. My heart felt fine, so I crossed that off of my list. If it was a stroke, it wasn’t what I had understood of them then. So, I got in my car and drove my three kids home and asked my eldest, who was only 6 at the time, to help keep an eye on me. What she could have done to save us while driving on the freeway should another episode occur, I knew not, but somehow I needed her eyes on me as back-up.
As soon as we were home, I did the bedtime routine and sat on the couch and did what any sane person would do – hit the Internet. I went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole in relation to TIA‘s (mini-strokes) that night. I also happened to remember about how my physician had told me that I should take a baby aspirin due to a blood disease I was born with called Spherocytosis. The blood disease is noted by the red blood cells being in a spherical shape versus a disc shaped, thus increasing the chance for stroke due to clotting (though Wikipedia is not stating this, multiple physicians have discussed this connection with me). Somewhere in the middle of the rabbit hole, my husband finally had a chance to call me back. His first response was, “It sounds like a TIA.” He then asked some of the Emergency Department (ED) Physicians their thoughts and they all said the same. I then realized two things: I should have gone to the ED immediately and I should have been taking that baby aspirin for years.
A round-about diagnosis isn’t iron clad, so I thought I would head to a specialist. I’ll skip through this part a bit faster, as I don’t mean to draw this story out. An MRI was ordered. It came back clear. An Ultrasound was ordered for my heart. It also came back clear. One final test, per the Neurologist’s orders – an EEG. As soon as the electrodes were taken off my head and the tester let me walk out the door, I assumed I was fine or else she wouldn’t have allowed me to drive myself home. A few days later I got the call straight from the physician. We all know that when the call comes from the physician it is not good news. So, as I sat poolside again, plugging one ear with my finger and trying to hear the physician through the phone in my other, all I heard was “non-epileptic seizure.” What the freak was that supposed to mean?!
Oh heavens, I’ve gone and done it again. Too many details. Let’s just get to the part that pisses me off, whaddya say? Based on this lame-I-don’t-even-know-what-that-means diagnosis, my driver’s license got revoked. That’s right, folks! Because the physician deemed it seizure related, he notified the DMV that I should have my driver’s license taken away from me. It still enrages me. So, I got a second opinion, obviously. The new physician calls BS on the first diagnosis and signs off on the paperwork for me to get my license back. The second opinion was that I had a stress-induced episode or severe migraine that resulted in weaknesses. Also, a pretty lame diagnosis, but it got me my license back. Plus, by that time, there was no way to prove I had experienced a TIA, though all signs seemed to point in that direction.
The description of this event took me five lengthy paragraphs to convey, but I feel that it accurately captures how the episode disrupted my life for several months. It was a scary and frustrating process to work through. But, everything happens for a reason, right?
That same Memorial Day Weekend, my Dad and Step Mom were up visiting Central Oregon to scout it out and see if it was where they wanted to retire. My husband and I had toyed around with the idea of leaving Southern California, but it never seemed to feel right. I specifically remember, while driving home from my cousin’s house, thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” Whether it was heat stroke, a TIA, a seizure, or whatever, it felt scarier dealing with it alongside the stress I was already feeling in my daily life with the pressures of living in Southern California. I desperately wanted Central Oregon to be the answer for my parents, so it could also be the answer for our nuclear family. It turns out that it was. That episode, whatever it was, was one more confirmation for me that it was time for us to leave Southern California. As much as I miss my family, friends, Disneyland, the beach, and sporting events down in Southern California, our move to Central Oregon was one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made.
So, that puts a little purpose behind the actual episode itself, but what about the misdiagnosis? Why call the episode a seizure when the symptoms were the opposite from the way a seizure behaves? It’s safe to say, based on my very real Stroke of Luck, that the episode three years ago was in fact a TIA. Had I been taking my baby aspirin, perhaps it would not have happened. The full stroke that I had recently was believed to be postpartum related, which I have learned is quite common. The baby aspirin can only take on so much. Due to my stroke, my current Neurologist has now diagnosed that first episode as a TIA. per the knowledge we now have with more EEGs, MRIs, and CT Scans having been performed.
With the proper diagnosis of my 2012 episode in mind, I recently sat on the couch befuddled about why we had to go through that whole drawn out process. I told my husband how annoyed I was with that first doctor, his misdiagnosis and the actions he took to revoke my driver’s license. He simply responded, “He was a blessing to us.” I sat there trying to come up with any possible reason as to how this physician, who was generally annoying to begin with, could have been a blessing to us. My husband, obviously seeing my confusion, added, “If he had diagnosed you with a TIA, we would have never had Hans. We would have known the risk of a postpartum stroke and stopped having kids.” His words hit me so hard that I immediately thanked my Heavenly Father for His tender mercies in our lives and took comfort in knowing that everything happens for a reason.
We don’t always see it at the time, but there is a bigger picture with greater purpose in our lives. I cannot imagine our family without Hans in it. He completed us. Yes, the period of postpartum after Hans did result in a stroke, but even that happened for a reason. That stroke happened for reasons already known and reasons yet understood. I am truly humbled by my husband’s insight and how it has strengthened my faith. And this is just one experience of many. I look back at events that seemed to have no greater meaning than heartbreak and pain, but that is not the case. I have a testimony that everything happens for a reason. That reason is that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows each of us, knows our needs, and knows our potential. These things happen for a reason, because He wants to give us every opportunity to succeed. He wants this for everyone, believers and non-believers alike. I know that if we are pure in heart, He will provide a way for us to return to Him and everything leading up to that moment will have happened for a reason.