The Stroke of 2016

On July 28th, I bent down to pick up a piece of plastic on my kitchen floor and when I got back up, I got the worse head pain ever. I’ve suffered from migraines, but that didn’t feel like a migraine. I called my parents and they said to just take some medicine and relax. I woke up the next day, Friday, still not feeling my best so I stayed home that day. Saturday rolled around and by early afternoon, I started throwing up. I couldn’t keep anything down, even water. So I forced myself to drive to urgent care.

They diagnosed me with just a really bad migraine and gave me a pain relief shot in my hip, but told me I couldn’t drive home with that. So I called up one of my friends, Donna, who came with her husband and they brought me back home. Donna stayed with me for the night and by around midnight, I was still throwing up.. or attempting to. I decided I needed to go to the ER so we went and finally got a room by 2AM. They took me back for scans, and by 6AM the doctor diagnosed it again as a really bad migraine. They gave me some IV fluids, discharged me (with no pain medication) and I went home.

By now, my Mom decided bad migraine or not, she was getting on the first flight down and staying with me. She got in Sunday afternoon and I got progressively worse. I couldn’t sleep, I could barely keep my head up, was retching the whole day. Overnight I tried to get up to go to the bathroom and all I could do was crawl. Monday afternoon, it got to the point where I couldn’t hold anything – my hands were curling in – my speech was completely slurred, my right side of my face was drooping and I was overheating. My Mom asked me “do you want me to call 911?” to which I mumbled out “YES!”

The paramedics showed up, asked if I was taking any street drugs – obviously no – and they took me back to the hospital I went to Saturday night. Immediately upon arrival, the triage of nurses and doctors determined I was having a stroke, wheeled me back for a few scans and then decided my case needed specialists, so they made the call to air lift (read: helicopter) me downtown to Methodist University Hospital.

My poor mother was in a panic, and called my friends who sped out of work to come get her and take her downtown. I don’t remember too much from that afternoon, except that when I was in the helicopter I tried to make an effort to look around to see if I knew which flight path we were taking and if I could notice any landmarks. What a nerd, right?

My entire work group, including my manager, came to the hospital that day. Even my priest from the Greek Church came and prayed over me, which made me both at ease and terrified, because I know when the priest comes to pray over you, it’s not looking good. My Aunts drove 14+ hours straight down as soon as they heard and both my Dad and sister got the first flights out they could to be by my side.

The doctors determined that I needed to go in for surgery to remove the clots AND bleeds I had in my venous sinus area of my brain. I think I had 5-6 bleeds & clots, which through a brain catheterization they got all but 2, which they then dissolved with a Heparin drip over the next week I was in the hospital. They don’t usually do brain caths for strokes, but because I am young and healthy otherwise, they determined it was the best course of treatment. And it worked, obviously!

I was discharged the following Monday and continued my recovery at home. I was signed off by physical and occupational therapy, with both saying my balance and coordination would definitely improve on its own. Luckily the only semi-lasting trauma was double vision that persisted for about 2.5 months, but now my vision is basically back to normal. When I get tired now it gets a little blurry, but not too bad.

My stroke was caused by a Factor II deficiency and being on Estrogen birth control. They don’t know how specifically it was triggered, because I didn’t fall, but some combination of those two made a thrombotic event. I’m now on blood thinners for a few months more, until my neurologist and my hematologist sign off and say I’m ready to transition off of them.

It was a crazy scary experience, one that I’m glad I made it out the other side relatively unschathed. I still suffer from moments where I’ll think back to it and have an anxiety attack or wake up crying from a dream of that time, but I think that’s normal after all the trauma my body and brain went through.

I’m so grateful for my Mom, my family, my friends, the doctors and nurses who were there for me and healed me. This has drawn me closer to God as well, because he was by my side the entire time. I remember several times praying so deep and so hard to him to let me make it through, before and after my surgery. It’s incredible what prayer and modern medicine can do.