Don't be Frugal with your Health!

Stroked Out

When you are young (35) with 2 kiddos at home and relatively healthy, you would never imagine something as aging and scary as a stroke debilitating you. This happened to me… Father’s Day 2008 (6/15/08). The night before, I was on the internet researching why I was having such massive, wretched pain in my upper left calf. The muscles felt pulled or strained. I thought that perhaps I had overdone working the past few days.. wearing high heels and walking up stairs to the office or squatting down to take photographs of toddlers and newborns that weekend.

That Sunday morning, I heard “mommy”, “mommy” coming from the adjacent room of my 3 year old toddler, who happens to be about 45 lbs. This was usual routine in the morning for me and the peanut. I went in to get him out of bed, lifted him out to go to the usual a.m. potty time. I tugged on his little superman boxer briefs, which are so stinkin’ cute!! And proceeded to trip or slip on the bath carpet outside the tub, landing on my left side. I tried and tried to get up, to no avail. The peanut went to tell daddy, “daddy, time to get up. Mommy fell… Daddy, Daddy, time to get up!” My husband jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom to find me lying on the floor still trying to push up on my left side. He proceeded to pull me into the living room and ask me questions and talk to me. He said my speech was slurring. I don’t remember. I felt no numbness and had no vision problems.

I was worried because I knew I could have a blood clot in my leg and was hoping that was not the cause of my issues. Turn out it was! So, when the ambulance pulled up, peanut said, “the fireman are here”! My husband had called 911 soon after pulling me into the living room. Because of his quick action, I owe my life to him. The paramedics began assessing the situation. Then I heard a familiar voice… my friend, Valerie. My husband ha called her right after the ambulance to see if she could come pick up the peanut since we had no idea how long we would be at the hospital.

She came right away. Her hubby and my hubby are 1st cousins, but we consider them some of our best friends!! So, the paramedics were asking me all kinds of questions, none of which I remember. They were definitely taking me to ER at Olathe Medical Center. UGH!!! This was one of many firsts I had over the past week. First time to be transported by ambulance- I remember zero of the ambulance ride. I was certainly NOT trying to make history!!!

Once in the ER, the doctors and nurses did the necessary assessments. Of course, they were unaware that Sunday was my hair removal day. So, my legs were a bit hairy… so embarrassing!!!! The rushed me into the CT Scan to assess my brain. For all of you who were wondering, I do have a brain!! Woo hoo!! There it was, a clot in my brain!! Deep in my brain. Not sure what the difference is from a deep one to a not deep one?? UGH! So, what does that mean? That means that the Neurologist is called in along with the CATH (catheter) Lab team to get me “straight in the brain”. A nice young man pulled out a hair trimmer and proceeded to trim hair over my groin area (lovely though I know). I did ask him to even everything up, but I guess my insurance doesn’t cover that?! I was hoping to get rid of the clot and ready for bikini season all in one swoop. No avail.
The neurologist proceeded to make an incision in my groin, ouch, and ran a catheter up through a vascular point to my brain. Through the catheter, the shot medicine right at the pesky clot in my brain to dissolve it. TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) ) is the medicine, which for full effectiveness, must be administered within 6 hours of symptoms showing. So, we were within the time window. Wooh!!

From there, I was admitted to ICU for a few hours to recover from the procedure. Once my time was “up” they sent me to CCU- critical care unit, where I was for 2 ½ days. I had pressure cuffs on my calves, similar to blood pressure cuffs, which helped circulate the blood in my legs. Also I was hooked up to a blood pressure cuff that seemed to go off all the time. As well as, a pulse ox monitor to monitor oxygen levels.

Supposedly, the stroke affected my left side. Not too much though. I am typing this with both my left and right hands!! I started Occupational/Physical Therapy right away… four times day, and got to use a commode for my bathroom. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to wipe myself… nice, I know. The first couple of PT appts were hard. I had not been out of bed, except to use the commode. So, I had o start walking again, using stairs, walking in the grass, showering, etc.

I was started on Heparin, which is a blood thinning medicine, along with Coumadin, another blood thinning medicine. Also, I have high cholesterol, so Zocor was added. AT this point, I think I am falling apart… holy crap, what else?

To get out of the hospital, I had to have favorable feedback from Therapy and my INR level of my blood had to be at 2.0 or higher. This measured the ‘thinness’ of my blood. So, not only am I thick headed, but also thick blooded… figures.

I was also privy to another interesting procedure. An echocardiogram, which I get to repeat in one year. This is to take an internal sonogram of my heart. Please not the word INTERNAL. They Ecco team sprayed a numbing agent into the back of my throat to numb any gag reflex. Once numb, they proceeded to stick a camera down my throat. UGH… worst thing ever!!!!

Days kept strolling slowly by… sssslllloooowwwwllllyyyy. Missed my kids soooo much!!!! I wanted to go to J’s baseball games and put jammies on the peanut.
My hubby stayed with me every night sleeping in some quite complicated positions in the chairs available in the room. He is the absolute best!

I received so many cards, flower, plants, meals, etc. It was overwhelming to see the kindness and prayers from everyone. On the 5th day, they moved me to the 4th floor, where I was most definitely the youngest person on the floor. It is a cardiac floor. I had a nice spacious, newly renovated room. Although, without a shower head or shower curtain, but it was roomy!! Perhaps they forgot to inspect that one?

