I am a 36 year old woman who can now say has been a victim of a few mini strokes. Strokes, Yes I SAID STROKES.. It is certainly something to be weirded out by especially because of how it happened.
It has been 6 days since my release from the hospital and 10 days since my series of mini strokes. What does a stroke feel like what are the symptoms. I am a reasonably educated person and have been around serious medical illnesses and health conditions I reasonably know what to look for. BUT.. when it happens to you, especially at my age, you tend to ignore or think that you are just over reacting. Here's the story.
Thursday morning I was awakened by my husband (something he does every morning at 5:30 am), I hopped out of bed coherent, talking and on my way to the shower. I entered the shower and started my normal routine of getting shampoo and washing my hair when my right hand wouldn't work, was limp, had no feeling from my elbow to my finger tips. Weirded out by that I called for my husband who took a look at it and looked for other signs (there were none) Signs, by the way, to look for, are drooping face, drooping eyelids, slurred speech etc. No signs of anything but this localized paralysis. I remember feeling like my hand was super cold or that I couldn't feel the bone but cold water squishing through my hand. A different description, you know like when your car makes a funny noise and you can't really describe it and when you do, the mechanics look at you funny. Well that was how I could describe the feeling or lack there of. Immediately I needed help to dress and I had my husband call my doctor before hours. I really have the best doctor. She stated to take an aspirin and watch it for 30 minutes, that it could be a pinched nerve since there were no other symptoms at that time. So that's what I did and away to work I went. That morning half way to work I stopped and called my doctor and spoke to her. Again, I was advised to watch for increased paralysis and or loss of function and if that were to occur to head into the doctors.
I made it to work (difficult when you are right hand dominant) and began to work. It was super frustrating. I couldn't type, I couldn't pick up things, I couldn't sign my name on time sheets, contracts or anything. The only thing I could do was answer the phone, call people or meet in person with people. UGH Frustrating. By mid morning I decided I would go and see the Physician's Assistant since my doctor was not in that day. I made an appointment and went there. While there the PA conducted all sorts of Stroke tests which ranged from reflexes in your arms, grips, questions, such as Who is the President, what is the day of the week, month and year and feeling sensations. She listened to my speech (for slurring) and for word finding issues and determined that yeah it was a pinched nerve. So I went about my day. I worried about that, I was unproductive and went home.
At home I dealt with my two kids, while waiting for my husband to come home and his friend to come over for dinner. I of course ordered pizza (the easiest thing I could think of). During dinner while trying to feed myself with my left hand and also trying to feed my one year old I had to leave the table, I was in tears with frustration and took a moment away. I had no function at this time of my right dominant arm elbow to fingertips. No matter how light I made of the situation it bothered me and I didn't buy the "pinched nerve" diagnosis. I made it through the night and went to bed.
The next morning I did not feel quite right. What was going on. Did I have a stroke? I was planning that morning to go to either get a massage, see a chiropractor (I've never seen one) or see my doctor. I attended my staff development for my staff and moved up my doctors appointment from 2:30 pm to 10:00 am. My secretary identified a few times where I slurred my speech and pointed that out to me. The Occupational Therapist I hired looked at my functioning and indicated to me that the symptoms were more in line with a stroke as opposed to the pinched nerve. What was going on? I am 36, healthy, have two kids ages 1 and 5 and a husband. We live an active and healthy life. I don't have time for this.
Once at my doctors office, more stroke indicator tests were conducted and I left the office with the notion that my doctor was going to consult a neurologist before ordering tests. I went back to work, packed up a few things and headed home. Once at home I received a phone call indicating that I needed to get an MRI of my head completed that day. I worked with my doctors nurse to get that scheduled same day. I drove myself to my MRI, waited for a while and then had a dye injected MRI of my brain. A very weird test I might add.
You know how things sometimes don't add up. The MRI technologist made a few comments to me that triggered the notion that there were some problems. and then while driving home the bomb. The call from my doctor which indicated to me that I needed to be hospitalized. I asked her to call my husband who is in the medical field and would know what to do with that information better than I. I knew I would not be able to relay all the "right" information and medical lingo. I heard "STROKES" and "HOSPITALIZATION." Should I stop driving? Can I make it home and get my back ready? I need to see my kids and put them at ease. What would I walk in the door to? I am 36 this isn't supposed to be happening! I am healthy. I have lots of things I want to plan to accomplish, get done, spend time with kids and more. Wow, was my life passing before my eyes. Back to focus on driving.
I was not sure what was going to be in store for me. I texted my boss, my secretary and let them know I was going to be hospitalized and that work may be affected but didn't have answers yet. There were many thoughts and questions running through my head. I wanted to hug my husband and love on my kids. I wanted a minute to process this weird news. I was glad however that I knew why my hand was not working as it should but wondered would there be more issues (cognitive issues, brain damage, speech issues (having a background in Speech Therapy didn't help much) will I regain my hand function back to normal, what else would be found? )
When I arrived home around 5 ish, I walked into the house and saw my kids, their daddy (my husband with tear in his eyes in work mode). I gave my kids hugs, spoke to them a bit and went to get my bag packed. How do you pack for a hospital stay that isn't like delivering a baby? What do you take? I packed comfy clothes, bathroom amenities, socks, and essentials. I stole one of my kids soft blankets to have a little comfort of home. I grabbed my rosary my Grandma Baranski gave to me for my first communion and my ipod, ipad, to be connected to work, the world and my life (a little normalcy). Wasn't sure what else was needed.
My oldest son, T was having such a difficult time. He is my sensitive child, and knows when things are not as it should be. I spoke to him and told him that Mommy needed to have her hand looked at and that part of her neck wasn't working. I assured him that I would be fine. I put his rosary on him and told him to think of mommy and that God would take care of me. I told him that we were going to daddy's work where the doctors there know how to take care of me and to make me feel better. It was not easy. I went to rock my other son, my one year old, who by the way was running a 101 fever (we thought teething) and was pretty lethargic. He cuddled with me. I sang to him. I felt as if I were abandoning both of them in their time of need. During that time my sister called. She was concerned, confused and worried about myself, and my husband. She was figuring out how to get here from Seattle quickly. She said, "you are really calm and holding it together!" I told her that I had my kids and husband to think about and didn't want to worry anyone. The in-laws came to take care of the kids and saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We needed to leave. I needed to be with my kids but I needed to get treated too.
I am soooooo very proud of my husband. Once he received the phone call from my doctor, he went into work mode. By the time I arrived home from the MRI and getting the news, he had called my family and started getting information out, called his work, Chief of Vascular Surgery, and set things in motion with those he knows there. He drove like a bat out of hell to the point I had to say that I would like to get there in one piece.
We arrived to his place of work (the hospital) and as I made my way through the sliding doors at the Emergency Department (ED) I was greeted by the Chief of Vascular Surgery, barely checked in and was whisked into a room. Things were in motion. Not even time to think. The ED doctor came in (very intimidated by the Chief and friend of ours who was in the room) and began to discuss my symptoms, vitals were taken, I gowned up, and procedures were ordered. EKG was normal and taken, next pee in a cup, finally off to the CTA (cat scan with injected dye, which by the way makes you feel as though you pee'd your pants even though you did not) and back to the room. I was being admitted. Having a close friend and high ranking doctor in the room helped to speed things along, which then made me think about those who don't have such friendships to lean on, or a husband who knew the system and how to maneuver through it and advocate, I was indeed blessed and felt calm.
I tried to rest because I knew it was going to be a long time and that right now I wasn't hooked up to IV's just yet. I was poked but not IV at that time. My husband's co-worker came by for a visit after my parents left for the evening, he brought a few magazines and some chapstick, and for my husband the best gift, KEYS. He was given keys to their place as they were heading out on vacation for a week. B was able to get away from the hospital, have a beer, a shower and feel normal for a minute. This was the best thing for him! I soooo appreciated it!
The next few days would be filled with wonderful nurses (minus one) a million different doctors, with a million different questions, the same stroke tests two three times a day which included questions like, "who's the president? What day is it? What is this on my wrist? What am I pointing to?" and sensitivity tests and strength and mobility tests. The days were filled with more questions than answers since I was young (36) and every test indicated a healthy person. I had the following an echocardiogram (looks at the heart) an angiogram, where they insert a catheter in your groin and up your arteries injecting dye in order to track your blood flow and detect clots or blockages, and finally the vascular leg assessment looking for DVT. All normal with the exception of the known dissection of the left internal carotid artery and occlusion of that artery. The great part I saw that I have great flow to my brain! Apparently your body figures out another pathway much like when you are driving and your main road is blocked due to construction you automatically pick a different route to the same destination.
So now my life is changed. I have had several mini strokes and live with an occluded artery. I am currently taking blood thinners for the next four months, see a neurologist in one month and in four months will be re imaged with the hopes that the blockage will be reopened. I have to say I don't put much faith in that last statement but rather feel that a more realistic view is that I will be on blood thinners of some kind for the rest of my life. I see an Occupational Therapist now for the next few weeks to help my hand (right hand dominant) regain all of the strength and sensitivity it is missing.
There is more on this journey that I will share soon. My hand is tired, and my priority at this time is to relax with my husband. It does feel good to get this down and out a bit it has helped me to process. And yet my story is not all told, just yet that is!