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James F.

June 20, 2016

I am ... A Survivor

The morning of the 3rd of March 2016.  I was driving to work and was within a mile of work at a stop light when it all started.  I was getting a pain in my neck I closed my eyes and when I opened them everything was floating around.  I was still able to see but it was the moment vertigo was kicking in.  I didn't think anything of it at the time and figured I would get better by the time I was at work.  I drove to work, in an industrial area, very slowly.  Once I arrived at work I stepped out of my vehicle, and boom felt like I got hit with a sledge hammer.  I couldn't walk a straight line, more like the drunkest guy you have ever seen.  I stumbled my way into the break room where I set down my phone and keys.  I bounced off walls to where we clock in, still thinking I'll shake it off.  I sat down for a moment to get my bearings, when I was hit again.  This time my entire left side went paralysis, I violently vomited fell to the floor, my throat swelled up and I could barely speak.  I was "yelling" for help but it was more like a normal voice but scratchy.  My boss was luckily at work an hour early that morning, and he came around the corner wondering what was wrong.  That’s when I said call 911, I do not know what is wrong.

A little back ground, I'm 39-year-old male, do not drink, do not smoke and eat healthy.  I was in training to run a marathon in New Mexico, called the Bataan Memorial Death March (www.bataanmarch.com).  I just did a nice 5 mile run the night before and was feeling great.  I did not know #FAST or anything about stroke.  My co-workers knew me as the crazy fit guy, always talking about races and eating healthy.

My boss called 911 and tried to keep me calm, I couldn't even swallow my own saliva.  It felt like eternity but the paramedics and fire fighters showed up.  I was able to tell them what time 6:55 am that the first signs began.  I was asked several times what kind of drugs are you on.  It had not occurred to them that I was having a stroke.  After I was loaded in the bus (ambulance), I remember hearing one of the fire fighters say "Looks like he's having a stroke."  This is when I swear I saw light bulbs above the medic’s heads, like crap why didn't we think of that.  Now I'm starting to have face droop and my speech was nearly gone.  I was rushed to University of Colorado Hospital, the best ER for stroke in Colorado.  If I remember correctly, even if not it makes a good story, I was the only critical ER patient in the ER that morning.  I also had every Nero doctor available working on me including residents and med students.  I look back and feel like I was a president or something.  After an MRI and a couple CAT scans they suggested that I am administered the tPA drug (Clot Buster).  They said it will save me or kill me, those are my words on how I intermitted what they were saying.  So the last conscious thing that day is I was lying in a bed and I took a selfie and posted to facebook; "This just happened, had a stroke.".  This is how most of my friends and family found out.  My boss tried calling my girlfriend but she was in a meeting in Washington D.C.  Funny thing is she wouldn’t answer but she saw the notification of my stroke.  So that is the beginning of my new life.  I now can walk, talk and try to enjoy life again.  Not able to run, cannot yell, ataxia in my left arm, balance is horrible and I have a hard time thinking.  I am grateful for everything and everyone that helped save my life.  I could go on and on that’s why I have a blog, visit it at www.strokewhatstroke.com.

Faces of Stroke Follow-Up: 

It's now been about 118 days since my strokes.  I learned to walk again, maynot be a straight line but it is my own two feet.  I have walked, hiked, stumbled, kind of jogged about 300 miles and biked about 50 miles.  My balance is still horrible, I work on it twice a week with my PT.  I do several balance drills from a board to a mini-trampoline.  I am improving slowly, repititions is key I just need more reps!  I have participated in 3 obstacle course races and 1 fun run/walk.  My first event back was exactly 60 days from my stroke and it was the Come Back Trail 5k, in Littleton, CO.  It was slow going but I had my family there to go with me.  It was fun racing the kids on the dirt paths.  Ohhh am I slow now, I was full steam ahead and many lengths behind our kids.  But I was moving one step forward!  Next I tried Spartan races, I did several last year so this was going to be a real test, 25 obstacles and 10 miles, for day 1, 15 obstacles and 6 miles for day 2.  Made it through with help of my awesome friends, you can read more here.  So much going on couldn't of done it with out my friends and family who support me.

Guestbook

Thanks for sharing.  Our stories are very similiar in the beginning.  My new life started on March 5th of this year.  I ran the Comeback trail too.  It was wet and cold but, like you I was so grateful to be there.  I was very fortunate when the ambulance showed up because the North Metro paramedic knew immediately, stroke!

Good luck in your recovery and thanks for writing a such an encouraging article.

Hello Bruce -- Thanks for sharing your story and for running the Comeback Trail last year.  We're hoping for much better weather this year when the National Stroke Association hosts the Comeback Trail 5K on May 21 at Hudson Gardens in Littleton.  Registration is now open at www.comebacktrail.org

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