The following is an excerpt from Miguel’s biography by Cindy Lapeña, Darling, You Look Fabulous: Big Dreams and Small Miracles in the Life of a Hairdresser. ©️ 2019, Cindy Lapeña.
Around 11 in the morning of Saturday, November 16, Miguel woke up feeling nauseated. He got up to get a drink of water in the kitchen and saw the girls, Madison and Hailey, watching TV in the living room. Jenny was in the basement doing laundry. He told eight-year-old Madison, the older of his daughters, that he was going back to bed because he felt terrible. He struggled up the stairs and lay down in bed. As soon as his head was on the pillow, the room began to spin. He found it odd, having never felt that before, but had to get up again to go to the bathroom because the nausea made him feel like throwing up. As he leaned over, he fell back instead, hitting his ribs on the side of the tub and banging his head on the wall. Everything went black.
Down in the basement, Jenny heard a loud thud. She sped up the stairs as fast as she could. When she saw the children were safe watching TV, she told them to stay put while she bounded upstairs and found Miguel on the bathroom floor. “Miguel, Miguel!” she called his name as she knelt beside him and received no response. All sorts of horrible thoughts were running through her head, but she did her best to stay calm for the sake of the children.
“Madison! Call 911!” she shouted down the staircase, trying to focus on not letting her voice quaver.
Within five minutes, the first responders arrived. Jenny, knowing they needed room to work on reviving Miguel, went downstairs to be with the children, even if she wanted to stay by Miguel’s side. There would not be enough space in the bathroom for the two EMTs if she had stayed. Besides, the children might panic.
For three whole minutes Miguel was unresponsive. All sorts of bad thoughts were running through Jenny’s head. What will I do? The girls are too young to lose their dad. I don’t want to lose him. Oh God, please keep him alive.
The EMTs went straight to work reviving Miguel. When Miguel had finally regained consciousness, the EMTs set up an IV line and administered the stroke reversal drug Narcan before rushing Miguel to the hospital.
In hospital, Miguel’s blood pressure had dropped to 67/53, barely enough to keep him alive. If it dropped to 50, he would be dead. He was kept under critical care as he slipped in and out of consciousness because of his low blood pressure. Once, when he woke up, he realized he could not move his left leg. He cried and prayed and called the doctor’s attention.
“I can’t feel my leg. I can’t walk. I can’t move it.”
The team attending to him administered more medications. “You need to relax and rest now,” they told him. He was put in full length traction and immobilized until a diagnosis was made.
When Dr. Shetty arrived, Miguel’s blood pressure was still too low for comfort. He was diagnosed with neurocardiogenic (vasovagal) syncope, a sudden dilation of blood vessels in his legs that deprived his brain of oxygen, which made him unconsciousness. The sudden pooling of blood in his legs also resulted in weakness and extremely low blood pressure.
Dear God, Jenny, Madison, Hailey, Mom was all that Miguel could think of on waking up another time. Over and over, that was all that ran through his head, try as hard as he could to think of other things. Dear God, Jenny, Madison, Hailey, Mom.
Each time he stirred into consciousness, he desperately tried to move his leg but failed.
The next day, Dr. Shetty visited Miguel and instructed him to try to get up and walk. Miguel tried but his leg refused to budge. He was depressed and lonely. Visitors, TV, Internet, and phones were forbidden in the ICU. This is torture, Miguel thought. I need to get back to work. It seemed to take forever for the day to pass.
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