While the memoir has been published, I continue to do dumbass shit every day. This blog will sometimes feature book promotion, things I’ve learned through the publishing process or past 12 years since my life-changing injuries, and brain aneurysm-related news; but often it will be a trove of stupidity-induced anecdotes, meant to make you laugh and/or feel a little better about your own situation. That’s what today’s post will be, although it will eventually lead back to the brain aneurysm thing.
The weekend of April 21, 2017 was a bad one for me. Fortunately, despite my idiocy, it wound up being a good one for everyone else involved. It’s yet another instance of a “cautionary tale” that has arisen from my life, relevant to my book, that I feel I should share.
We all began that Friday, the 21st, in a great mood, ready to celebrate my best friend Jaena at her bachelorette weekend in Austin. I had originally thought of bowing out of the weekend’s festivities, due in part to a lack of funds and to the fact that I just don’t deal well with being away from my husband for long. In hindsight, my staying out of it probably would have been a better choice all around, but if hindsight ruled my life I would’ve never made a mistake, and wouldn’t be where or who I am.
You know what happens at bachelorette parties…we all do. Chicks get drunk and act crazy, trying to keep their minds distracted from what’s going on at the bachelor party. I’d only been to one before Jaena’s – my sister(-in-law), Tiffani’s. She had a joint one with her friend Amy, and I still have my red “T n A ’03” t-shirt from that night. I was 18 and had a blast going crazy with her friends. We drank everything in sight that night. Beer at Hooters (where we started with dinner, and changed into our t-shirts, of course), hard liquor in the limo all night, champagne at the dance club, shots at the strip club.
Yeah…that one trip to La Bare was traumatizing enough that I forbade it at my 2 best friends’ bachelorette parties. Fortunately, their friends aren’t as crazy as my other friends, so they didn’t mind me putting my gimpy foot down. Getting bent over the stage and smacked on the ass by “007”’s gun, and getting hit on by the creepy DJ in his booth are things I only need to have happen once in my life. Somehow, I managed to wake up the next morning and make it to UH for my college algebra test. I still remember the affronted look on my professor’s face when she caught a whiff of me as I turned in my test. At least I didn’t puke on her! More on puke in a bit…
With that as my only experience with bachelorette parties, I was geared up to drink as much as my brain-injured body could hold – and I wasn’t gonna let that little “brain-injured” thing hold me back! It’s been my mission the past 12 years to not let that hold me back…and sometimes it gets me in trouble.
We started the night at a wine bar in Austin, where we ordered 2 bottles of wine to go with our food. We ran out of the white wine faster, so when we did, I drank a glass of red, and then ordered myself another glass of chardonnay.
Once we finished up at the wine bar, we walked down the street to the next bar of the night. What did Jaena and I do when we got to the next bar? Why, we each ordered another glass of wine, of course! What would YOU do at a bachelorette party?!
Not long after Jaena and I had ordered our glasses of wine at the bar, her future sister-in-law, Lizzie came up behind us and said,
“There’s no way we aren’t doing shots!”
There was the briefest moment when Smart Jessica made an appearance and immediately said,
“No, I’ve had too much. I can’t mix and do a shot.”
That’s because Smart Jessica remembered all those painful lessons learned from mixing different alcohols in our wild teens. I always pick my poison and stick with it these days.
Well, Party Jess was having none of that. That bitch has way too much power. She made the genius decision to do a shot of vodka with them.
It’s clear, so it should be ok, right?
Then, guess what that dumb bitch did after we drank all the champagne playing “Never have I ever?” Yup! She opened the giant bottle of cheap pinot grigio I’d brought. So, let’s recap:
I had several glasses of wine at the wine bar, another glass at the next bar, a shot of vodka, champagne, and then more wine.
And this time, I wasn’t 18. I was 31, with 2 brain injuries.
I remember Jaena helping me find my pills and go to bed, where I promptly passed out. I could tell as she tucked me in that she seemed worried about me…but I wasn’t worried. Just very, very drunk. Wasted, really.
The next morning, I woke up early, with a pounding headache that hurt like hell. Horribly dehydrated and in need of Ibuprofen, I crept into the kitchen to get one of my cold waters out of the fridge and my usual morning Chewy bar. I grabbed my little case of pain pills out of my purse on the way back, and managed to get my stupid bad foot caught in the streamers Lacey had hung in the kitchen doorway. Unable to free my crooked toes from the sticky strands, the whole thing came down, following me back to my room like a shiny, golden trail of shame. It wouldn’t be the last fun I’d manage to crap all over.
