Robert Hitt Neill Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tape made Neill think he had a stroke

I was barely awake, in that state where I was slowly thinking, aware of what was happening but not really awake enough to react, know what I mean? Out here at Brownspur we don’t have any night lights or street lights (streets, either, for that matter) so it’s really dark at night unless there’s a full moon. Or a house fire, which we’ve had a couple of.

So I wasn’t really focused on anything, because there was nothing to see, unless I wanted to look leftward at the red digital clock on my bedside table. But I only seemed to have sight (in the darkness!) out of my right eye.

I slowly turned my head on the pillow to look at the clock. I couldn’t see it. Maybe the electricity had blinked off, and that’s what had woken me up. No, I could still hear the ceiling fan. I eased my head a little further to the left, and the clock said 4:12.

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I couldn’t open my left eye!

That’s the eye I shoot with, my master eye. What was going on?

Now I was sore afraid of actually waking up all the way, because I knew something was wrong with me: a stroke?  Wasn’t there a palsy – maybe Bell’s – that caused one’s eyelid to droop? Should I pray for it to be palsy instead of a stroke?

Understand that I’ve had five major concussions: two football, two Navy, and one a chainsaw accident only a year ago. They told me after the fourth one not to ever get another, but it’s not like I go walking around actually looking for accidents, you know? They just seem to happen more to me.

So, thinking that, I reasoned that it was a stroke. Had it affected my whole left side? I was lying with my left knee kind of bent up (well, it doesn’t straighten out all the way anymore since it was reconstructed after I stepped almost on that copperhead) and my hand was sort of resting atop my knee.

So I gently scratched my leg, to see if I still had feeling in it. I could not feel a thing. Now I was beginning to actually regain consciousness and worry: was it that I had no feeling in my left leg, or was my hand not moving to do the scratching I had ordered?

Then I remembered that just above my left kneecap was a dead zone resulting from the knee reconstruction 25 years ago, plus a brown recluse spider bite two decades later. Even if my fingers were working, I couldn’t feel anything where they were scratching anyway. I shifted in the bed, and my leg did move. I raised my hand some and scratched higher – hey, I could feel that!

Okay, I had feeling in my leg, and could move my left arm and leg. Maybe it was Bell’s Palsy after all. I raised my head and looked at the clock again.

My left eyelid stayed shut, but it was now 4:33, I could see from my right eye. Should I wake Betsy up to take me to the hospital? Let’s see, my insurance agent had experienced Bell’s Palsy a couple years ago, as had my old Choir Director: was it too early to call Randy or Rick and ask their advice? Assuming that I could still walk and talk, of course.

I sat part of the way up in bed, to see if I felt woozy. Seemed okay. I raised my hand to see if I could lift the eyelid, so that I’d know if I had sight in my left eye,  which I probably would not, if this was a stroke.

Several years ago, Betsy brought me a little gift from the pharmaceutical division of a large store.

She declared as she presented the box to me, “I don’t know if these things will help you to sleep better or not. But I think that if you will wear them, it’ll sure help ME to sleep better!”

In the box were some little plastic adhesive nose strips, the kind that you see some football players wearing on TV. They helped her sleep well enough that she has kept me an ample supply ever since that first night.

During the night, I had apparently turned over on the pillow, and the adhesive nose strip had gotten shifted off of my nose. It now had my left eyelid pasted securely down, from eyebrow to nose. I lifted the sticky adhesive slowly.

Yet another miraculous recovery for your Uncle Bob! I went to make coffee.