When It Rains, It Pours - Part 1
My name is Sterilizer, or Snips for short! You may be wondering how I came up with such a clever derby name...well, I'll tell ya! I embarked on my journey of life on eight wheels while I was working as a medical assistant for a large urology group. Every year when March Madness basketball season came around, we did a spin-off called "Vas Madness." During this time, men were offered a special rate and an awesome gift basket to have their little swimmers cut off from the source. Clinic-wide, there were roughly around 20-3- vasectomies performed on a typical Friday. Let's just say, I am remarkably comfortable reminding Valium-hazed grown men, "You can keep your shirt on; I only need to shave your balls." Long story short: yes, it's a clever name but it's the truth that I AM a Sterilizer.
Enough about my name though! The reason I've agreed to share some of my life stories, is in hopes to inspire those individuals who feel like the universe is against them. My entire existence consists of trial after trial of the most absurd events sprinkled with a few dark moments. My purpose is to tell you, to remind you, to embed in your subconscious, that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. My tales are not censored, nor are they filled with bias or over-exaggeration; the truth is all I present to you. Without further a due, I give you a scene from my original foundation. A life changing event deemed to set the pace of my remarkable journey called life.
Event 1- Setting the Scene
I grew up on a small farm in the tiny town of Middleton, Idaho. I lived with my grandparents, brother and sister, and my mom on the farm until my fifth birthday when my mom bought our house in “downtown Middleton-ha!”. I still spent my days at my grandparents while my mom was at work and then went to the new house in the late evenings. I was raised to work before play so my days consisted of feeding the animals, stocking the firewood, cooking and canning, dirt clod wars in the field, and playing George of the Jungle on the willow vines by the canal. I was rarely ill during my early years but if I were to develop a throat tickle, my grandpa was sure to bust out the Merthiolate and “paint my throat”. (In retrospect, none of us knew how dangerous that stuff was but hey- we never caught strep!)
Anyways, the June before my 7th birthday I got really sick. I’m not talking the regular 6-year-old sickness either. For a full week I had the worst migraine accompanied by vomiting and weakness. My first treatment was a trip to the ER where they gave me an IV and told my mom that I must have consumed pesticides from swimming in the irrigation ditch; they sent me home. The IV gave me some life and the nausea subsided briefly which was a miracle in my mind. The diagnosis really confused me though. Swimming in the ditch? That’s what caused this? Then why didn’t my brother or cousin get sick when we played out there every day!? Why me!? That was the first time I thought those two words. Little did I know, those would later become a familiar manta.
A few days later and still extremely ill, my grandma made me go outside to clean out the chicken coop because “fresh air will do you good”. I remember picking up the rake and it felt so heavy that I couldn’t bring myself to drag it along the ground. My grandma said, “What are you going to do, just stand there?” At that moment, I turned my head to look at her and the world around me shifted. Everything became brighter and brighter until everything was blindingly white. My ears were ringing so loud that I was sure they would burst and then…nothing.
I remember waking up in the soil of the chicken coop with my grandma standing over me trying to help me up. She scurried me inside and called my mom at work (she never does that). I overheard her on the phone, “She needs to go back to the doctor. Something is very wrong.” My mom came home and my second treatment was with the pediatrician. They told her I must have the flu virus that has been going around that summer and told her that I should start drinking Pedialyte and Ensure to stay healthy. I was so happy when I heard that news because that seemed so easy! I figured I would just drink a ton of mixed berry Pedialyte and guzzle a couple of vitamin shakes and I would be back to new in no time. Boy, was I wrong. Making chocolate vita-vomit (as I like to call it) became my artistic masterpiece for the week after that doctor visit.
It was about a week from the 4th of July and the weekend was nearing. We had plans to stay in a cabin up in McCall with my mom’s boyfriend at the time. (PS my mom was pregnant with my sister during all of this). We drove the 4 hours to McCall and my head was still hurting pretty bad but the Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and family excitement had taken the edge off. My brother and I were singing along to “Let the Thunder Roll” in the backseat. Everyone was excited to get out of town as the last couple weeks were agony.
