One month prior to my stroke I had a full blood panel and physical. Everything was as it should be, within normal limits and healthy. The constant headaches and neck/shoulder pain began about three weeks before the actual stroke turned life upside down.
My name is Emily Davis, I am 33 years old. I have the best husband, 3 wonderful kids, an amazing family, awesome co-workers and wonderful church community support. In the spring of 2014, I experienced what is known as a vertebral artery dissection or VAD. This led to an occlusion to the cerebellum section of the brain and thus a stroke. The cerebellum is the structure of the brain that controls motor control, balance and equilibrium. This type of stroke typically occurs after activities such as chiropractic manipulation, painting a ceiling or major neck trauma, I have never experienced any of these things; it was completely freakish.
Weeks leading up to the actual stroke I was experiencing headaches, neck and shoulder pain. I already said I am a mother to 3 very active kids, one who was four months old at the time. These symptoms, I determined to be a combination of kids and overly tired from full time work. I would therapeutically take some headache relief medicine and use a heating pad nightly to ease my discomfort.
One day while at work I went for a walk with a colleague and became extremely dizzy and found it difficult to walk. When I got back to my desk, I sat down drank some water and turned on a fan (Yes, I did blow symptoms off momentarily) and got back to work. Shortly there after it was the end of the day, I turned my head and it hit me complete tunnel vision, room spinning and on the verge of vomiting. I was so unsure of what to do; I live 20 miles from work and had my youngest with me at the time. I was unable to get a hold of my husband so I started emailing and calling people who I knew lived around me but it being so late no one was there. I finally spoke with someone who was leaving the parking garage and very much concerned with my symptoms. I like to down play things so had assured her that I would be fine and I didn't want to hold her up. This brilliant woman called on someone from another building to come check on me, this small act of kindness will forever have her and another woman in my heart. In the mean time I finally reached my husband to come pick us up. The woman came to my desk for, lack of a better phrase a wellfare check, and escorted me and my daughter to wait for my husband in our van, he picked us up and we went home. At home I was exhausted and decided to go to bed early, I slept for 12 hours and still felt awful, because yes I DID have a stroke the day prior and I should have felt awful, but I had a cup of coffee and surprisingly began to feel on the up and up. I even used WebMD and chuckled at the symptom checker saying aneurism or stoke because that would be the last thing to ever happen. Right? The weekend went by with a couple of dizzy spells but I am stubborn enough that if an appendage isn't dangling off of me I won't go to the hospital. Monday rolls around and I was getting ready to go workout all of the sudden full spins came back and my arm began to tingle. So nothing is dangling I really don't want to make a trip to the hospital but I have my two youngest loves with me. I call my husband and tell him what was happening and thought we will go to Urgent Care and they will see there must be something up with my ears. My husband, who is always the conservative made a bee-line to our local hospital, with the 3 year old and 4 month old in the back seat. At the hospital and first I was diagnosed with a pinched nerve and something viral "lets do an IV to help with the viral and a CT scan to see where the nerve is pinched" is what I was told. Still in my gym clothes the ER MD came in to tell me I had actually had a stroke. My heart sank, and typing this account up I have the same feeling, it seems still very much surreal, like this isn't my story. I was admitted into the hospital and discharged fairly quickly just 2 days later, I am assuming the hospital was not completely on board with my 4 month old roommate I wasn't going to let go of. (The profile picture attached to this story is us day 2 in the hospital and still not fully processing what exactly happened.) At this time my amazing sister-in-law came in town to help out while I recovered.
I found myself at home and very sleepy. If I wasn't in bed, I was dizzy or taking more medications or injections to attempt to normalize myself. Almost 3 days at home before I returned to the hospital in a chariot, some may call it a neighborhood attention grabber or ambulance. I was in the hospital for 9 days total trying to move my INR to a suitable number, darn this young and healthy body said nobody ever but the rest of my body was not on board with the whole stroke situation, so we waited. My sister-in-law took the kids on, my mom became super Mimi (grandma), my husband stayed with me at the hospital and we just all shook our heads saying "how did this happen?". My boss even came to visit me at the hospital with complete comfort food meal in hand. Families at our church and oldest sons school rallied around our family, keeping constant contact with my husband to follow my recovery; they were an amazing support piece for him as a caregiver.
I was finally discharged and not eligible for in home care so my mom, dad and his wife, mother in law and husband all took turns taking care of me and the kids. Throughout this time I would grow very tired, at times slightly confused, my eyes felt like they danced and jumped around, the left eye itself would sporadically droop and become a painful pressure like sensation, an ever present headache and the worst part about this time was the fear to play with my kids. What if I damage the artery further, what if they cause severe bruising due to my medications, what if I have another stroke and they see it again, what if...
I already mentioned the fact that I am stubborn, so the moment I was given the go ahead to drive because my eyes began tracking well again I was back at work and looking to normalize our lives. The sucky thing about normalizing the abnormal is the stigma of the abnormal will remain. I would go to my sons school and strangers would ask if "I was the one with the stroke", out to dinner and a neighbor asking "if I was the one with the thing" and the eerie hush around work when I returned. It was so far from normal at first. Now I am four months post stroke with minimal residuals. I can say the power of love and support is what is most crucial during the recovery time. I shutter to think about what could have been and focus on the now and future. I thank God for this gift and those who helped my family through this dark period of time.
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