In God's Hands
Written by Kevin Bulivant

The principal of St. Brendan’s, my children’s school, used to say, “God doesn’t always promise you tomorrow”. I have thought about Sister Diane's words often in the last year. On Friday, July 29, 2016 at around 9:10 a.m. I had a cerebral infarction in the sanctuary at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in San Francisco - a stroke in the cerebellum area of my brain. I would like to share my experience of that day and my journey to recovery. 

Normally, I am the only one in the office on Fridays; however, this day was an exception. At 9:00 a.m., Bryce, the piano tuner rang the door buzzer and I went down to let him into the sanctuary to do a scheduled tune-up on the grand piano. I started to walk back to my office. I felt a slight dizziness that made me think I’d better sit down for a minute. I sat down in the second center pew directly facing the lectern. After about a minute or two my breathing felt very shallow, so I tried taking some deep breaths to calm myself.  I started to feel a strange warming sensation in my face. At this point I sensed an acute awareness that something was wrong and I asked Bryce to call 911. I could tell he was a little nervous making the call because he wasn’t quite sure how to explain my situation.  I am truly grateful that Bryce was there that day to help me. 

Sitting in the pew with my eyes closed, I was breathing very deeply to control my anxiety. When I opened my eyes, I felt like I was about to slide out of the pew, as the whole sanctuary and the pew was now slanted downward at a 45-degree angle. I gripped the front pew rail firmly to keep me from sliding off. I felt afraid and very alone hanging onto the pew with different thoughts running through my mind about my life, death, faith, my deceased parents, my love for my family, and whether I would ever see them again. I was in God’s hands now and all I could do was hold on to the pew, close my eyes, and pray to God for help until the ambulance arrived. 

When I arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center, I was so relieved to see my wife, Mary, at the ER. I explained my slanted vision to the neurologist and he called a stroke alert and they took me to radiology immediately for a CT scan. The scan confirmed a clot in a very small blood vessel in the right side of my cerebellum. I was given the miracle drug, tPA, to dissolve the clot and to minimize damage to my brain. There is about a three-hour window from the time of the stroke for the drug to be effective. I remember the doctor telling me the next 48 hours would be critical because of swelling in the brain after a stroke. 

I woke up around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday in the ICU and thought I saw an angel standing at the foot of my bed. It was Sister Benzi, the night nurse, in a long white habit. Sister noticed I was awake and came into my room to check on me in a very gentle and caring way. She explained the seriousness of my condition and her spiritual presence gave me a feeling of hope and peacefulness. Over the next few days in the ICU, I realized how lucky I was to be alive. It felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster and my blood pressure was unstable. I wasn’t quite sure about the road ahead.

After a one-week stay in the hospital, my medical team thought it would be best to continue my recovery at home. I remember feeling so fragile and cautious walking with a cane. My balance was definitely off and I noticed my senses were over stimulated, making it very difficult to be around crowds and noisy environments. Fortunately, after several weeks of physical, speech, and occupational therapy, my balance and cognitive skills improved greatly. I returned back to work on a part-time basis on August 19, 2017, and full time a couple of weeks later. To complete my healing process, I realized I needed help for my mind to better comprehend how this event affected me and to talk about all the feelings I was having. After four months of sessions with a neuropsychologist, I was able to work through my PTSD and became – and remain - very optimistic about life. I feel blessed. Many stroke patients do not receive tPA. I am one of the lucky ones who did. I am very grateful God gave me tomorrow.



Contact Us Donate Now