Saturday October 29 is World Stroke Day.
Stroke is the second leading cause of death for people above the age of 60, and the fifth leading cause in people aged 15 to 59. Stroke also attacks children, including newborns. Each year, nearly six million people die from stroke. In fact, stroke is responsible for more deaths every year than those attributed to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria put together –source: worldstrokecampaign.org
I suffered a Transinet Ischemic Attach – TIA, also called a mini stroke. I had no idea I was having a stroke. I didn’t even know the signs of a stroke – do you you? I was very healthy, I was working out, was in perfect health.
It was May 2007, I was 37 and we were 3 weeks into our 2nd IVF treatment. That morning when I woke up I had a headache. I didn’t think much of it because I got headaches a lot but as I continued to get ready for work I realized this headache was much different than the others. It was more intense, a heavier throbbing on my right side than normal but whatever I thought, it will go away. I went to work and got busy and didn’t think about it again.
It was almost 5pm, everyone was gone except myself and my young colleague Matt, we were getting ready to head out. I thought someone was at the door so I got up to check and when I sat back down that’s when it all happened. Major head rush. You know when everything gets all snowy looking and you can’t focus for a few minutes. Well it was that and all of a sudden I had double vision as well. My colleague was on the phone so I tried to walk it off, shaking my head hoping it would clear. Then I felt my right side go dumb. I had to hold on to the wall so I wouldn’t loose my balance. It was all so freaky.
I never thought I was having a stroke. Never even considered it. I had no idea what could be happening but I wasn’t too freaked out yet. Anyway, we decided to leave and went our separate ways. I still couldn’t see and sat in my car for a few minutes to give it time to clear up. I thought maybe if I put a cold towel over my eyes it would help. I was going to try to drive home covering one eye so I could focus. Matt was a young kid about 25 and had called his mom as he was walking to the train station. Apparently she told him that I should go to the ER and shouldn’t leave me so off to the hospital we went. Since neither one of us thought I was having a stroke we were joking that my turkey sandwich I had for lunch was laced with some really good stuff and just kept cracking jokes. Since I couldn’t see straight I had to hold on to Matt and because my right side went numb he had to really hang on to me because I kept leaning to the right – I was so off balance.
The hospital we went to was the absolute worse! There was no triage nurse there to help you, no one at the desk but a room full of people. Put your name on the list and wait for a nurse to call you. The wait was horrendous. I was so nauseous from the double vision I needed a bucket in case I threw up. Since I couldn’t see, I gave Matt my phone to call my husband. I knew he was playing golf and and held off long enough on calling him. As soon as he heard Matt’s voice he knew something was wrong and he rushed right over.
Finally the nurse calls me in and asks the typical questions, makes me smile to see if my face is droopy and does a few other test. She tells us it may have been a slight stroke but I still had to wait to see the Dr. and when that finally happened he agrees and sends me for an MRI – I’m still having the double vision. After a long wait the Dr. tells us the MRI came back normal but because of the double vision they were concerned and finally decide to admit me. He kept asking me about my medication or recent changes in lifestyle, etc. I told him other than the birth control pills I was put on and the IVF drugs, no changes. I was worried about my furbabies so I sent my husband home. Finally at around midnight they brought me up to a room and I was finally starting to see normal.
In the morning the Neurologist stopped by and said they took a closer look at my MRI with a magnifying glass and saw a “footprint” of a stroke. They were scheduling me for a full body MRI. I probably had a total of 5 MRI’s. Later that afternoon the cardiologist came in to see me. That was a total surprise for me. He wanted to do a Bubble Echocardiogram. Basically it’s a routine echocardiogram that also uses saline bubbles to evaluate correct blood flow through the heart chambers and identify or exclude a small hole in the heart. It was a simple procedure and it didn’t hurt. You can actually see the bubbles on the monitor and this is how I found out I had a hole in my heart. They suspected the clot travelled up through my body, passed through the hole and up to my brain. You can imagine my surprise. I still remember the look on my husband’s face when I told him. His jaw just dropped but for my sake he tried to recover quickly.
Over the next few months I met with 5 different specialist at Mass General Hospital. One of the best hospitals in Boston, MA. But no one would say or could say what caused my stroke. They were all baffled especially since I had no lasting effects. The best they could tell me was that it was most likely caused by a migraine called Hemiplegic Migraine. But they weren’t exactly sure. They also thought the birth control that I was put on for IVF triggered the clot since it was a high dose. It was all very frustrating and terrifying but I’m thankful that I had no lasting effects from the stroke. My symptoms lasted less than 8 hours. But that also meant that I had to put IVF on hold and repair the hole in my heart.
I Am A Stroke Survivor -Part 2