You never realize what you have until it’s gone

By Gina DeRocini '22

You never realize what you have until it’s gone. A scary experience I have gone through can prove that. In 2020, during the pandemic, I was staying at my shore house for the 4th of July weekend. On July 4th I woke up with a painful headache, and I felt super confused. It was really early in the morning, and I usually wake up late on weekends, so my mom was surprised I was awake. When I walked into the living room, I tried talking and asking for an Ibuprofen, but there were no structured words coming out of my mouth. Everything I said was just scrambled speech and my parents were super confused. They assumed I was joking with them, so they brushed it off and said go back to sleep. I went back into my room, and I attempted going on my phone, but my brain couldn’t even comprehend typing words. I knew where I was, and I could think of things in my head, but I couldn’t speak right. I sat in my bed for a few more minutes trying to talk, but all my words were slurred. 

I went back into the living room because I knew something was wrong with me, but I couldn’t express what was wrong. My mom tried having me write with pen and paper, but I couldn’t write correct words either. Eventually, she knew she had to take me to get help, and we left for the emergency room. Once I got there, the doctors and nurses were confused because I couldn’t tell them what was happening. They took my blood and did a few physical tests, and they also had to give me two Covid tests. The tests came back; I didn’t have Covid, and there was nothing wrong with my blood. As these tests were going on, my head started to hurt worse, and I continued to get more confused. 

I got a CT scan and an MRI done. On the way to the MRI, the nurse did another physical test on me; she had me lift my arms and legs, squeeze her fingers, and smile. The only problem this time was that the right side of my body did not move. I couldn’t move my right arm or leg, and when I smiled, the right side of my face drooped down. Immediately my mom and the nurse started freaking out because they knew I was having a stroke. I was super overwhelmed, and I just wanted to be able to talk again. The doctors rushed me back to the hospital room and gave me medicine through my IV to sleep. When I woke up, I was extremely surprised by what was happening. There was a doctor over me, and these two men in red suits who were wearing goggles. The doctor said, “Hey, Gina, stay calm. We’re strapping you into the gurney. You have to be airlifted to a different hospital.” I was shocked all of this was happening. I was being transported through helicopter to CHOP without my parents. Since it was the 4th of July, an ambulance wouldn’t be able to get me to another hospital in time.

 I flew in the helicopter and finally got to CHOP. By the time I got there, I was able to talk and write again. My mom wasn’t allowed in the helicopter, so I had to get tests at the new hospital all alone. After hours of testing, my final diagnosis was a Hemiplegic Migraine. These types of migraines give you the exact symptoms of a stroke, but there is no brain damage. I was super lucky that I got provided with good healthcare and that I was safe. It truly taught me to never take the little things for granted.