I know this is a SUPER long post, and you really wont hurt my feelings if you don’t read it. I just needed to get it all written down for posterity’s sake, and to have somewhere to direct folks who either want to know about my stroke or have had one themselves. Also, the pictures have nothing to do with anything obviously. Puppies & kittens are just cuter than hospital rooms & their unwashed occupants! ❤
Monday November 23rd, I woke up just before 6am with the headache from hell. There was so much pressure in my head that I could barely think straight, but I remember wondering if this is what it felt like to be stabbed in the eye.
Ant was already awake & getting ready for work, so I stumbled downstairs and mumbled that I needed Tylenol. Badly. I wasn’t trying to talk since I was still half asleep, but I must have gotten the message across that I was in a lot of pain, because he helped me back to bed, and set up a show to keep the kids busy when they woke up.
He left for work around 7:30-ish, just after the kids wandered down and started watching tv. I heard all that happening, but laid in bed for awhile still feeling like crap. Sometime after 8:00 I pulled out some clothes for Aurelia, packed her lunch, and threw some pop-tarts on the table in hopes that the kids could fend for themselves while I laid back down for another 20 minutes.
When I turned off the tv and told Aurelia what to do, she looked at me like I had six heads, so I rolled my eyes and repeated myself s-l-o-w-l-y. (If you have a kindergartner, you know the drill.) She was still looking at me like I was a doofus and said “Mommy, I can’t understand anything you’re saying.” I tried one more time, and realized that she was right. I was slurring like nobody’s business!
After I got the kids to the table, I called Anthony and slowly stuttered out “Aurelia…doesn’t…understand.” To which he replied “No crap, Aurelia never understands!” So I struggled “No. Head…pain. Home…now.” Until he finally realized that something was wrong and turned his car around to come home.
It’s funny looking back, how my biggest concern was keeping Anthony and the kids from freaking out. I really didn’t want to scare them, but it never occurred to me that I might be having a stroke! We dropped the kids off with our neighbor and headed to the ER anyway.
In the ER, nurses kept asking me the same questions over & over, and I felt like an idiot as I haltingly struggled through the same replies, with Ant as my interpreter when necessary. My vision also blurred completely in my right eye. Keeps getting better, right?
The ER visit was such a whirlwind that I don’t remember everything, but I know I was covered in electrodes, iv tubes, and heart rate monitors, and had a CT scan, CTA scan, chest x-rays, and a skype type interview with a neurologist in another state.
The results from those tests claimed that I was suffering from something called a Cluster Headache, and they were preparing to release me. A few minutes later though, a Dr. came by claiming that one of the multitude of Drs thought he may have seen a clog in my artery, and I needed to stay for an MRI too. A whole hour in a loud thumping head cage for someone who is slightly claustrophobic – Good times!!
The MRI confirmed that I did indeed have a stroke, and would be staying the night at the very least. While all that was happening, my speech was very slowly returning. I could say short sentences of very small words by the afternoon (think Spot books), and Ant kept giving me larger words to practice. Of course the smart-ass thought it was hilarious to have me try Supercalifragilistic, but even something as simple as Portland Cement was impossible to repeat. It definitely made me understand why toddlers throw tantrums when they can’t get their point across. :/
Finally, they admitted me into the hospital proper and let me chill for the rest of the day still hooked up to electrodes, iv bags, and heart rate monitors. Ant was nice enough to order me a pizza since I hadn’t eaten all day, and then I began the process of calling all the family. Of course they were utterly shocked by the news (and later told me that I sounded totally drunk on the phone), but I assured them I was ok and would call back as soon as I was out of the hospital.
The next morning, it was like my brain had completely reset itself over night. My vision and speech were totally back to normal, and everything was lookin’ great! I felt SO ridiculously lucky!
Until the doctor came to send me for an echo-cardiogram after sharing the news that; “When someone so young and healthy has a stroke, it can usually be attributed to a hole in their heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). Everyone has this hole at birth, since it allows blood to by-pass the lungs in utero. It’s supposed to close shortly after you’re born, but for about 1 in 5 people, it either never closes, or pops back open as they get older. It’s normally not a big deal… BUT this little hole allows blood clots to jump from one side of the heart to the other, and go straight to the brain where it can cause a stroke.” How awesome is that!?
So… I went for my first contrast echo which showed nothing and went back to my room. Then the echo-cardiologist requested that I have a second “bubble” echo. They hauled me downstairs again and squirt little air bubbles through my veins this time, to watch if any of them jumped through this possible hole. They did, and the echo-cardiologist requested that they do a third transesophageal echocardiogram where they knock you out and shove the ultrasound wand down your throat to get a closer picture. I can feel your jealousy from here. -_-
Unfortunately, since you can’t eat or drink before hand, they had to put that off until the next day. Instead they sent me to have ultrasounds done on my legs to check for blood clots which luckily weren’t there.
A burst IV vein and another night with nurses taking 8 viles of blood at 4am later…and I was ready to get the tests over with! I still had to pass the communication one though, to see if I would require speech, reading, or writing therapy. They just showed me pictures, had me remember a few words, and read and write a little bit, but like I said, everything had reset to normal. I thought the therapist was going to cry she was so happy to have a patient recover so completely. ^-^
Then they finally wheeled me away. I obviously don’t remember anything from the last echo since they knocked me out, but I know I woke up with a slightly sore throat, and wanted to go home. Now! But no – I had to sit around for hours while I waited for this or that doctor to visit, write more prescriptions, and fill out more paper work. Of course my second IV vein burst while I was waiting, and when they finally told me a wheelchair was coming to cart me out, I said “forget it!” and just got up and left on my own.
So November 25th around 6pm (the night before Thanksgiving) I finally escaped the hospital.
And all I wanted in my whole life was a cheeseburger! 😀
Since then it’s been a merry-go-round of doctors, but luckily most of the results have been positive!
Primary Dr. – Put on Asprin & Lipitor because all stroke patients apparently take cholesterol meds.
Neurologist – Cleared of any permanent issues
Hematologist – Cleared of any genetic or protein based clotting disorders & taken off blood thinners
Psychologist – Obviously stressed out but not sinking back into depression ★gold star
Gynecologist – Surgery to remove my tubes since birth control is no longer an option
Cardiologist #1 – Wants to close the PFO but doesn’t do that surgery himself – referred to #2
Cardiologist #2 – Tested the size of the hole & surgery is being scheduled within the month
Now I just sit and wait for the nurses to call and pick a date for the surgery. Apparently I won’t even be put under this time. They’ll just drug me a little and then go through my femoral artery, up the pipes, and put a stint thingy in to close up the hole. Then I’ll have one night in the hospital for observation, and so they can double check the stint is in the right place, and this whole ordeal should be over. They said I’ll be back in action the next day.
Considering everything that’s happening – I actually feel pretty great. I’m a bit worn out from the holidays, the stress of running everywhere and listening to doctors ramble on about the same things over and over, but physically I’m good.
Want to learn the more about PFOs?
This article from the American Heart Association is a great start.