We arrived at the two story cabin and I remembered being amazed that it had stairs because when you’re a kid and you’ve never had a second story, stairs are pretty cool. I remember my brother and I finding a box to slide down the stairs. I only went down once because when I reached the bottom, my world started shifting again and it felt like the floor was giving out beneath me. At the time, I thought I just slid down the stairs too fast. However, it was as if I had a gut-feeling that that was not supposed to be what it felt like to slide down the stairs because I was afraid that if I told my mom about the weird sensation, she would make us go home...so I stayed silent.
The next morning, we went on a horse-back riding tour. We all have a horse chosen for us and mine was the biggest out of them all! I was so stoked to ride the massive chocolate thoroughbred named Moose. I remember the instructor trying to help me into the saddle and I was completely limp because as I went up, it felt like an extra force of gravity was shoving me down. Once I was up in the saddle, things got really weird. I held on to the horn with all my might because the ground was swirling in circles as we walked down the trail. I can still see that dirt trail in my mind. The colors were bright, too bright, and the ground rippled as if I were staring at a puddle that I just
threw a rock in. My body had felt weak and clammy. I held on to the horn with all the strength I could muster because the ground was collapsing as Moose walked me down the trail. I must’ve looked pretty bad because everyone kept asking if I were okay and eventually they cut the tour short so we could leave. I was so relieved to go lie down in the back seat of the ’95 Jeep Cherokee but I was so embarrassed that I ruined the fun for my family.
Our next McCall adventure was the swap meet. I didn’t want to get out of the car because it was just so bright everywhere I looked. My mom’s boyfriend asked if I would like to buy sunglasses and handed me a $5 bill. I walked over to the tent with my eyes squinted almost shut and grabbed the darkest pair of sunglasses I saw. As I reached out to hand the cashier the money, I looked up and everything went completely white-just as before. My mom’s boyfriend caught me before I hit the ground, but that was the last straw for the continued weekend getaway. I don’t remember how I felt, nor do I remember much of the packing and traveling home. It was as if that part never even happened; I was just teleported to my bed at home.
Once we dropped the family off in Middleton, my mom picked up my aunt (her best friend at the time) and the three of us drove to a different hospital this time, in downtown Boise. I remember lying down in the backseat all the way to the hospital. My head hurt so bad that if I sat up or moved I would throw up on my mom’s nice leather seats and I was afraid that I would make her more upset than just ruining the weekend trip. The white tiled halls of the hospital were disorienting. It was as if I were moving in slow motion while the wheels on the wheelchair turned rapidly. My mom told the triage nurse what had been going on and they immediately sent the doctor in to check me out. He gave me an IV and put something in it that made both my tummy and head feel a little better.
A little later I was sent to get a brain scan. After just an hour, the results were in:
I had three aneurysms (a weak spot in an artery or vessel that essentially turns into a balloon) and a thrombus (blood- clot) located in my cerebellum (small walnut-shaped part of the brain attached to the spinal cord). Two of the aneurysms had burst (aka- stroke). Can you believe it!? I had not one, but two strokes at the age of six! - This explains the two unconscious episodes and strange happenings surrounding them.
The next morning, I was rushed into surgery but not before I got to choose my favorite color of bandage that they would wrap my head with (lime green of course). I must admit, I only cared about the green bandage and the promise that I could play Mario Brothers when I got out of recovery. I could care less that they were about to slice and dice my brain as long as it didn’t hurt anymore.
When I woke up, the whole back of my head was shaved and I had a giant incision that was stapled shut. Besides the exterior change of my appearance, I couldn’t see out of my left eye, I couldn’t walk without a walker, I had to take pills every day for high blood pressure, and I couldn’t look up without extreme lack of bearings, falling down, and blacking out. Despite my new impairments, I rocked that Nintendo 64 with one eye and perused the halls while dragging the tennis balls on my walker. I was just so happy to feel semi-normal again. I was discharged from the hospital just in time to celebrate my birthday.
It was a long, painful recovery and it certainly wasn’t my last near-death experience (stay tuned for part 2), but hey! I can see, I can walk, AND I play freaking roller derby now!