Sharing My Story: National American Stroke Month


IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!

The day that my life changed forever began the same as all of the other hectic work days.  That one day redefined everything in my life. 

After coffee, packing for the day and heading to the office for meetings, it was still no different than a normal day. 

After receiving a devastating piece of news at lunchtime, I became extremely upset and consequently, my blood pressure began a steady march upward.  I can easily describe to you “the worst headache of my life!”  I chalked it up to stress. 

I continued to feel horrible and headed home early afternoon.  A friend came to check on me.  As we were having coffee, she asked me a question.  When I responded, it was gibberish.

She immediately leaped into action and had me perform the FAST test.

Here is what I personally experienced:

My face was slightly drooping.  I could not raise my arms more than a few inches, and those inches were a struggle.  The headache continued to rage as well.

As I mentioned above, I flunked the speech part of the test first!

My friend immediately called 9-1-1.  Fortunately, they arrived quickly.  They were able to get me to the hospital within the time-frame to receive fast treatment.

Receiving immediate treatment is important to preventing death and disability from stroke. 

I was lucky to be diagnosed and received t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms.  T-PA dissolves clots and restores blood flow, increasing the likelihood of recovery with little to no disability after three months. 

Yes.  I had a major right temporal infarction. 

How can that be? I was only 45! How much work would I have to miss? How was my lifestyle going to have to change? Was I even going to make it?

And, if I made it, was I going to end up being a burden to my family because I was unmarried?

I was truly frightened to my core.

There are three types of strokes according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Ischemic stroke: Happens when blood flow through the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: Happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks away).  The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, and then damages them.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIAs):  TIAs are frequently called “mini-strokes”.  The symptoms are similar to a major stroke and CANNOT BE IGNORED! TIAs are a warning sign of a future stroke.  These episodes need to be addressed immediately with your health care provider to aid in preventing a future major stroke.

Well, I did survive. It impacted every single aspect of my life at that time, and still does today.

I was naive.  I thought that because I was in good physical shape and worked out frequently, that eating all of those power lunches at great restaurants (Hey, I live in Louisiana! We do not eat to live, we live to eat!) I believed it would balance out.  I was so wrong.

Three of the biggest contributors to my stroke were birth control pills, undetected high blood pressure and a family health history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

I also thought that I would eventually slow down (when I caught up!) and actually enjoy my life.  Even though I loved working, I missed out on a lot as well.

And then, in steps a traumatic brain event, and I was forced to slow down whether I wanted to or not. 

No one really talks about the reality of surviving a stroke.  We are all about early detection and prevention for illnesses and diseases.  If I had my blog then, I probably would have been more proactive in my own personal health. 

I believe that more attention needs to be given to after effects of strokes, in the hope that education will lead to prevention. 

After a solid year of dealing with the effects from my stroke, I was able to concentrate on my life moving forward, and adjusting to the many changes required. 

My vision was impaired after my stroke, causing me to damage several things around my property, including running into my garage door. I also limit my night driving to emergencies only, as I now experience the halo effect from oncoming vehicles. 

I had always had nice penmanship but after my stroke, my handwriting was illegible.  That too is slowly returning.

My attention span was not up to par either.  Crowds and loud noises bothered me for the longest time.

All of this could have been avoided.  We ALL need a yearly physical.  We are extremely complacent regarding our own health.  Physicals are not just for the elderly. 

I now wake up grateful and appreciative for another day.  No business deal was worth my health or happiness.  There simply had to be a better way. 

As a stroke survivor, I was immediately taken off of birth control.

Further, I would never be able to take any hormones ever again.  I had to go through menopause naturally, with no assistance in balancing the side effects of menopause, including the associated hormonal imbalances. 

Another unfortunate fact is that your risk of a second stroke is especially bad, more than doubling a person’s risk of dying in the next two years. 

 

According to ScienceDaily.com:

If you have survived a stroke or “mini-stroke”, talk to physicians about reducing the risk of another stroke. 

“Quitting smoking, keeping cholesterol and blood pressure levels down, controlling blood sugar for people with diabetes, and having a healthy diet and exercise routine can all help”.

Well, it turns out I did not know everything! It has been years since my stroke.  I have a strict daily regimen.  I take my medications religiously. I eat well, and I am enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle.  I am enjoying the simple things I never had time for before. I consider it a luxury to be able to work outside, enjoying my birds and my yard and still managing to be creative!  

I am also cognizant of how lucky I am every day.  My daily reflection is my definition of peace.  

I think being able to bring awareness to different generations about preventable events is the most rewarding aspect of this growing business and blog.

I just hope that being aware of this information about strokes spurs you into action.  Simply, I do not want anyone to experience what I did when it can be prevented.

Have you considered your family health history? If you are predisposed to high blood pressure or cholesterol, have you had yours checked?

In our Happy Thanksgiving article dated November 20, 2018, we give many reasons for being proactive in researching your family health history.  Just FYI:  Thanksgiving is National Family History Day!

On March 04, 2019, an extremely talented actor died at age 52.  Luke Perry will be missed by his family, fans and colleagues. 

He died of an ischemic cerebrovascular accident.  A massive stroke.  He was unable to recover from his injuries. 

Rest in peace Luke Perry (1966 – 2019)

That is an EMPHATIC yes! Having said that, I am grateful for the time I am given, and hope to continue living every day to the fullest!
The most frequently asked question is whether or not I am scared that I am going to have another one?I have had so many conversations with people as well as my panel of health care providers.  Many want to know how I felt then and now, and what if any residuals did I have?