Gabe’s Hospital Adventure, the strangest Easter, and a VERY Happy Ending

On a Wednesday evening, Gabe was eating dinner at Stefan and Heather’s house with his girlfriend, Anna. In the middle of a story about his mission, Gabe lost his words. He stopped mid-sentence and looked around the table in confusion. Stefan thought he was joking. Heather excused herself to the kitchen to frost the cake.

At this point, Anna texted me to say, “Hey we’re in SLC right now. We’re going to come by because Gabe keeps slurring his speech and has had a bad headache for a few days”

I immediately called Anna, and she was frantic. His right side had now gone numb and he could scarcely speak. My little nurse in training, Mary, said, “Tell them to drive to the hospital now!”

Thus began, the scariest drive of the scariest night.

I called Anna while Mary and I raced to the car. Gabe was in the background insisting, “I can, can, can…”

We told him, “You can’t drive!”

As we drove to the hospital, we stayed on speaker phone and listened as Gabe’s speech deteriorated and his fear increased. Poor Anna was terrified. “Slow deep breaths,” Mary coached, “Breathe in 1, 2, 3. Breathe out 1, 2, 3.”

I texted Erik who was at a church event and he jumped in his car.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, we were all terrified. Gabe couldn’t speak at all and his right leg was completely numb. We pulled up behind them in the emergency bay and I leapt out of the car to help Gabe into the building.

The emergency room was quiet and the nurses looked unconcerned to see a tall handsome, well-dressed 21-year-old stumble in. When we reached the desk, triage nurse asked his name and he responded with perfect confidence, “Gdrilo.” They asked the month and he stared in complete confusion. Once I told them his right side was numb, they jumped into action, pushed him into a wheelchair, and raced through the swinging double doors. Within minutes, he had a bed in Level 1 Trauma, an IV in each arm and a dozen hospital attendants surrounding him.

They gave him a paper with pictures and words. He couldn’t read any words or recognize any objects.

They asked if he could say, “Thanks” “Fifty-fifty” “Tip-top” He struggled, struggled, struggled.

But it was when they asked him to say “Mama” and he worked his mouth, looked at me, and simply couldn’t speak at all that we all– Gabe, Erik, Mary, Anna and I, burst into tears.

After a CT scan showing a dark spot in his brain, three neurologists agreed it looked like a stroke and talked to us about administering TPA– a powerful blood thinner that stops stroke symptoms but can cause brain bleeds. Gabe, in his extremely incapacitated state, agreed to the medication as did the rest of us.

They inserted the first dose into his IV, put the rest on a drip and we sat back to wait. And call. And text.

First our family, then our friends. “Please pray for Gabe.”

It’s easy now, with Gabe sitting on the couch next to me, watching Modern Family, to know our prayers were answered, to know he’s thriving both physically and mentally. His slips in vocabulary are about the same as the rest of us. It’s such a privilege to sit on the other side of a could-have-been catastrophe, and my heart aches for others with a less positive outcome.

But on that night, in the bright lights of the trauma bay, with a dozen machines beeping and whirring, we didn’t know if we were in the nucleus of a life-changing event. Would Gabe lose the use of his right side? Would he be able to speak? What about all his plans for the future? Mary, our future nurse, silenced all the unnecessary alarms and explained every acronym, every bit of hospital speak, to the rest of us.

As the TPA dripped into his veins, a violent headache took over. Gabe slowly regained speech and movement, but was writhing in pain. They moved him into the Neuro ICU where he threw up over and over and his nose began to bleed dramatic red streaks down his hospital gown. Throughout that long night and into the next day, his misery increased; although they gave him painkillers, his only relief came when he passed out from the pain.

But the next day, Gabe felt better. He met with a physical therapist, a speech therapist, and a neurologist who told him to expect a full recovery. Gabe joked with everyone who walked into the room. After his MRI, they questioned if he’d ever had a stroke at all. After 24 hours in the ICU, they sent him home.

They didn’t allow more than two visitors in the ICU, so we hid Mary behind the toilet curtain.

At home, we’d just settled Gabe onto the couch and took dibs on who got the first shower, when the headache flattened Gabe once again. He was thrashing and crying. We called Xander to come over and give him a blessing with Erik. I called a friend for migraine advice. We tried to give him medicine be he was retching up water.

No one wants to go the the emergency room needlessly. And although we weren’t talking about money, we knew we’d just spent a small fortune in the last 24 hours (his first visit cost more than 80K, $32,774 just for the 100 mg of TPA). But when his right side once again went numb, when he didn’t know when he was born, then couldn’t say his name– we went back to the emergency room within an hour.

This time, after more tests, more scans, they decided it was just a severe migraine mimicking stroke like symptoms. After trying ELEVEN drugs that didn’t mitigate the pain, they finally found a doctor who did a specialized lidocaine procedure which he said kept patients pain free for two weeks.

Hospital Chic

Home again. Just in time for Easter Sunday which we spent sleeping, drifting around the house, and sitting by Gabe’s bedside. Thankfully, we’d celebrated well the week before when Hans was in town for General Conference.

