Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my mom that I needed to go see my father immediately — she was driving down from Clayton, but she couldn’t get there in time, and he was seriously ill and potentially in need of help. I left work without even telling my boss — just up and walked out. I talked to my aunt, and on my way to her apartment (where he stays during the week), she told me to reroute my GPS to Northside Hospital.
In the morning, my father suffered a stroke. However, he did not get attention until the late afternoon, so there wasn’t much the hospital could do but put him on blood thinners and run some tests to see what was going on. It turned out that the stroke was what they call a vertebral artery dissection — it is a rare stroke which is not actually caused by a clot, but by the separating of the walls of an artery. In this sense, the entire artery on the back of his neck on the left side has, as far as I can understand it, disintegrated. This mostly affects his cerebellum, which affects balance and coordination (especially on the left side, due to the artery affected).
So, long story short, there is good news: Dad will be okay. He will probably have to go through a significant amount of physical therapy to regain coordination and balance, and he will be on blood thinners for the rest of his life…but his intelligence has not been affected (which really worried him for a little while), and his snarky character…well, that most definitely remains in tact. The doctors expect a full or nearly full recovery, hopefully within six months.
Right now, Dad is still disoriented and weak…and he has a serious case of the hiccups (more than 24 hrs now) which absolutely will not go away (or let him sleep). However, he is mostly in tact — in tact enough, at the very least, to assure the chaplain who came to wish us well that he is most definitely pagan. The conversation went something like this:
Chaplain: “We’re here 24hrs a day if you need us. You’re in good hands.”
Dad: (hand in the air) “I just want to let you know — I’m a pagan.”
Dad: “I practice every religion’s fertility rituals, and the rest is a la carte.”
Chaplain: (really long awkward pause, red face)
Mom: “Oh, oh Bob. You’re luck you’re sick or I’d hit you right now.”
Chaplain: “Well, you’re in good hands, and we’re right down the hall.”
As of this moment, one cousin (Scott) has flown in from Texas to help out in the hospital for the weekend and another (Chris) is driving down from Chattanooga to watch the house and pets for mom. Mom will drive to Clayton tomorrow while Scott stays with Dad so that she can pack a real bag and make sure the cabin is taken care of while she’s away.
I have to admit, I am shocked and awed by the response from friends and family. My cousins just dropped all their work to come help us, despite living a considerable distance away. The volleyball community which my Dad is a huge part of has also leaped into action — there is a website dedicated to wishing Dad well, and the volleyball mothers have formed a cooking schedule so that my mom is eating homemade food every meal and never has to leave the hospital room to get it. The volleyball coaches are already sorting out a schedule to cover for my Dad, and everyone’s working to get everything done.
I wanted to thank the community I’m closest to — all my dancers and Emory friends — for being supportive. When this all happened yesterday, I was scheduled to babysit that night and to work on choreography, and I couldn’t find the right phone numbers or get in touch with the right people…but man, it all worked out. Evin helped me get in touch with Erica, Erica made sure I didn’t have to come get Alanna, and Heather was ready at any moment to bring me whatever I needed. I was barely coherent on the phone, and I cannot express how much I appreciated the support of my friends.
If anyone is curious in keeping up with his progress or wants to leave a note wishing him well (whether or not you’ve even met him — honestly, every warm thought and prayer helps), you can go to the following website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bobwestbrook.
He’s a funny, intelligent, and kind man, and I love him dearly.