For most people, Valentine’s Day is just another Hallmark holiday designed to entice us to buy cards, candy and flowers.
This day has a unique meaning for me. On February 14, 1999, I woke up with a severe headache and couldn’t move the left side of my body during the sixth month of my second pregnancy. My younger son was 22 months old. I was 35. My husband woke up that day thinking his biggest problem was going to be where to buy me flowerts.
When I got to the ER, my pupils were fixed and dilated because my brain stem functions (respiration, heart beat) were beginning to shut down.
A CAT scan showed an extremely large cerebral hemhorrhage that needed to be stopped in order for me and the baby to survive.
I had a craniotomy, a surgery whereby the neurosurgeon opened my skull to stop the bleeding and clean up the mess in my brain.
I was put into a coma for a week to keep me still while I healed.
When I woke up, I couldn’t move a muscle on the left side of my body. My personality was “flat”, meaning I showed no affect whatsoever.
I had to lie in my hospital bed until the baby was born because rehab hospitals wouldn’t admit a pregnant woman. We did physical therapy in the hospital to get me up and walking and to stretch my paralyzed arm. I became depressed.
On April 3, 1999, I went into labor and delivered a 5 lb. 6 oz. baby boy who was remarkably healthy, if 6 weeks premature.
On April 8, 1999, I was admitted to a rehab hospital to build my strength and regain the ability to walk and care for myself. The baby went to stay with my parents throughout the six weeks I was an inpatient so my husband could run his business and care for our older son.
I returned home on May 15, 1999 to begin the arduous task of rebuilding my life and adjusting to living with a disability.
I made a dramatic recovery over the next six months, learning to walk with a cane and a brace on my leg, drive one handed, and perform self care tasks on my own. We were able to hire live-in nannies to take care of my babies, ages 2 years and 2 months.
Through hard work and determination, I continued to slowly recover. I went to outpatient physical therapy before insurance coverage ended when I began exercising on my own to build strength and some modicum of coordination.
I took antidepressants to fight the postpartum and organic depression brought on by the brain damage and horrible life circumstances. I used a wheelchair for several months after returning home. My toddlers thought it was the greatest toy.
The first year after the hemhorrhage was one of the worst of my life. The entire universe had been rearranged during the three months I spent in the hospital. When I went home, I had to face a totally new world with only the right half of my body functioning properly. My cognitive abilities slowly improved, and I realized I was just lucky to be alive as approximately 70% of patients who have a brain bleed don’t survive.
My husband of 13 years suffered enormous losses and challenges as well, trying to adjust to profound changes in his wife. We struggled to create a “new normal” between us. The bulk of the work of caring for 2 babies fell on him every weekend as our help did not stay with us. In addition, he faced helping me to care for myself. Over time, he also became depressed.
I lived in chronic pain from my spastic muscles. Doctors prescribed narcotics to help ease the discomfort. The drugs helped for a short time then began to nauseate me.
My husband started to take the narcotics for both recreational and medicinal purposes. In short order, he was addicted. It was not helpful for our efforts to rebuild a marriage with one party being on drugs on top of our myriad other challenges. Progress was painfully slow, like my own recovery.
There are some who believe that whatever gains you achieve in a year after a brain injury is all you can expect, while others tout the plasticity of the brain that will allow you to continue to recover throughout the rest of your life.
I powered through living with limited mobility, loss of the ability to enjoy my hobbies and sports such as knitting, hiking, skiing, and ice skating. I loved to travel and my mobility issues made this extremely complicated. I was steadily cognizant of the fact that I was lucky to be alive and have my sons. I became determined to enjoy my life as much as possible.
By Valentine’s Day of 2000, I was independent in terms of walking and caring for myself. I remember the day when I woke up and realized that being disabled was going to suck for the rest of my life. I questioned if antidepressants would be necessary to help me cope in perpetuity. I decided to figure out another way to manage my depressing situation and stopped taking the medication and instead made the conscious decision to focus on the good that remained in my life rather than what was lost.
The annual advent of Valentine’s Day reminds me to take inventory of how much love is in my life, both in terms of those I have in my life to love, and those who love me. This year, I sent the 19th Valentine card to the neurosurgeon who saved two lives that freezing February morning in 1999. It will always be a true cause for celebration.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the liturgical celebration and romantic holiday. For Brazil’s corresponding celebration, see Dia dos Namorados. For uses of Valentine, see Valentine. For other uses, see Valentine’s Day (disambiguation).
“St. Valentine’s Day” redirects here. For the Bing Crosby album, see St. Valentine’s Day (album).
1909 Valentine’s card
Also calledSaint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint ValentineObserved byPeople in many countries;
Anglican Communion (see calendar)
Lutheran Church (see calendar)TypeChristian, cultural, commercialSignificanceFeast day of Saint Valentine; the celebration of love and affectionObservancesSending greeting cards and gifts, dating, church servicesDate
- February 14
(fixed by the Western Christian Church)
- July 6
(fixed by the Eastern Orthodox Church)
- July 30
(fixed by the Eastern Orthodox Church)
Types of love[show]
Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.
Several martyrdom stories associated with the various Valentines that were connected to February 14 were added to later martyrologies, including a popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome which indicated he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.
The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards(known as “valentines”). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church. Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).