She was worried and wanted me to explain the pain, but the more I talked, the more I was sure that I was going to throw up, until eventually she stepped out of the room right as I leaned over and puked on the floor. She returned with a mixing bowl for me to throw up in and some paper towels.
I felt terrible watching Jaena as she took care of me and cleaned up my puke-y mess in the beautiful new Kate Spade dress she had bought for this occasion – the brunch, not the puking. Lacey came in and gave me some homeopathic beads that dissolved on my tongue to help with the nausea. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much time to work their magic before I threw up again.
After throwing up a few times and the pounding head pain getting worse, Jaena asked if I needed to go to an Emergency Room – an inconvenience I really didn’t want to put everyone through. However, it soon dawned on me that I felt as badly as I had when the second brain aneurysm hemorrhaged (minus the excruciating tailbone pain), and I grew increasingly worried. After dozing off with ice on my head in between puking fits, Jaena woke me up again to tell me they had gotten back from the brunch.
The rest of Jaena’s friends had arrived, and they were offering to forego the boat trip and stay with me. I was lucky to be on that trip with some of the sweetest girls you can find. An unexpected cold front had moved through Austin, and it was going to be a chilly boat ride. I think they used the excuse of the cold front so I wouldn’t feel so badly about them staying behind for me. Still, I felt awful that I was causing all this drama during Jaena’s bachelorette party – it was supposed to be a fun, care-free time!
After talking with Scott, realizing how worried everyone was that I couldn’t stop throwing up, and becoming increasingly worried myself, I told the girls I thought I should go to the ER, or an urgent care, or somewhere. They talked to Mom, and searched for an urgent care nearby while Jaena and the rest of the girls left for the boat ride. I apologized profusely for being an annoying inconvenience, but no amount of apologizing or reassurances from them could make me feel like less of an asshole.
They found a place to take me that accepted my insurance, and while talking to Mom (who was at my nephew’s 7th birthday party), she asked if I wanted Scott to drive to Austin to come get me. I wanted Scott like a two-year-old with a boo boo wants their mommy, so I said yes. Even if I stayed, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go out with them again that night, and as awful as I felt, I just wanted to go home.
Scott hopped in the car and headed to the birthday party. He was going to pick up the gas card from Dad, but when he got there he discovered Dad wanted to go too, and take their Expedition, so I’d have more room to lie down. Knowing they were on their way brought me a lot of comfort, but I still felt horrible.
Sweet Caitlin, Allison, and Renee (girls I’d JUST met) got me in the car to take me to the urgent care they’d found. They already had a double-bagged trash bag from the car trip, which I used to throw up in on the way. When we got there, they asked at the front desk if they were the urgent care, and if they would take my insurance. They weren’t the urgent care, they were an Emergency Room in a hospital, but that turned out to be a good thing.
After I told them I felt just like I had when my second brain aneurysm hemorrhaged, they said the urgent care would’ve sent me to them anyway, so we saved a trip. You would be AMAZED how quickly they get to you when you tell them that! Before the girls could sit down in the waiting room they had me in a wheelchair, bussing me to a room to start an IV. After the IV was in, they gave me a concoction to help with the nausea and headache.
While I was being taken care of, Scott and Dad were on the road to Austin, and the girls were back at the house packing up the rest of my things. Caitlin stayed with me in my room for a bit, but once I’d dozed off she decided they should get back and pull my stuff together. They had already been so amazing, they didn’t need to sit around a hospital with me, bored.
Eventually, I was taken to have both a CT scan and a CT angiogram done. For the latter, they inject dye so they can see all the veins and arteries in your neck and head.
I went back to my room and once again dozed off in the bed, awaiting the results. While in my twilight state, I heard a voice that could bring me out of any sleep. Scott said,
“Babe?” and my eyes popped open. We could’ve used him when I was in the coma! The moment I opened my eyes and saw him, I ecstatically said,
“My Babe!” He had been worried: When he and Dad walked up to the room, Dad had said,
“Oh, she’s sleeping. We should let her sleep.” Scott watched me for a minute, but when I started moving my mouth weirdly, as though talking in my sleep, he said,
“The hell with it, I’m waking her up.” I’m glad he did, because I was incredibly relieved to see them. Shortly after they got there, a doctor came in to discuss the results of my tests. He said the scans came back great. My clips from the 2 previously hemorrhaged brain aneurysms were fine, and there was no sign of leaking with either of them.
