In December 2014, I applied, and was hired, for a new job, selling insurance for Combined Insurance. My wife and I were living in Thelma, Kentucky, at that time, along with our 2 dogs and my wife’s handicapped brother. On December 28, 2014, I flew from Huntington, West Virginia, to Chicago, Illinois, where Combined’s corporate headquarters is located, because I was to attend sales school at Combined’s HQ. I was rather excited – I had flown in a helicopter a few years ago, but had never been up in a fixed-wing aircraft until that Sunday night. From Huntington, I flew to Charlotte, NC, and transferred to a flight to Chicago. We landed at O’Hare, and I was shocked as we taxied in to the terminal as the taxiway went across a bridge across the interstate! I survived the flight, however, and was met by a limo and transported to the hotel where Combined was putting up everyone attending sales school – the Crowne Plaza Northbrook! I’d never stayed in such a nice hotel prior to that! This trip was looking up! LOL We started Sales School on Dec. 29, 2014, and were scheduled to finish up and fly home on Jan. 8, 2015. I attended Sales School, and learned the way Combined wanted us to sell their policies, along with approximately 100 other people from across the country.
On Jan. 8, 2015, I got up and got ready for sales school, including preparing my luggage and putting it into a ballroom that had been reserved for that. You see, the Crowne Plaza was running shuttle buses daily to take us back and forth to sales school, and they were going to take us all that afternoon to O’Hare to catch our flights home. We were required to wear a shirt, tie, and jacket for Sales School, and I knew that was NOT what I wanted to wear for the flight home! In preparing my luggage, I put a clean change of comfortable travelling clothes on top of everything else in my suitcase, so I could get to it easily to change clothes. I took my luggage to the ballroom and stashed it, then went and ate breakfast and checked out of my room.
We went to Sales School that morning, and completed the course. When we came back to the Crowne Plaza, I went to the ballroom, located my luggage, and got out my travelling clothes. I walked the 20 yards or so down the hall to a public men’s room, then went in to change clothes. I had been in that restroom before, and knew that the first stall you came to in there was a HUGE handicapped stall, big enough that they could have held wheelchair races inside of it! LOL I’m a big guy, and knew that I wouldn’t have room to change clothes in a regular stall, so that was where I headed. I changed clothes, but I don’t remember ever leaving the restroom, let alone that stall!
My flight back to Huntington was scheduled to depart O’Hare a little after 3:00 that afternoon, and to land in Huntington at 9:19 that night. I never made the flight. My wife, who had dropped me off at the Huntington airport for the flight TO Chicago, was supposed to meet me back there that evening. She said that not long before she was ready to leave that afternoon, her cell phone rang, and the caller ID was showing a number she did not recognize. She answered it anyway, and the caller asked if she were Mrs. Paul Childers (yes, that’s me – my full name is Paul Michael Childers, and I have gone by “Mike” all my life). Stacie admitted to it, and the caller identified himself as a Chicago policeman. Naturally, this terrified Stacie, as she had been worried about me going to Chicago from the beginning – we live in an extremely rural area, and she had heard WAY too many stories about the killings and violence in a city the size of Chicago! So, as you might imagine, she was terrified when he explained to her that he was a policeman! He told her that I had been found by a member of the hotel’s housekeeping staff, collapsed in the floor of a public restroom. They did not know at that point what had happened to me, but called 9-1-1 and asked for a rescue squad to be sent. Because no one knew why I was in the floor, a policeman was sent to investigate whether or not there had been any foul play. He told Stacie all of this, and to which hospital the rescue squad would be transporting me for examination.
Stacie took her brother home to Virginia to stay with their uncle and aunt, and she picked up one of her very dear friends. They drove to the nearest airport, the Tri-cities airport near Kingsport, TN, and boarded a flight to Chicago. When they arrived at O’Hare, they grabbed a taxi to the hospital the officer had told Stacie I would be taken to. Upon arrival at that hospital, they found out that I had been diagnosed as having had a severe stroke, was not expected to survive, and was no longer there. I had been transported to another hospital that was better equipped to help stroke patients. Stacie and her friend Darlene immediate caught another taxi, and went to the Evanston, IL, hospital, where I was at. The doctors there had also checked me out, and concurred with the diagnosis and prognosis of the doctors at the first hospital: I had had a severe stroke, and would probably not survive it. Stacie said that when she saw me there she started crying, because I was on a ventilator, and my left arm and hand were badly swollen. I was left-side affected, and the doctors and nurses kept trying to get me to move anything (fingers, toes, hand, or foot) on the left side of my body, but to no avail.
I was in the ICU in Evanston for 3 weeks and 2 days. I suppose my first memory of waking was in the ICU. I was aware that I was in a hospital, because the bed I was in had a “nurse call” button built into the rail on each side, and there were LOTS of nurses all around. I also had what I call my first “stroke-brained” moment – there was an African-American gentleman in scrubs by my bed, and I KNEW right away who he was – not by name, but I KNEW that he was not only MY doctor, he was the team doctor for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team! My, but was I flattered that THAT was who was taking care of me! I had NO CLUE why I was in a hospital at this point, but somehow or another, in my stroke-brained fog, I KNEW that this was my doctor! (Hint: He wasn’t even a Doctor!)
Update from Facebook Post:
Gotta brag on myself just a bit! I’ve done something today that I hadn’t done since a few weeks BEFORE my stroke! I got up and cooked my own breakfast!
I opened and baked a can of Blueberry Grands biscuits, heated up some link sausages, and made scrambled eggs! Along with coffee, I ate well! I managed to stay on my feet while everything cooked, then got a plate of food and went back to the living room, and sat and ate! Even better, I managed ALL of this while walking on my own – no cane!