That time I Had a Stroke

“You’re having a stroke right now.”

No one ever wants to be in an ER hearing those words. But right before Christmas in 2013 that’s exactly what happened to me. In honor of National Stroke Awareness Month I’ve decided to share my own personal story about how stroke has affected my life. After helping to care for my Dad for almost a year after he suffered from multiple strokes, my father passed away. My mom, a heart patient herself, while dealing with the stress of his care, also had a mini stroke during that time. What I never dreamed of was becoming a victim of a stroke myself.

On December 20, 2013 while walking back to the hotel I was staying at in Philadelphia after I wrapped a job, I suffered an acute infarction of the right frontal cortex. Otherwise known as a stroke. I lost the use of my left leg and hand and most of my arm to the shoulder, for almost 56 hours as my brain tried to reroute around the problem areas. Then CT scans showed that this was not my first stroke. I’d had another one that week and several more in previous months all located deep in my cerebellum, which was affecting my balance. I spent Christmas and New Years in a rehabilitation center in Philly learning how to walk again and to regain the use of my left hand. Another hospital stay, a home nurse, occupational therapy, physical therapy, a couple of blood transfusions,(I’m also anemic), a whole lot of unanswered questions and 6 weeks later, I went from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane.

I didn’t return home to NY until the end of March, and then had to figure out how to reintegrate myself into my life. My house, my job…everything, had to be re-evaluated while I sorted out how I was going to function in my new slightly off-balance body.

By summer I was walking with a limp, because the December stroke affected the part of my brain that controls my left hip flexor and some of the other small muscles on my left side. I slept a lot, which is kind of normal for people who’ve had brain injuries. After therapy my hand returned to normal, (I still can’t really hold anything hot or heavy for very long with that hand though) but the smaller strokes affected my cerebellum, (balance and proprioception), so for months I had to use a cane when I was out and about and go to occupational therapy before or after work. I still have trouble putting things in my pocket on my left side without looking.

The reason why I’ve decided to share my story is because I’ve had so many people look at me and say “You don’t look like you’ve had a stroke”, that I’ve realized that most people think that stroke victims are in their 70’s, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, confined to wheelchairs with lopsided facial expressions and aphasia.

I didn’t fit that profile.

The other alarming thing was that at the rehabilitation center, there were patients of all races and ages, but the only ones that had suffered strokes that winter were African — American. According to a nurse that worked there, the scenarios of the two youngest, (myself and a young man who was just 30), are becoming more and more common. In other words, not only are African-Americans more likely to have strokes than any other race, but we’re now having them younger. Nine times out of ten, it’s earlier, smaller strokes left undiagnosed that lead to the larger debilitating ones. In this series I will talk more in depth about the types of strokes I had, what you can do to prevent a stroke, and what to do if you think you’re having a stroke.

“Women, Hispanics and African-Americans in the U.S. have higher stroke risks and lower recognition of stroke warning signs compared to any other population.” — National Stroke Association

Hopefully, I can help someone else avoid going through what I went through.

  • Do you know someone under the age of 45 who has suffered a stroke?

(this post is a repost from here)

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