It started out as a routine day. I was working in Houston at a chemical plant. It was a cold and windy day. I was working with a team of three and I was forty feet up a smokestack, which I had climbed via a ladder mounted on the side of the stack. I was alone but I had a radio. When suddenly, I felt a wave pass over me. I knew something was wrong, but what? I felt like I was on the deck of a ship, gently rocking. The world felt like it had gotten fuzzier, and weird. I decided to wait it out and hoped it would pass. But it didn’t. And I was getting weaker. I decided to get off the stack while I could. As I looked down the ladder, I thought “This could get ugly”. I got weaker as I descended. I concentrated to keep my grip on each rung of the ladder. Slowly I descended, until I reached the ground, exhausted. I sat down to rest. Instead of the rest re-energizing me, I felt exhausted. I tried to get up and walk to the lab trailer, but I collapsed. My muscles were paralyzed yet I could feel sensation in my extrematies. I was fully aware of what was going on but bewildered as to what it was. As I lay on the ground, I heard the radio chatter. “Where is Randy?”…..silence…..”He has fallen at the base of the stack. ” The plant’s first responders were summoned and they arrived within minutes. They rolled me on my back and asked me questions, but I could barely talk. One of them said, “I think he has had a stroke”. My thoughts raced. “Oh crap, this can’t be happening, I’m only 58.”. An ambulance arrived and I was taken to a local hospital.
In the hospital, I started to recover.Though weak and shaken, I could talk and ask questions , and my hands and arms had recovered to the degree that I could sign forms. My prospects were looking hopeful. A priest showed up to give me Last Rites, which I found confusing. It turns out my mother had been notified and demanded I be given Last Rites. I was started on an IV of tPA, which is a clot buster and flown by helicopter to a near-by hospital that specialized in strokes. We were met by a nurse and I was taken to the ICU to be checked in. It was decided to take me to get a MRI. On the way , I started having trouble breathing. Real difficulty. There was a problem transferring me to the MRI table. The technicians were mostly petite women and I was a big guy(6’2″, 280#). My breathing worsened. Fade to black..I don’t remember anything from this point.
It was one of those days.