Tag: stroke

Book Review: Kissing Max Holden, by Katy Upperman

kissing max holden
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Jillian Eldridge has lived next door to Max Holden for years. They grew up together, going through life as friends who just happened to live close. But lately, they haven’t been so close. Not since Max’s dad had a stroke, and Max took a dark detour as he struggled to deal with the way his life has changed. When Max climbs through her window one night, lost and looking for a friend, Jill just can’t turn her back on him, and her dad catches them kissing.

Jillian knew it was a terrible idea even before her dad caught them. Max has issues. And a girlfriend. But the lost look in her friend’s eyes made her forget all of that. Her parents are fighting all the time and she has a new sibling on the way, so Jillian needs someone she can turn to. She’s not sure Max is the right person for that, but she’s not sure she can resist finding out.

A lot of people think YA books just deal with romance and popularity contests, but that just isn’t the case. Kissing Max Holden does have romance, of course, but it deals with deep issues:  family tragedy, troubled marriages, hard decisions. Jillian is a great character, driven and determined, who faces obstacles to her dreams that she never imagined. Max is struggling with almost losing his father and the immense changes in his family, and he copes by turning to things he knows he shouldn’t. Max and Jillian help each other with the battles they face, as their friendship turns to something more. Sweet with the spice of adversity, Kissing Max Holden is a great read that will keep you turning the pages long after you should be sleeping (ask me how I know).

Katy Upperman is a writer who loves country music and Instagram. Her debut novel is Kissing Max Holden.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads via NetGalley.)

Weekly Ramblings: Editing and a Hospital Visit

Real Life Update:  I started my new job last week. This week, I was in Dallas for training. Wednesday morning, I had a brief visual disturbance (double vision) that scared the crap out of me. My doc wanted me to get checked out, so I had a brief eval from paramedics, then spent several hours in the E.R. at Baylor Dallas. CT and everything was clear, so they released me. My new boss came to check on me. I was horrified, but that was awesome of him. I’m off until Monday to rest (so I missed almost all of Wednesday, and all of Thursday, but that’s it). I feel fine. No issues since, and they’re pretty sure it was stress-related, but I see my neuro next Friday to get his take on it. (In case anyone is wondering, I had a stroke two years ago without warning. Haven’t had any of these issues in about 15 months.) I took it easy yesterday–pedicure and a nap–and I’m taking it easy today as well. I feel fine, but I think a nap is next on the agenda.

Writing Update: Got my words in on Siren Song last week. I’ll get a few more today/this weekend, as well as some editing.  My Personal and Professional Editing class should be interesting. This week, we learned about Style Sheets (which I’d never heard of), so I’ll be grabbing that idea and running with it. If you’re interested in how editing has changed, our textbook is Editors on Editing (ed. by Gerald Gross), and the essays are pretty fascinating to me.

The Muse is Awake

I haven’t talked about writing in a while. I haven’t written in something like 15 months. To be honest, I’ve barely managed to do anything besides work the day job, do school stuff, and try to rest and recuperate from both those things. Writing…has more than fallen by the wayside. It’s dropped completely off the radar.

I had started to wonder if the Muse inhabited that part of my brain that was damaged by my stroke. I’m happy to report that it doesn’t! Yesterday, I was at work, and walked by my boss’s office. He had Enya playing, and I felt the Muse sit up, take a deep breath, and stretch. It was like she’d been resting for a long time. (Apparently, she moonlights as Rip Van Winkle.) Now she’s awake, and ready to play. And all it took was some Enya to shake her up and get her moving again (I’ve written to Enya a lot in the past.)

Now I can feel her in there, tinkering with the edges of The Fall, teasing it with her tiny, ever-moving hands as she searches out the bits that no longer fit, so she can rip them to shreds and build something new and shiny. She likes shiny, and at this point, The Fall is pretty much new and pristine, so it counts. Plus, she knows we have a lot of work to do to get it into shape for our new vision of it. It’s no longer going to be the same old dystopian zombie tale. It will still have zombies and be dystopian. But now it will be more.

I’m glad the Muse is back. I’ve missed her.


What a Stroke Looks Like from the Inside–Part Two

So, I meant to finish up my story a while back, but as it turns out, one of the side effects of a stroke is being tired—like really tired—all the time.  When you add in work, school, and doctors’ appointments, that means I’m drained the majority of the time.  If you missed the first part of my story, you can find it here.  But here goes….

I woke up the next day, a little before noon.  I was intubated and my hands were restrained (I had my appendix taken out when I was 11, and I might have pulled out the tube when I woke up.  Having the tube put back in while awake = not fun.) Anyway.  I knew right away I was in the hospital, but I had no idea why.  My parents and Baby Brother were there.  Obviously, I couldn’t talk, but I remember them talking to me, telling me they’d take the tube out soon.  My mom also told me “Bubba is here.  And he brought your nephew.”  I was coherent enough to think:  “Why is he here? He lives 600 miles away!”

The next thing I remember is my mom bringing in one of my friends from work, who was crying her eyes out.  Then, later, some of my friends from my old job.  I had my contacts out by this time, but I recognized their voices.  Turns out, they’d been at the hospital with my family most of the time.  The Saint was in NYC, but one of them called her so I could “talk” to her, reassure her.  Then the Cynic and another close friend of ours visited.  My family, of course.  They were almost always by my side.  And later that evening, the Diva and “our” husband, who were some of the first people my mom called, came in.

