Fighting to Stay Alive
Succeeding Against All Odds
After barely surviving a hemorrhagic stroke, I knew I'd have to give everything left in me if I wanted a second chance at life. I began rehabilitation therapy as soon as I came out of the coma and chose the six weeks across the street instead of 'six months recovering at home.' It's obvious now my brain was still injured and out of whack from the severe swelling and bleeding, but I know I made the right decision.
The motto at the rehabilitation hospital was, 'no ifs, no butts,' and I lived by it as if my life depended on it, and it did.
Every therapy session was extremely exhausting and painful, especially speech; my brain literally hurt from all the thinking, but I never quit. I knew I could quit but I was testing my own cognitive limits, and the therapist would ask me to take breaks, but I declined each one.
I really wanted someone to wheel me around the hospital, massage my feet, but I was either too shy or scared to ask; I was afraid they'd refuse. After begging doctors and anyone who'd listen that I wanted and needed to go home, I was discharged to follow up with home care for another six weeks then outpatient for another six. I was diligently doing all my exercises during and after each session and trying hard to do anything I could on my own even if I had to crawl around the house or drag myself on my bottom.
Soon I begged my siblings to look for volunteer work because the walls were beginning to cave in and shrinking around me; I knew I wouldn't survive if I stayed home.
I found volunteer jobs at my local hospital and elementary school, and I was doing well until a psycho psychiatrist decided to put an end to all my progress, well, almost; I'd started school to resume a Master's degree....
Going back to school was my ticket to staying alive, literally, but then I realized ground school wasn't for me because I wasn't driving, and wouldn't think to drive till I had my driving evaluation at the rehabilitation hospital; so my advisor suggested I withdraw so I wouldn't jeopardize my grade, and that's what I did. I then realized my professor had a talk with my advisor about my PowerPoint Presentation for a midterm exam. I do recall having had a funny reaction during my presentation, and I think I scared the professor, and maybe even the students, and the professor had told me she'd 'have to hold me to university standards,' and I said nothing and expected no differently because I didn't think or couldn't think about accommodations. The irony is that she had to be aware of ADA and reasonable accommodations because she was head of SELPA, a county-wide special education program. She was also the same person who gave me her 'personal guarantee' that she'd get help for my students when a student who was rejected by a 'machote' teacher was placed in my classroom and ended up insulting, ranting for over a month, and assaulting me in front of the entire class; small world, now she was my professor and played me for stupid, too bad.
As soon as I withdrew from CSUCI, I started looking for online programs and visited many locally but didn't find what I was looking for; once I even felt discouraged when a staff from the front desk of a 'military school' told me I was 'walking too slow.' I was barely beginning to use my cane instead of a walker, and that comment really hurt, but I didn't let him get to me; I kept away from military schools/universities but ended up enrolling in a Christian one. I had a lot of challenges and faced online/harassment and discrimination by professors, but I didn't give up because I felt it was the only thing really keeping me going, and I had an excellent person whom I thought was my academic counselor but was really just my recruiting advisor. She was the person whom I'd call and talk to whenever I didn't understand a professor, assignment, or how to use the 'virtual classroom,' but soon she left campus, and I was left with my actual academic advisor who'd actually and sternly suggest I should 'quit the program.' Her comment obviously made me very angry because I expected support, not being thrown into another suicidal episode. It was a good thing I'd already started writing, and that helped me release anger in a healthier way, but I wasn't going to quit school because that had never been me, and I wasn't about to start now. I stayed in the program but would periodically flashback to the professor who kept removing my post and telling other students: "Nobody reply to this post!! It's on the wrong forum!!" She'd also remove other posts that were where they were supposed to, but when I addressed the issues with her, she'd always say it was the Tech Team who'd removed them, but I'd already spoken to Tech, and they always told me 'only the instructor could remove posts,' and I knew that. This professor also told me: I know you've been talking to your advisors about me. I guess that was supposed to scare me from telling my advisors about her constant harassing phone calls; again, this instructor almost caused me to quit, but I'd sworn I wouldn't let anybody make me quit no matter what it took. As long as I knew I was doing the right thing, nobody would break me, and I finished and got my degree.
About the author
Ms. Gallegos came from Mexico as a teen; she went to university, and got her teaching credential.She graduated with her M.A. June 2015 after a severe stroke. Works have appeared in Silver Birch Press, Lummox, https://poetry309.wordpress.com