By late afternoon on Easter, the migraine overtook Gabe once again. Armed with some mighty drugs from the hospital, we watched them fail one by one. We Googled every home remedy, placed ice packs on his neck and forehead, and once again called our friends. If you are dealing with migraines, these are some of the best items we found: Migrastil Migraine Stick, Migraine Ice Head Wrap, and Cephaly (which we borrowed from our saintly neighbors).

I’ve have migraines before, but nothing that couldn’t be cured by rest, medication, and time in a dark room. Our brief foray into the nightmarish world of chronic migraines, was humbling and terrifying. My heart goes out to those who deal with this crippling condition year after year.

We nursed him day and night, learned all the pressure points to mitigate migraines, and took turns getting a few hours of sleep. On Tuesday night, nothing we did could control the pain. Anna (who was a champ through the entire ordeal) sat by his bed trying remedy after remedy with no relief. None of us wanted to go back to the hospital, especially Gabe who said, “Don’t make me go back there, they won’t let me sleep.” Finally, around 4 am, Gabe went silent, almost catatonic. He couldn’t say his name, didn’t know any of us. His pupils dilated so wide we could scarcely see his blue irises.

We needed Erik to get him out of bed, we three girls weren’t strong enough. As Erik walked him down the hallway, Gabe broke away and tried to leap over the stairway railing.

Once again. We drove to the hospital. We were terrified.

This time, everything in the emergency room seemed to move in slow motion. On the last two visits, he had an IV in his arm before we even blinked. This time, it took several sticks and bleeds, bandaids and retries. No doctors seemed to be available. The nurse disappeared for long stretches of time. Even his blood, filling up the now familiar vials seemed to run sluggishly. We prayed. And texted.

Although it was 6 am on a Wednesday morning, I heard back almost immediately from our Relief Society President– she’d organized a ward fast for Gabe. I began to breathe with more ease when I knew hundreds of people were fasting and praying for my boy. Mary had emailed all Gabe’s BYU professors before, but she messaged them again and they promised to pray for him in class.

This time, his blood tests revealed a clue: an elevated white blood cell count. They decided to do a spinal tap. Although we’d witnessed every other procedure, the medical staff told us this one was too traumatic for family members. They placed us in a room with a social worker. And we cried and cried and cried.

Still, the spinal tap was exactly what he needed. Most likely exactly what he needed from day one, because it revealed viral meningitis. After his diagnosis, his care became simple and clear: acyclovir (an antiviral), Tylenol, and rest, rest, rest. Even when he was in pain, Gabe joked with the doctors, the nurses and all of us.

Within a day, we were home again. Within a week, he was back for the very last day of school before finals, negotiating with his teachers about missed tests and assignments. He ended up with excellent grades in most of his classes with an incomplete in one finance class (which he has a year to complete)– undoubtedly a good outcome.

The two weeks were a bit nerve-wracking with a few recurrences of confusion and forgetting names. If you’ve watched Queen Charlotte on Netflix, Gabe’s episodes looked much like the madness of King George (without the writing on walls and running around naked in the garden). It was impossible for him to forget his medications, since all reminded him to take his pills several times a day. His medical adventures turned him into a bit more of an introvert, but also boosted his love life. Cute Anna, was about to take off to Hong Kong at the end of finals an ended up canceling a months worth of trips.

So, it’s a happy ending, with a pile of hospital bills that we’ll worry about later. And for Gabe, a darling fiancee. Stay tuned! The wedding isn’t until December since she’s in Taiwan for the next three months.



  1. Anne Marie

    May 30, 2023

    I can’t even believe all that Gabe experienced in such a short amount of time!! So many miracles along the way! So so glad that you all were with him through this

    CONGRATULATIONS to the darling couple!!! That is amazing! They look perfect together! Hurrah hurrah hurrah!!♥️♥️♥️

  2. Annie

    May 31, 2023

    What a read! It’s hard to know how to even respond properly to all that but I’m so very happy you got a happy ending. ❤️

  3. Jenn

    June 5, 2023

    Hi there,

    I am so relieved Gabe is okay—it was so brave of you to share this story! Did Gabe have herpes meningoencephalitis? Thank you for helping to increase awareness!

    If you have viral meningitis, symptoms may include fever, light sensitivity, headache, and a stiff neck. If you have other symptoms, such as confusion, seizures, sleepiness, or a focal neurologic deficit—a nerve function problem that affects a specific area — these may suggest that your brain is also affected, and your healthcare provider may diagnose it as meningoencephalitis.


      July 8, 2023

      They tested for herpes and several other viruses, but never identified the virus. And yes, they diagnosed it as meningoencephalitis. And our insurance is paying quite a bit!

  4. Lauren

    June 6, 2023

    I’m so sorry also about the hospital bills! Will insurance pay for any, or are the gigantic totals above with insurance? Sending so much love.

  5. Amie Tew

    June 8, 2023

    Hooray for his recovery! Thank you for always spreading sunshine and sharing all the ups and downs of being a family.

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