The next day, I was a little more with it.  Some women from therapy came to get me up, and were shocked I could walk by myself.  I got to meet my nephew—he was 4 months old then—and he is SO cute!  Most of my hospital stay is a blur.  I slept a lot.  I couldn’t use my right hand much at all.  I started learning how to eat left-handed.  I had a lot of visitors and phone calls (many of my patients called to check on me).  I got out of the hospital 5 days later and went home with my mom.

I cannot image how difficult the day of my stroke was for my friends and family.  At the hospital, they gave me tPA (the stroke drug), but it didn’t seem to help.  Actually, my symptoms worsened.  Late that night, the doctor told the nurses that something else was going on, and he was going in.  He told my parents there was a 98% fatality rate for my condition.  If I lived, they didn’t know if I would wake up.  If I somehow woke up, they didn’t know what condition I’d be in.  I woke up about 12 hours later, able to see, talk, and move.  I knew who I was and who everyone around me was.

As it turns out, I had two clots in my brain and a tear in my left vertebral artery.  I now have four stents there, and I’ll be on aspirin the rest of my life. I have reduced sensation on the right side of my body, but it’s improving.  I have tingling pretty much all the time on that side.  2 ½ weeks after my stroke, I was back in the E.R. (at the orders of my neurologist’s nurse) because the tingling had gotten worse and I’d had a mild headache for two days.  They think the right artery had dissected as well, but it was so small they could only treat it with medications for a few days.  I stayed in the hospital 4 days that time.  Since then, I’ve had an angiogram to check on my stents (they looked great).  I started working again (14 hour shifts are tough under the best circumstances.  Now…I don’t even have the words.)  The school semester started.  (I did switch to online classes this semester—French, German, and Spanish 2.)  I went back to the E.R. a week ago with some brief vision changes (doctor’s orders), but everything is fine.  Stents are great, no signs of stroke.  I’ve had blood work and other tests done, and none of the doctors know what caused my stroke.  My neurologist calls me a miracle.

Let me say this:  no matter what your personal beliefs are, I know that the only reason I survived is because of God.  He was there with me–giving me that feeling of peace—through it all.  There is a reason I had the stroke, despite being “too young” and there not being a cause.  God has a plan for this, a plan to prosper.  There is no doubt in my mind.

What a Stroke Looks Like from the Inside–Part One

You never know how quickly your life can change.  Good or bad, everything really can change in an instant.  Sometimes it’s a big, dramatic moment, sometimes it passes you by without even a whisper of acknowledgement or a hint of warning.  Like T.S. Eliot said, my old world ended with a whimper, not a bang.

June 1st was a normal Saturday.  I went for a walk, cleaned my apartment, did laundry.  I was tired from working 14 hours the day before, so I took a nap.  When I woke up an hour later, I was having a seizure.  I’d never had a seizure before, but I had seen people have them, so I knew what it was.  But the sensation of being unable to control my own body was something I’ll never forget.  Even worse was the fact that my eyes would not work together.

I remember thinking to myself “What am I going to do if they can’t fix my eyes?  I won’t be able to work or go to school or anything?”  I was still having a seizure, but I was having a rational conversation with myself.  And I knew—because of my eyes—that I’d had a stroke.  I was convinced that I was going to die.  But I wasn’t afraid.  I was filled with peace.

At the end of the seizure, I fell out of bed, somehow missing the sharp corner of my nightstand.  I ended up in the corner, between that table and the closet, and I was throwing up.  When I finally managed to stop throwing up long enough, I managed to yell for my friend who was crashed on my couch.  When she came into the room, I remember telling her, very calmly, “Don’t panic, but I think I’ve had a stroke.  I need you to call an ambulance.”  I was so relieved that I’d managed to get her attention, and that she’d called 911, that I just lay there, still throwing up, as she called my family.

When the paramedics got there, they tried to set me up on the edge of my bed, but I couldn’t sit up, and just fell over backwards.  They kept asking me what I’d taken, and I remember being really frustrated, because they thought I’d taken drugs, and I knew I’d had a stroke.

I remember the paramedic putting an arterial line in before we left the apartment complex.  It seemed to take a long time to get to the hospital, even though it was only about five miles away.  I was barely unloaded and in the E.R. before my dad was there, at my side (Baby Brother can really drive when he needs to!).  I just looked at him and said “Pray!”  He grabbed my foot, as the nurses were still hooking me up, and prayed.  Then I was wheeled away for tests, still throwing up frequently.

My mom and Baby Brother were also there, and my mom says I kept getting irritated at the doctors trying to ask me questions, and kept saying “I’m just tired!”  I remember lots of people working on me, lots of tests, but only faintly.  I remember my Other Brother being there—one of Baby Brother’s closest friends—and Mama Bear—a friend from work, but then everything faded to black.


So, in case you are wondering where I’ve been, let me tell you, I’ve kind of been wondering the same thing. Here’s the short version: last Saturday, June 1st, I had a stroke. I barely survived. I’ll try to tell you in the details—what I remember—later. For now, I’m alive, my left side is fine. My right side, on the other hand, has limited mobility currently. Of course, I’m right-handed. But my woes are a story for another day.


Right now, I’m grateful to be alive and (mostly) intact. Thank You, God.