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Nitai’s Story


Jun 23, 2024

It was a normal Thursday morning on February 11, 2016 in my university dorm in Vancouver, BC. The sun was shining through my blinds, as my 9 AM alarm was going off. I was preparing for arguably my hardest mid-term exam that was coming up in the afternoon...

The craziest things always happen when you least expect it.

It was a normal Thursday morning on February 11, 2016 in my university dorm in Vancouver, BC. The sun was shining through my blinds, as my 9 AM alarm was going off. I was preparing for arguably my hardest mid-term exam that was coming up in the afternoon.

I felt something strange in my arm and face. It was the same numbness and tingling sensation that you’d have if your arm was asleep. Come to think of it, I had slept on my right side.

I tried not to think about it too much, I figured, “I’m sure it’ll go away soon”.

I went on with my day. Walking to the commons block in my residence, where I usually did most of my studying. But it was weird… the numbness and tingling wasn’t going away. It was now 3 hours after I had woken up. Not only was the numbness and tingling there, but it was getting more intense.

I’m right-handed, and I was writing practice exams for my chemistry mid-term with my pen. At a certain point, I couldn’t hold my pen anymore. I was losing control of my hand. I was concerned. “What’s happening to me?”, I wondered.

I called my friend, “Hey, something super weird is happening to me. My arm and face are numb and tingly, and I can’t hold my pen”.

My friend replied, “I’m sure it’s just carpal tunnel syndrome or something. I wouldn’t worry about it too much”.

I was confused. I thought, “Maybe, it was time for me to take a bit of a break from studying”. I mean… I couldn’t write anyways. It was around 12 PM, so I went to the cafeteria to go eat something. I tried to grab a tray, and then I realized, “Oh no, this will not work… I can’t even hold the tray”.

Okay, now I had to go with plan B. I knew I had a snack in my room, so I figured I’d walk to my room and then call my dad. After all, he was a doctor, he’d know what to do.

The commons block was on the second floor, so I had to walk down a staircase to go down to the main floor, which would lead me down a long pathway of columns, and then, finally I’d reach my residence building, Mackenzie House.

But, when I was walking down the stairs… something weird happened. Every time I tried to take a step, I felt like I was missing a step. It was like my balance was off, and I couldn’t control my right leg. I couldn’t walk properly.

Now, limping, I continued down the steps to the main floor of the commons and turned left towards the exit. Opening the glass door, I saw the long concrete path towards Mackenzie House, foreshadowing the long journey that was yet to come for me.

I continued with out-of-rhythm steps on the cold rocky path, with bright green grass on either side. The grass is always greener, they say.

Finally, I reached my dorm, Mackenzie House. The oldest house on the Vanier Park Residence. I rummaged through my pockets to find my access key to unlock the door. I swiped, and entered my four-digit code on the metallic lock box numbers, and heard the ‘click’. I was in.

Now, if you’ve been to Mackenzie House you’d know two things. One, it is dirty and dusty, which is why it has an odd smell - a smell that suggests in the past it's likely seen better days. Two, it has four stories, but because it is an old building, there are no elevators. Lucky me… I lived on the fourth floor.

For an 18-year-old slowly losing the ability to move his limbs, looking up at the four flights of stairs that I had to climb… well it seemed like a daunting task. Instead of walking up the stairs like a normal person, I started to crawl up the stairs on my hands and knees. About half-way through, I remember some guy passed me walking down the stairs with a strange look on his face.

I don’t blame him. Who crawls up four flights of stairs?

Another two flights of stairs later, I finally reached my dorm room. Luckily, my room was the first on the left. I wiggled my key in the keyhole to unlock my door and I collapsed on my bed for a few minutes.

I was hungry so I ate a granola bar, and then I called my dad. Afterall, my dad was a doctor… he’d know what to do.

I called him 4 times. No answer.

At this point I didn’t know what to do. In about 4 hours I had a chemistry exam and I couldn’t hold my pen. How would I explain this to the exam invigilators? They wouldn’t understand. But also, I have all these other things going wrong: the numbness and tingling, the balance issues, starting to lose control of my arm too. I had to talk to someone.


