In the blink of an eye

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It was October 16th. I woke up, ate breakfast, got ready, and went to school. It was a day just like any other. While driving I thought offhand I should have called my grandmother, but didn’t follow through with it. I couldn’t have known that dismissive moment would be the cause of my ever-nagging regret. Once class ended, I drove home, ate dinner with my family, and went to the gym. An ordinary day, until the phone rang at midnight.

I was in my room when my dad answered the phone. I listened from the other line just like I used to do as a kid. The only difference was I wasn’t being a sneaky 10-year-old eavesdropping on a conversation between two friends; I was a 20-year-old with a sinking feeling in my stomach as I listened in on the call. It was my uncle on the phone talking with my father about his mother-in-law. My grandmother.

“She fell and (grandfather) can’t lift her up.” My heart sank. I knew something was wrong. Before their conversation had even ended, I darted up the stairs to my parents’ room. I don’t think I ever ran up those stairs as fast as I did that Friday morning. There was an eerie sort of calm when my dad hung up the phone. We woke up my mom and sister, and we all got into my dad’s truck and made our way to my grandparents’ house.

The series of events that transpired over the next 12 hours have made me appreciate the little things so much more, and the next six months after that have changed my life. I’m still trying to adjust to the many changes that came with my grandmother’s stroke.

The ride to their house that morning was the quietest, longest and most painful 15 minutes I’ve ever endured. The radio was off, so there was nothing but the tires moving on the road to distract me. Once we arrived, I ran to the door of the house where I’ve shared so many memories with my family. I saw my grandfather pacing back and forth. I had never seen him so distraught.

My grandfather tried extremely hard to appear strong, but anyone could see that he was upset. My mom flew past me and went into my grandparents’ bedroom. It was then I heard was her yell out for someone to get her the phone. Judging from her voice, I knew she had been crying which added more stress to the intensity of what was happening. Walking into the bedroom with the phone, I found my grandmother laying on the floor in her nightgown. Her right arm was bent and shaking against her chest, her eyes were vacant, and she was making sounds, but not any sense.

"The strongest woman on the entire planet, who has done so much for me was lying on her bedroom floor in her most helpless state and I couldn’t do anything to help."                                        - Maria Dardano

The moment I saw her, I fell to my knees. She said my name and the tears wouldn’t stop even if I tried. The strongest woman on the entire planet, who has done so much for me, was lying on her bedroom floor in her most helpless state and I couldn’t do anything to help. That was the first time I thought I was going to lose her and it was just the beginning of the worst night of my life.

My grandmother suffered from a hemorrhaging stroke on Oct. 16th, 2014. What that means is, her brain was surrounded by blood. My grandmother was, and still is the hardest working 77-year-old I’ve ever met. She never got sick, and never complained. The only thing she would ever complain about was that we weren’t eating enough. She is the most selfless woman on the planet. While she was in the hospital, she was worried about everyone else in the family more than her own health.

My grandmother was admitted into the Foothills Hospital from Oct. 16th, 2014, moved to the Fanning Center Nov. 10th, 2014, and returned back home March 13, 2015. These specific dates are imprinted on my mind.

The night of her stroke, the entire family spent the night in the ER. Social workers gave us a separate room with a couch, television, and a sink. I remember my uncle saying that this was the room they went to before his mother died, so you could imagine the thoughts that were going through my head. Hour by hour, and grandchild by grandchild, we sat with her. The feeling of emotional turmoil I went through every time I saw her will never leave me. There were times she wouldn’t even recognize me, and times she knew everything about me. I would quiz her on the simple things like “how many grandchildren do you have?” or “what’s your husband’s name?” and the sigh of relief I would get when she would answer a question right was the most bittersweet feeling in the world. I was ecstatic that she was alert, but so upset that I had to quiz my grandmother on things she would normally know so easily.

The hardest thing to watch was my sister. I could tell from her eyes that she was worried, and all I wanted to do was promise her everything was going to be okay but I wasn’t even all that sure myself. She was truly emotionally and physically exhausted.

Body ImageCaterina Parrottino and Nicola Parrottino, photographed in their home, have been married for more than 50 years, and their love and appreciation for each other has never been so strong. Photo by: Maria Dardano

My sister and I stayed at the hospital until noon the next day and took a short trip home to shower and eat. I remember getting a text from my mom basically saying that if her brain doesn’t stop bleeding and her blood pressure doesn’t go down, she would die. I texted my cousin, Adam, and told him to call me right away. He was at a show the night before so he had no idea what had happened yet. It was the first time I’d ever heard him cry. He rushed over to my house and we made our way back to the hospital.

I took the week off of school to spend time with my grandmother at the hospital. It’s really sad, but this was the first time I honestly thought everyday would be my last with her. I was willing to fail every course if it meant I got to cherish every minute with my grandmother. Every morning, my mom and I woke up at 8 a.m., drove my sister to school, and made our way to the hospital. I still have the route to that hospital memorized. Everyday was the same – a visit from the doctor, nurses checking her vitals, listening to my grandmother stress about the lack of food in her home. Only when my grandmother would sleep, we would take trips to the cafeteria. Near the end of the week, physiotherapists started to treat her. There was a moment where the therapist told her to look down to the left where her arm is. My grandmother looked over, and in shock, she said, “that’s my arm?”

The next week I went back to school, and for weeks I would go to school during the day, come home, eat dinner with my family, and we’d rush over to the hospital, and after Nov. 10th, we would rush to the care centre instead of the hospital. We would stay well past visiting hours because my grandmother would always have a panic attack – she didn’t want to be alone.

Fast forward to today. My grandmother is home and her mood has improved immensely. She constantly talks about how happy she is, and how one day she will walk again. She is now able to walk with a cane and with the supervision of her caretaker. It’s a struggle for her, but the fact that she can move again brings her great joy.

Her stroke was the most shocking and life-changing event that has ever happened to me, and this past year has taught me how short life really is. It has taught me to tell the people I love how much I love and appreciate them at any possible moment. My grandmother has lost her ability to take care of herself, yet she thanks God everyday for her life. When I am her age, I hope to be half the woman she is because she is truly amazing.

Now I finally get to spend Sunday dinner with my Nonna again. And although she didn’t prepare the food, she’s at the table with us in the home where she took care of all of us and that’s all that matters.

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The editor responsible for this article is Masha Scheele, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.