I have a friend, one of my best friends in the world, who is having a rough time of it right now. We've known each other for over 15 years, and each of us has been heard to describe the other as "my brother from another mother." It was one of those friendships that was immediate. The more we discovered about each other, the more we realized how very much alike we are. Same eclectic pop culture tastes. Same books and authors loved. About our only major difference is that he is a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, while I have always loathed football. Apart from that, though, we are the two peas in the proverbial pod.
I'll call him "Dan."
Dan went to San Francisco to visit daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren for the Christmas holidays. He was going to come back to work after Christmas weekend while his wife stayed on to help with child care. The daycare out in Frisco closes for the week of Christmas/New Year, but their parents' jobs do not, so Dan's wife was going to help out as a live-in nanny-granny.
Just before he was due to travel home, right after returning from a tour of Alcatraz, Dan suffered what he later called a "small stroke." He lost speech for about 20 minutes, but recovered. He was hospitalized and spent two days in hospital out there. The doctors pronounced him well enough to travel and he flew home as scheduled so that he could resume work on the Monday after Christmas. I learned all this when he called me to ask if he could rely on me to pick him up at the airport, should he not feel up to driving home from the airport in Baltimore. I, of course, said yes. Dan called me when he arrived home to let me know that he felt well enough to make the trip alone. He sounded fine. A couple of days later, on the 30th of December, he called me again to ask me for my doctor's phone number. His own doctor was not returning his calls. Again, Dan sounded fine. He saw my doctor, spent a couple of hours with him, and my doctor also thought he was OK, even though the circumstances were somewhat worrying.
Then on New Year's Eve we got a panicked call from Dan's wife, still in California. She had tried to reach him several times, and when she finally got hold of him, he sounded "off" to her on the phone. She asked us to go over to their home and check on him. We ran right over. We found Dan disoriented, having trouble finding the word he was looking for, and generally not himself. We got him to the ER, and that's where I spent New Year's Eve.
Ultimately it was decided to admit Dan. He's been in the hospital ever since. It was determined after testing that he had suffered at least six or seven strokes since returning home. They also discovered that he was a previously undiagnosed insulin-dependent diabetic. We also learned that in between his doctor visit here and his New Year's Eve crisis he had been involved in a fender-bender in a parking lot a couple of miles from his house, and after he was ticketed by local law enforcement, he decided to walk home rather than risk driving. None of his friends knew about this until afterwards, nor did he call any of us for assistance.
Dan is currently in hospital while the doctors attempt to determine where the blood clots are coming from that are causing his strokes. He is having extreme difficulty with names and finding words. He may or may not recognize friends. And his right hand isn't "working right," as he puts it. All of which is extremely frustrating for him. Right now he's mostly agitated and angry, but I'm afraid that depression isn't too far away.
I feel pretty depressed myself. I tell myself that there isn't anything more I could have done, that I couldn't possibly have known the extent of the problem, but all that leaves me with is the hope that he will "feel better soon."
If you are over 50 and not regularly seeing a physician, start seeing one. If you smoke, quit. If you drink, cut back. There are people who care about you, and who want you to be around for a long, long, long time ... without the emptiness of hoping that you might "feel better soon."