March 13, 2011…a day I will not soon forget. I had been looking forward to this day for many weeks, after all it was going to be a time for family and friends at Erin’s baby shower. The day begin as any other day, half an hour before I was supposed to leave I experienced a sudden burst of nausea. This didn’t strike me as odd since a horrible stomach virus had been making its rounds through town and I just thought it was my turn. I decided to attend the shower anyway as the feeling passed. Shortly after arriving my son and his family arrived. I went outside to greet them and carried my 2yr old grandson inside the building. I chatted for a few minutes and then set him down, upon standing upright I felt a very “funny” feeling, light-headed would be the best description I can come up with. I announced this to my daughter’s grandmother and she suggested I sit down and get some sugar into my system since I was probably having a low blood sugar. The next few minutes are somewhat of a blur, suddenly people were all around me. I could see them, but when I listened to them they seemed distant. The feeling was horrifying. I had no idea what was wrong, still thinking I had low sugar I asked for some sugar laden punch. I spilled a little of it and while attempting to get a napkin to clean it up I was noticing that I had trouble removing the napkin ring…how odd I thought?? Is it really on that tightly?? Others saw my frustration and came over, I could feel a gentle calming hand on my right shoulder…the kind of feeling you get when you know someone is very concerned about you and then it struck me; my own mother was holding my left hand and I had NO idea that she had taken my hand. As I looked at her hand holding mine I began to cry. What in the world was wrong with me??? Why can’t I feel her touch?? My sister, who is a nurse came over at this time and noticed something was wrong with my face. It was then the decision was made that I needed to get to a hospital…I knew what everyone was thinking, they think I’m having a stroke. Those words kept going through my head. THEY THINK I’M HAVING A STROKE. The ride to the hospital didn’t take long, my niece got me there safely and quickly and initially the staff seemed as concerned as everyone else. They did an initial stroke evaluation, I am knowledgable enough to understand the process. My strength on my left side at this time was normal, I explained this to the doctor. I told her that although I could squeeze her fingers and was aware of her hands that I could NOT feel them. I assume I passed their evaluation as they never checked my odd lack of sensation again. Their focus instead turned to the one time that I had become sick in the morning. After blood work and an IV I was discharged with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis and acute mild pancreatitis. Thinking back I should have asked…what about the fact I can NOT feel anything in my left arm?? Why am I not having imaging?? I was drained at this point and just wanted to get home. I accepted their instructions and came home. I really don’t remember the ride home, we pulled into my very muddy driveway and I walked across my soaking wet front lawn. I came in the door and attempted to remove my shoes, they were slip on shoes, the right shoe came off easily but I couldn’t seem to get the left shoe off. It was my daughter that had to point out the reason…there was NO SHOE on my foot!! I asked my son-in-law if there was mud on my sock, he said yes. I was just in a daze, how could I have walked through such a cold and wet surface without realizing that my shoe had fallen off?? Wow…I must have been really dehydrated I thought. A few moments later I dropped the bottle of Sprite I had been carrying in my left hand, then my phone. I had to ask my daughter if they had in fact been IN my hand. How bizarre this was all becoming. I settled into my chair and signed into FB as per my usual, only there was nothing usual about it. I attempted to chat with a co-worker but couldn’t type properly. Words involving my left hand just weren’t coming out as planned. I asked her to call me, we chatted briefly and then another friend popped up in a chat message. I encountered the same difficulties. I asked him to call as well, almost immediately he asked to speak with my daughter. I knew I was in trouble at this point, I kept thinking something must not be right with me if he wants to speak with her. We said our goodbye’s and I promised if things got worse I’d go back to the hospital, although most assuredly not the SAME hospital. The night was not a good one, multiple trips to the bathroom were met with much stumbling. I needed my husbands assistance on this short trip. He went to work and as I awoke I was keenly aware that things were worse. A headache, a terrible headache had entered the picture. A call to my doctor’s office resulted in them telling me to immediately get to the ER. The other hospital took a much different approach. A better safe than sorry approach. The staff was amazing and within hours I had the diagnosis that I had suspected but was rightfully dreading. Several ischemic strokes on the right side of my brain. Most likely the doctor feltn a clot had broken off into multiple areas causes several different blockages which explained the increase of symptoms. He explained what I already knew, I was too late for a medication called TPA, a medication that can significantly reduce the blockage thereby lessening or even eliminating the symptoms. Had the other hospital performed imaging, I would have been a candidate for this medication but this was a moot point. The next step was admission to a major medical hospital’s neurosciences ICU. The care I received there was amazing, the nurses top-notch and the doctors never made me feel that I was just ANOTHER patient. I was immediately put on a heparin drip and will be on blood thinners for at least the next six months of my life. The exact cause of the stroke is uncertain although all signs point to birth control pills I was taking for excessive menstrual bleeding. The recovery has been slow, but there has been progress. Each day has become a gift to me. I was literally at the stepping off point, but someone, or something pulled me back. I know that there is a purpose to everything we endure in this life. I know that I need to educate as many people as possible to the warning signs of strokes. I need to make my friends and family aware that no one is immune to a sudden illness or accident. I need to make myself aware that my job and my “things” are nothing compared to my health and the love of all my family and friends. I am so very thankful for each and every one of you that gave well wishes, or sent cards, or gave the gift of music. I have learned that I am much stronger than I suspected and although my goals are different from the “pre” stroke goals that they are important nonetheless. I will embrace every day with a smile and while there may be some sadness along the way I know that it is all part of my journey.
Stroke Warning Signs
If you notice one or more of these signs, don’t wait. Stroke is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 or your emergency medical services. Get to a hospital right away!
The American Stroke Association wants you to learn the warning signs of stroke:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Be prepared for an emergency.
Keep a list of emergency rescue service numbers next to the telephone and in your pocket, wallet or purse.
Find out which area hospitals are primary stroke centers that have 24-hour emergency stroke care.
Know (in advance) which hospital or medical facility is nearest your home or office.
Take action in an emergency.
Not all the warning signs occur in every stroke. Don’t ignore signs of stroke, even if they go away!
Check the time. When did the first warning sign or symptom start? You’ll be asked this important question later.
If you have one or more stroke symptoms that last more than a few minutes, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical service (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can quickly be sent for you.
If you’re with someone who may be having stroke symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 or the EMS. Expect the person to protest — denial is common. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Insist on taking prompt action.
For stroke information, call the American Stroke Association at 1-888-4-STROKE or visit their Web site.