I did have a friend on the third floor that was a smart guy. He was also taking this exam and I was planning on studying with him anyway. Maybe I’d go down and see if he knew what to do.

I dragged my legs down to the third floor, walked down the hallway, and started knocking on his door. At this point my right arm felt like it was a spaghetti noodle, just flopping around on my side.

No answer.

I was knocking for a couple minutes straight (at least it felt that way).

Finally, I heard some soft rummaging behind the door.

My friend happened to be on the rowing team. The thing about rowing is that they wake up very early to train. I believe around 4 AM. Oftentimes, my friend would be napping in his room in an attempt to catch up on sleep. Although for university students, I don’t think you can ever fully catch up on sleep.

I heard his footsteps approach the door.

As he opened the door, the first thing I asked him was, “What are the signs of a stroke?”. As I was talking, I noticed my speech was slightly slurred.

My friend was still half-asleep, as he didn’t have a great sleep the night before so his judgment was a little off. He said, “don’t worry, I’m sure it’s probably nothing”.

We continued to the library to meet up with another friend who was taking the same exam as us in the afternoon. I still felt like I was limping, so on our way to the library I asked my friend, “are you sure I’m not walking weirdly?”

He said I looked normal. I thought to myself, “Am I losing my mind?”

About 20 metres away from the entrance to the library, I get a phone call. It’s my dad. He finally called me back.

I pick up the phone. I told him my symptoms and he told me, “Okay Nitai, what I want you to do is to call 911, ask for an ambulance, and tell them to take you to Vancouver General Hospital”.

I called the ambulance, and they were on their way. Perfect timing as my phone died about a minute later.

The ambulance came. My friend gave me his phone and a note with his passcode on it before he left to study for the exam, so that I had a way to stay in communication with him. I put the phone and note in my bag. We then parted ways and I walked towards the ambulance.

The paramedic looked me up and down. “Wait, you’re the one who called us in?”, he said.

I said, “Yeah, that’s me”.

The paramedic continued, “You sure you don’t want us to talk you to UBC Hospital?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. My dad said to go to VGH”, I said.

I went into the ambulance and the paramedic started to ask me a bunch of questions. He ran a bunch of different tests on me like taking my blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, etc…

Half-jokingly, half-seriously he asked me, “Do you have an exam today you’re trying to skip out on?”

“I actually do have an exam later today, but I was studying for it and felt pretty prepared for it, I’m not trying to skip it or anything. In all seriousness though, what do you think is wrong with me?”, I asked.

He said, "I have no clue".

I truly thought I was going insane. Almost everyone I spoke with told me I looked fine, and now even the paramedic thought I was faking it…

We finally arrived at the hospital after a 30 min drive. I got escorted off the ambulance and was riding on in style to the hospital in a wheelchair. When we got to the hospital, a doctor quickly ran a couple of tests on me, got my name and information, and told me to walk up and down the hallway. Apparently, I was so disoriented that I gave him the wrong date for my Birthday.

He quickly noticed that something was off with my gait and took me to do a CT scan. I got the CT scan after about 5 minutes. Then, I was taken to a room where they put an IV in my arm, and I was lying down on this bed/chair and the nurse asked me some questions. Then I asked him, “So do you think I'll make it to my exam today?” He said "Absolutely not, you’re going to stay here for at least another day".

I was in this room for a couple hours waiting for the test results. I figured it would be a good time to call my friends and my parents. I went into my bag to try to get the phone and passcode. I found the phone, but the passcode was nowhere to be found.

The nurse had left at this point, my friend was at his exam, phone had died, and I had a functional phone in my hand that I couldn’t open because I couldn’t find my friend’s passcode (to this day I still have no idea what happened to it!). I was stuck all alone in, and I had no idea what was happening to me as the CT results hadn’t come back yet. This was the worst part of the day.

Then, finally the neurologist came in, she spoke to me a bit, calmed me down, and then she said, "We got the CT results back, it showed us that you have had a hemorrhage in your left thalamus, you had a hemorrhagic stroke, a bleed in the brain, so we are going to keep you here over night and monitor you to make sure your condition isn't getting worse”.

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