After being in my luxurious suite of a hospital room, I was again moved to the 3rd floor, which was a semi-private… ok, let’s be real… not private at all room. There is something in the hospital rooms’ bathrooms called a ‘hat’. A funny plastic, inverted hat-like item that you place underneath the toilet seat to capture how much liquid ‘output’ you have. Super fun. I never wanted to pee in my own bathroom so bad as I did when I stayed in the hospital. Amazing what you miss. I missed my children (of course!), my own bathroom, my razor, and being able to lay on my left side to sleep without being hooked up to all kinds of wires, lines and IVs.

I was finally released on Monday morning, a mere 8 days after admission. I breezed through Occupational Therapy. They even had me wearing high heels with my hospital gown an IV pole walking down the hall. Lovely vision, I know. The thing I was most worried about doing post-hospital was driving. Just nervous… I didn’t want to screw up driving and hurt myself or anyone else. Turns out, I remembered how to drive, signal for a lane change, which is more than some of those yahoos on the interstate!!!

A lot of people want to know what side effects I have. I say none. No, I’m not drooling or paralyzed on one side. I do get tired easy and can pretty much cat nap anytime of the day. Walking two flights of stairs to my office will wear me out for the day so I take the elevator with the onlslaught of evil eye look by people who, I’m sure, think that with the size of my behind that I should be taking the stairs. When I do walk any sort of distance, my right hamstring gets overworked as it overcompensates for the left and feels as though it is “pulled”. I try not to lift up my 45lb toddler, but I still manage to get him up in bed.
I’ve gone back to photography the same week I left the hospital. That makes me feel whole again.

I have to take Coumadin, a blood thinner for 6 months, and aspirin another 6 months after that. I have to see a cardiothoracic surgeon in July for follow up on my heart issue. Fun, fun.

So, hopefully this answers questions that many of you have asked. If it hasn’t, feel free to contact me via email or give me a call.

Again, thank you so much to everyone for your well—wishes!

Definitions & explanations
The kind of stoke I had:

Ischemic Stroke
> click for a larger mage" type="#_x0000_t75">An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked.
What is it? Ischemic ("is-skeem-ic") stroke occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked. The brain depends on its arteries to bring fresh blood from the heart and lungs. The blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and takes away carbon dioxide and cellular waste. If an artery is blocked, the brain cells (neurons) cannot make enough energy and will eventaully stop working. If the artery remains blocked for more than a few minutes, the brain cells may die. This is why immediate medical treatment is absolutely critical.
What causes it? Ischemic stroke can be caused by several different kinds of diseases. The most common problem is narrowing of the arteries in the neck or head. This is most often caused atherosclerosis, or gradual cholesterol deposition. If the arteries become too narrow, blood cells may collect and form blood clots. These blood clots can block the artery where they are formed (thrombosis), or can dislodge and become trapped in arteries closer to the brain (embolism). Another cause of stroke is blood clots in the heart, which can occur as a result of irregular heartbeat (for example, atrial fibrillation), heart attack, or abnormalities of the heart valves. While these are the most common causes of ischemic stroke, there are many other possible causes. Examples include use of street drugs, traumatic injury to the blood vessels of the neck, or disorders of blood clotting.

What is an Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a test in which ultrasound is used to examine the heart. The equipment is far superior to that used by fishermen. In addition to providing single-dimension images, known as M-mode echo that allows accurate measurement of the heart chambers, the echocardiogram also offers far more sophisticated and advanced imaging. This is known as two- dimensional (2-D) Echo and is capable of displaying a cross-sectional "slice" of the beating heart, including the chambers, valves and the major blood vessels that exit from the left and right ventricle

An echocardiogram can be obtained in a physician's office or in the hospital. For a resting echocardiogram (in contrast to a stress echo or TEE, discussed elsewhere) no special preparation is necessary. Clothing from the upper body is removed and covered by a gown or sheet to keep you comfortable and maintain the privacy of females. The patient then lies on an examination table or a hospital bed Sticky patches or electrodes are attached to the chest and shoulders and connected to electrodes or wires. These help to record the electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) during the echocardiography test. The EKG helps in the timing of various cardiac events (filling and emptying of chambers). A colorless gel is then applied to the chest and the echo transducer is placed on top of it. The echo technologist then makes recordings from different parts of the chest to obtain several views of the heart. You may be asked to move form your back and to the side. Instructions may also be given for you to breathe slowly or to hold your breath. This helps in obtaining higher quality pictures. The images are constantly viewed on the monitor. It is also recorded on photographic paper and on videotape. The tape offers a permanent record of the examination and is reviewed by the physician prior to completion of the final report.

Information you should read and know!!!

Stroke is a medical emergency. Know these warning signs of stroke and teach them to others. Every second counts:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause


Cheryl Haggard said...

Tonya, WOW! You have one heck of a story to tell your grandchildren, someday. And this is surely a wake up call to many. I am so glad that you are alright. Your story reminds me of a trip I once took to Olathe Medical Center, (remember I told you I used to live there?)for severe headaches. I remember the CAT scan very very well.

Again, I am so glad that you are doing well.
Cheryl Haggard

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