Because we had a reasonable alternative explanation for my symptoms – the previous night’s heavy drinking – he felt confident saying he didn’t believe my symptoms were due to blood on the brain. He said that with the tests, he was 99% sure. The only way for him to remove that 1% was to do a spinal tap. If you read the memoir, I believe you know how I feel about those.
“No thanks!” I said, “I’ve had a few of those already.” Later, I told Jaena I wished I said, “That’s ok, I’ll just go home and watch the movie.” The doctor wrote me prescriptions for the nausea and head pain. We checked out of the hospital and found a Walgreens nearby. We dropped Scott off there, and Dad and I went back to the house to get my things.
After getting my stuff, apologizing for my idiocy being such an inconvenience, and bidding the girls a good night, we picked up Scott and the prescriptions, and set out on the road. I was ravenously hungry, considering I’d thrown up everything I’d eaten for the past 24 hours or so. I told Dad the only thing that ever sounds good when I feel like that is greasy chicken nuggets. I had to take a couple of the anti-nausea chewables I’d been prescribed to eat without puking, but eventually I scarfed down a 10-piece box of nuggets and some fries like a kid who’s been at fat camp for a month. After that I lied down in the backseat for the rest of the drive.
The next day I talked to Jaena and realized just how much annoyance my little escapade had caused. It wasn’t so much that three of the girls had missed out on the boat ride to take care of me; it was what the fear and worry put Jaena through during her bachelorette weekend. We’d had a great first night, although I’m sure I made an ass of myself trying to drink the group’s weight in wine, but the next day had been filled with Jaena worrying, and the other girls desperately trying to calm her and salvage the rest of the weekend.
Jaena had gone through almost losing me already. She’d seen me lying motionless and unresponsive in a coma, wondering if I’d ever wake up or be the person she knew before. She was tortured by thoughts of us going through that all over in the hours before the test results came back. She made me promise never to worry her like that again, and I certainly won’t.
Reflections of a Moron
What hit home so hard with me in the aftermath of that weekend was thinking about the pain and stress I put on my brain with that night of binge-drinking, and the frequency with which I did that to myself in the years before my aneurysms hemorrhaged. As I discussed it with Mom and Scott, I said,
“I haven’t had a morning hangover where I puked like that since I was a teenager (before I got hurt).”
All the recent instances where I’d thrown up after drinking had happened the night or day of the drinking, and were usually the result of not eating enough and drinking too much. I thought I’d had nights of heavy drinking in my 12 years since my injuries, but I guess I really outdid my dumbass self that first night of Jaena’s celebration.
We all – Mom, Dad, Scott, and I – came to the same conclusion that I needed to learn to stop drinking much earlier than I had been for the past year or so. I’ve had too many irresponsible instances in the past couple years when I’ve kept drinking way past the point I should’ve stopped, and it always ends with me puking. I told myself after I got hurt that I would never digress back into old drinking habits, and that’s exactly what I’d been doing. For someone who found throwing up absolutely terrifying after I got hurt, I’ve been drinking like a noob with reckless abandon.
I just couldn’t believe how much the pain and nausea of the next morning mimicked my second aneurysm hemorrhaging. It made me truly realize the extent of the abuse I’d put my brain through for all those years before the strokes stopped the Crazy Train in my wild tracks. I thought about the many times I drank to extremes before I got hurt, and the damage it had done. That throbbing head pain drove home just how bad the abuse had been, and reinforced the role heavy drinking played in my strokes.
Just social drinking, resulting in a .08% blood alcohol content, increases your cerebral blood flow and cerebral blood volume. (1) Think how much higher your cerebral blood flow and volume become as the drinking becomes heavier. No wonder my aneurysms had grown so large!
I mentioned in a previous post that a researcher recently attributed 90% of hemorrhaged brain aneurysms to tobacco and alcohol use, with the number one risk factor being smoking cigarettes. I’m glad I can at least say I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore (especially given the way I chain-smoked), as I now have seen and felt the damage my binge-drinking ways were doing to my poor brain.
So, my first moral of this story is: Know your limits. PICK YOUR POISON AND STICK WITH IT, and don’t drink too much of it. – All the shit I learned more than a decade ago and forgot in one stupid night.
And the second, is: