Stroke

It‘s been months since I’ve written. There is too much on my mind now to fit in Facebook, where most of my friends will read it. So I write here for myself and the 4 (less now probably) people who may stop by.
There has been a lot of drama out here including a conflict that has nearly destroyed the relationship with my room-mate and has seriously damaged the friendship I thought I had with her. On a separate issue, the landlord brought in another tenant with horses which caused a ton of stress between the two of us after she turned her three loose in the pasture where ours have been for 3 years without so much as knocking on the door to say they were there. My room-mate and the neighbor were told that we might be getting a new boarder, then she showed up and took over.  This following the drama with my father last year in which I was made out to be the money grabber even though I haven’t received $50,000 from him, but one family member has.  That’s irony isn’t it?  He never has and probably never will take care of his children (but we are grown now anyway). In spite of that I was willing to step in to take actions in his best interest.  I digress, he was deemed competent and returned to his rat hole where he was then truly robbed and abused.  I have not much more than pity for him and still some anger.  He only gives to people who cater to his whims and join him in his abusive co-dependent relationships.  Personally I believe he is high functioning Autistic/Aspergers but no one will every know.

I am currently on leave from work following a series of life threatening medical events.

April 17th or 18th

We moved a bunch of seasoned horse dirt and ash to an area by the house where I wanted to plant a garden. It was a normal, sunny Saturday afternoon. That evening I started having intense pain radiating down my left arm. I considered that I may be having a heart attack but I’ve had my heart checked periodically throughout life and the EKG readings have been normal so took an Advil and eventually it subsided. The same pain woke me up again later that night.

April 19th
I woke up with a blanket of rash from my left shoulder to my left wrist – looks a lot like poison ivy which I am very susceptible to so I started treating it with OTC topical meds, like I always do. The pain in my arm has subsided by now. I continue treating the rash and it continues to spread.

April 21st
I speak to the pharmacist about another topical treatment and she makes a face when I show her the rash and suggests I need a steroid. I went to an Instacare center where the doc looked at the rash, prescribed Progesterone (Prednosone – side effect of the brain issues, confusing to the ER staff since the 2 meds are not interchangeable) and sent me on my way. I spoke with 3 different people in the office about the intense sharp pains in my left arm including the doctor and it was dismissed. On the way out of the office I again had a conversation about the pain in my left arm, the receptionist was surprised that the Dr didn’t explore further about the cause and I went home.

Sunday April 26th
I was in the barn throwing hay out for the horses evening meal when I was suddenly hit with a feeling of vertigo making me feel as if I were going to black out. I fell (more like tipped over and the bale caught me) into the large round hay bale near where I was standing. Two of the other renters were in the area and they helped me steady myself until I was able to slide down to the floor leaning against it. I remember her asking if I was diabetic. Even though I was sitting, it felt as if the world was spinning around and I had to keep my eyes closed for 20+ minutes until it subsided. I had an alcoholic beverage earlier in the day and after talking with them we thought maybe it was an interaction with the prescription I was on. I went in the house, watched TV and went to bed.

I’m continuing on the Prednisone, the rash is responding and drying up, I was working full-time and there are no further issues until Thursday May (April) 30th.

Thursday April 20th (uh April 30th)
I work a split shift from home so my hours at this time are 7:30 am to 11:30 and 6pm to 10pm, but I’ve been picking up as much overtime as possible and working 60+ hour weeks for the last + months. I live in my chair at the desk 10-12 hours a day. On my evening shift break is 7:45 to 8:00 pm and on break I took the dog out for a walk. When I get back to the living room in the house I get hit by the freight train again. This time it takes me 3 ½ hours to recover. My room-mate is home and brings a chair, trash can to vomit in and several dish towels, wet cloths to help (at this point I should have called an ambulance I later learn). This episode is accompanied by violent vomiting, explosive gas and intense nausea. Even with my eyes closed it feels as if I’m on a Tilt-A-Whirl, previously my favorite amusement park ride. Now I have my own personal ride that I cannot stop.

At 9:00 or so, she checks in with me before going to bed. I’m still sitting in the kitchen chair and manage to get up under her supervision and stumble to the bathroom and back to the couch, she gets my comforter from the bedroom, puts it over me and goes to bed. Around 11:30 I wake up with a cat on my chest (Skylar) and the dog cemented to my side while the other cats are perched around me observing. I was able to propel myself from the couch to my bed without incident. I slept through the night as far as I know.

Friday May 1st
I heard her moving around when I got up and asked for a ride to the hospital. I NEVER want to experience that again and the 2nd was violently worse than the first and I want to know what is going on and what do I need to do to prevent another episode?

I would say here for all intents and purposes I appear to be functioning in a normal means. I am walking, talking, having cognitive conversations and making decisions for myself. From the surface it appears that nothing has changed. If you think it’s frustrating for you – switch places with me.

Vitals appear normal but “as a precaution” they are going to do a checkup. I’m connected to a heart monitor and sent down for a brain scan. They install an IV and luckily at that moment labs shows up and are able to take their samples from the same hole (less drilling for now). Some time passes. This cute doc comes in and sits next to the bed (that’s always a sign of bad news btw) and says the brain scan is showing a shadow on my cerebellum, they are checking me in for a CT scan to check it out. I said to him “to see if it’s a cancerous growth”, he nods and offers that they also want to eliminate stroke and emphasizes that he cannot confirm at this time if it was a stroke – that word was so far from the realm of possibilities I was considering that it was shocking to me.  At this point it’s been 5 or so hours since I’ve been in the hospital and I’m getting hungry since I usually eat shortly after waking up. I text Eric to call me on lunch – there is no need to worry him unnecessarily. I tell him to stay at work for his shift and come to the hospital at night.

He did and slept in the chair next to me all night.  Twice sliding off of it to the floor.  Love’s his mama and I think he was afraid I was packing my bags for the final journey.

May 1st to 3rd are spent listening to the sounds of the hospital, gazing out the window and napping.  I am check from tip to toe with the following results.  I still find it humorous that almost the first thing the neurologist says to me is “You’ve had 2 strokes”.  She was a rock star and the first doctor to shoot straight and give me direction for recovery.  I have to say with 1 exception every person I encountered at the hospital was aces.

The verdict:

  • Stroke 1 (small, Ischemic*) on right hemisphere of brain.
  • Stroke 2 (major, Ischemic) on left hemisphere of brain at the cerebellum
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Patent Foramen Ovale – a hole in my heart that I’ve lived with since my first breath
  • AIC of 6.6 – which means I have developed Type 1 Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea – on Friday night I stopped breathing 13 times, the norm is 5
  • Anemic – from a known issue that I’ve been battling for several years
  • Atrial Fibrillation – strong possibility, I had a heart rate monitor on for 30 days and we’re still waiting for the test results to be confirmed.
  • Stress from the conflict between my roommate and Eric and the stress of the disrespectful tenant with the new horses in addition to the silent health issues created a perfect storm.

I had 8 out the 10 indicators for stroke.  I have never smoked anything-ever and I’m not an alcoholic.  Those were the only 2 I didn’t have.  Word to the wise Eat Healthy and Exercise so you don’t have a stroke.

It has been 6 weeks and 2 days since I left the hospital.  In addition to the testing done there I’ve also had my annual physical stuff, am going to Diabetes classes, have additional testing scheduled and completed.

What most likely happened is my heart went into AFib, allowing enough blood to pool for long enough to create a blood clot.  When the heart beat normally again it shot the blood clots through the PFO into an artery up to my brain – resulting in the strokes.  The stress inflated an already high blood pressure.

The good news is I have confirmed that I do not have a brain tumor, weak heart or breast cancer.  I walked out of the hospital under my own power and am recovering my cognitive abilities.  I have learned that the brain in an adult does not recover dead cells, no new ones will grow.  It will take time for my brain to re-learn those skills that I have lost and the dead tissues will remain a shadow.  It’s kind of like someone taking a melon baller and removing a scoop of brain tissue.  There are things that are simply absent, and I don’t know that I don’t know until someone reminds me.

Oh, one of the side effects too is that I tire easily now.  I have set some personal goals for recovery and this week am up to walking 6,000 steps per day.  This one has been the most challenging level so far (I’ve been increasing 500 steps per day each week from the amount I was able to do right out of the hospital)

One nurse told me that people with PFO are more emotional than most and I can attest to that.  I am sitting here with a tear running down my cheek.  Eric called about an hour ago to tell me he passed out at a stop sign on the way to work and was woken up by a police man.  I sent him to a doctor and he isn’t answering his phone.  He’s all I have left and I’m not even with him and now his phone is going straight to voice mail.  Be still and know that I am God.


Random order in which these thoughts came to me while writing.

I have a brain injury.  To those of you, like me before, who have no idea what that’s like I have two suggestions to increase your understanding and hopefully your compassion.  Memory now is like looking through a stained glass window, there is an image of each little memory but those that are dreams, thoughts and actions are somewhat scrambled together and It’s not certain which is which at times, especially if I’m tired or stressed.  This observation came about following a brief conversation I just had with my roommate regarding a ride to the sleep study on Friday.  Until an event in April between her and my son Eric we had a strong healthy mutually respectful friendship.

A number of “friends” have inferred that my strokes must not have been too bad or must have been mini strokes (there is no such thing btw) and to them I provide the following for understanding.  Go to the paint store.  Place your head in the paint can shaker and turn it on.  Wait for the timer to go off, now try to function.  Basically on the 2nd stroke my head was in the shaker for 2.5 hours before I could open my eyes and balance against the walls enough to get to the bathroom.  It took another hour before I was able to walk without support enough to go to bed.

Word to the wise if anyone in your family ever says the world is spinning – CALL AN AMBULANCE, don’t go to bed and say “let me know if you need anything”.  What I need in this moment is for someone else to make a decision because I am not capable of logical thought, my focus is on breathing.

STROKE = FAST

Face, Arms, Speech, Time

Face – Is one side of the face drooping, have your loved one smile.

Arms – Have your loved one hold both arms straight out in front of themselves and close their eyes.  Does one arm drop?

Speech – Ask them to speak a simple sentence or recite a tongue twister.  Did they stare at you blankly or look like they can’t make the words or is their speech is slurred?

Long term issues – my language and math skills are still drastically effected as you may be able to tell by the writing above.  I’m just freaking thankful I can write and function at all having the benefit of time and education on my side now.  If I don’t write something down, it may get lost in the shuffle, like reference to my chat with the roommate earlier.  Since I was reminded of our chat I vaguely remember we talked about her picking me up on Saturday from the sleep study but before the reminder I was remembering the earlier arrangements for her to take me to the hospital and me figuring out a ride home.  How can I help you understand what I need when there are still moments when I have to think in logical sequence to function?  I can’t tell you what I want if it’s a secret to me.  I’ve put that in bold for all the caregivers and medical patients, I hope it will lead to understanding and much more patience.  I know it’s confusing to you and you don’t know how to relate but if I am incapable of expressing myself it falls on you to offer compassion and patience.  Refrain from judgement and irritation because you don’t get an answer from me on YOUR time schedule, my slate has been wiped clean and I’m probably writing on it with fresh chalk.

The outlook?  30% of stroke patients have another one within 5 years.  So 70% don’t and go on to lead normal lives?  Since I’ve already had my 2 I’m looking to the sunny side.

Today 6/17 0800  Just got off the phone with Eric.  He passed out at a stop sign while driving and was woken up by a policeman.  I told him to go to the Instacare center and he’s not answering his phone.  Lord – I know you have him in your hands.  Keep him safe and anyone around him.  If he passes out again get him to the emergency room.  I am powerless from here.

The last time I saw Eric he said my personality had changed.  I think it scared him a little.  It has. No longer do I suffer fools.  How could it not change after an event of this magnitude?  I am less emotional than I was, I expect more out of others – to handle their own business, I have stopped taking on other adults problems.  I am still compassionate and loving.  I am simply disengaged.  I’ve always been the caregiver sacrificing my own needs to be there for other people, interfering in their decisions at times and justifying it while pitying them.  As I write that I realize they are harsh words.  What has changed though has nothing to do with others, it’s about taking care of myself and not being willing to sacrifice my health – mental or physical – over someone else’s poor choices and that includes my son.  I love him as much as ever and I have given him all that I have.

Followup:  He’s fine.  Doc thinks dehydration but I think he lied to me about going.  It wasn’t enough time between calls for him to be seen.  I hate when he lies to me.  He passed out in the car again between 0830 and 1200 when he called again.  He’s out of money, gas and food and didn’t go to work today.  He’s a grown man.  He’s giving it a good effort anyway.  A grown man wouldn’t run out of gas unless it was extenuating circumstances, but exhaustion will do that to you too – foster poor decision making.  I’m glad he’s ok.

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