It’s been a while since I’ve put up a blog…..we had two hurricanes (great excuse for being busy), but I (Johanna) also had a stroke, during hurricane Maria on September 19th 2017. I remember sitting in my room and only able to mumble words, I had no clue what was going on....my husband Wim recognized the symptoms of a stroke and got me down to the hospital during the middle of the hurricane…and here the roller coaster ride begins.
I was taken out of my room by the firemen that were staying in our hotel, to our truck which was being escorted by a police truck. I remember my head being held by a police officer and sometimes stopping because the police jeep would remove limbs from trees off the road on our way down to the hospital.
By the time I reached the emergency room, I could no longer mumble and speak.
I felt no pain – only anguish. I was trapped inside a body that could not work and could not communicate. I formed thoughts and sentences but could do nothing with them. My mind raced. I remember seeing my parents, my best friend Karen, Picky, Julio and Wim all coming in to visit…but we could not connect verbally.
After about 18 hours, in between rain storms, they were able to send me off in a helicopter to St. Kitts and then they placed me in a low flying medical jet to Bonaire.
Once on Bonaire, there are about 5 days where I don’t remember much, people were coming and going, I was moved around, and finally it came…I recognized people. Wim of course, but also who were the doctors and nurses, they were all so nice and helpful. But I still could not speak. I wondered what my life would be like in this new, isolated state. It was intensely lonely. I felt like no one could understand what was happening to me, and I was scared that maybe no one ever would be able to really understand me again.
I discovered a clock and I could figure out when Wim would visit me and looked at the comings and goings of the trauma unit and slept. After a few days my speech slowly returned and I was moved out of emergency care to the regular hospital. I was in the hospital for about a week. I hopped around (the whole right side of my body was lame), did all kinds of tests from writing to a psychologist checking on my wellbeing. I finally begged the doctor to let me go to the hotel with Wim.
They released me! We stayed in the hotel and I went to therapy while we waited until I was cleared to fly. On October 21st we flew home to Saba, limping, but left the wheelchair behind!
I am still in therapy, fighting through the pain and fear of rehabilitation, and coming to grips with the understanding that some of my abilities may be different now. But I won’t give up, and I am still seeing a difference every day!
Although this experience is still so new (almost 4 months), I have come to look at life a lot differently. I am so thankful for my friends who graciously and diligently support me. Without them, I may not have been able to return to the amazing life I have. If there's one thing I've learned from this experience, it's that life is a lot more fragile than we think; one day we are living our best lives and the next we are put in situations that test our will to fight.
I would also like to take this moment to thank all the people that were involved in my recovery, Saba Health Care, Bonaire Fire Department, Police Department Saba, Island Government of Saba, Fundashon Mariadal, Fysio Di Bario and the therapist on Saba.
Last but not least, all our Juliana’s and Tropics staff, thank you for taking care of our business, after the hurricane and getting everything up and running again, and for your continued efforts. We can’t thank you enough, we love you!
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