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Jodi C.
Jodi C.
Survivor

Tracey E.
Tracey E.
Survivor

Bob B.
Bob B.
Survivor

Owen R.
Owen R.
Survivor

Kyle R.
Kyle R.
Survivor

Billy Jo L.


Survivor

The testimony of Billie Jo Lau’s 3 strokes and 1 heart attack

On March 20, 2007 I was visiting my mom in Chester SD.  I had spent the night at mom's and that morning I woke up feeling kind of funny. I had a major dizzy spell and stumbled to the kitchen. Mom asked me if I was ok. I said I was fine.. the dizzy spell had subsided. We went shopping in Brookings that day for material to make quillows. Those are quilts that can be folded into a pillow. That night we were sewing away and visiting, having a nice chat and fun. The next part I don't remember very well. This is what Mom told me happened.

Around 9:30pm I was sewing a seam around my quilt, when I started to sew crazily. I didn't feel anything. I had no emotion and my mom said "What are you doing?" I said, "Sewing." Mom said "Ok." Then went about her sewing still watching me as I continued to sew. She let this go on for a couple minutes. Then she said "Stop sewing." I put my hands down to my sides and stared blankly at the machine. She asked me if I was ok. I said "I am fine." She said I had no emotion and was very quiet which is not my usual self. She asked Kenny, her companion, to come to the table and look at me. He asked me if I was ok. I didn't respond, just stared at him. Mom then said "Come on, we are going to the hospital." I got my coat and my cigs and off we went. I remember having a cigarette with her and the ride to the Dell Rapids Hospital. Once there, they asked me to fill out some papers. I remember not being able to do that and asked mom to do it for me. They rushed me to Sioux Falls McKennan. I am not sure what all happened there but I got an MRI and a cat scan. They concluded that I was having a stroke. I do not remember a thing from the first 4 days of my stay in the hospital. On the 5th day, I was walking in the hall with a nursing assistant. I recognized her to be Joyce Huntimer! I was shocked and wondered what in the world I was doing there. They said that was the first that I talked and realized anything for 4 days. I had an Ischemic stroke of the frontal part of my brain. I had limited of my right side. I had to learn how to walk and talk all over again. I remember being very hungry LOL I stayed in the hospital another 3 days. I remember the day they asked me to write my name. It was a sad thing. My 14 year old daughter was there. She was smiling and happy that I seemed to be my old self somewhat. But I could not write my name. I only made little circles over and over on the paper. It was very frustrating. By the time I left the hospital I could write my name legibly but it wasn't my usual hand writing. I was very sad and very mad.

After a month of therapy I was pretty much back to my old self and could walk and talk and write just fine! As a matter of fact I wanted to walk everywhere anywhere all the time. I could not sit still! haha I had a panic attack a few weeks after returning home. It scared me really bad. They put me on an anti-depressant called Lexapro. I thought it was a miracle drug! haha I loved it. But my family thought it made me loopy and withdrawn. So I ended that drug after 6 months. The summer went great. We went on a family vacation to Duluth and the north shores of Minnesota. I no longer smoked nor did I have any desire to drink coffee.. which was a staple before the stroke. I have since started to drink a little coffee. If it is really, really strong, I don’t mind it!

On August 23, 2007 my husband Jeff and I were getting ready to go to a golf tournament in Benson, MN. I was doing some dusting and noted that the dust rap would drop from my hand. I just knew I was hanging on to it, yet it would drop to the floor. I told Jeff, "Watch this.." and repeated the task of trying to hold the dust rag. Then my left hand felt numb and soon my left foot followed. I told Jeff, "I think I am having another stroke." We went to the hospital and sure enough, another small stroke they called a TIA. The doctor said it had passed and to go ahead with our plans to go to Benson. So we did. That was on a Friday morning. By Saturday morning, I was dragging my left foot and my left arm just hung there like it belonged to someone else. We went to Sioux Falls on Monday to the doctors that had treated me before. They put me back in the hospital. They could not believe the hospital here in Minnesota had not kept me. Anyway.. I had to learn to walk and to use my left hand once again. That only took me a few weeks to learn. I felt like I had before the first stroke. Able to do anything I wanted!

December 18th, 2007

Jeff and I were on a vacation to Branson MO. It was the last day we were there. We were in the car heading for home.  I am not sure what we were talking about, but I do remember I was trying to say the name "Delores". It sounded fine in my head but when it came out my mouth it was garbled. My left hand started to numb up and my left foot followed. I told Jeff "I think I am having another stroke." He looked at me with sadness and asked me "What do you want to do?" I told him "I want to go to Sioux Falls as fast as we can!" I did not want to go to a doctor in MO that did not know my history of strokes. So we headed for home. I had a feeling this stroke was like the last and would not last long. So he agreed to get me to South Dakota as fast as we could. When we got to Sioux Falls later that evening, they agreed it was a TIA and it had subsided. They put me on Coumadin, a blood thinner. I recovered from learning how to walk again and teaching my left hand how to be its old self all over again with therapy. I still have numbness in my left hand and my left foot but am able to walk very well now. I had a limp for a long time but that has gone almost all away.

December 11th, 2008

It was almost a year since my last stroke and I was feeling like my old self. Though taking a lot of meds for high cholesterol and my blood condition (Anti-Coagulate Lupus) which the doctors had determined was the cause of my strokes was a pain. I had started smoking again after that 3rd stroke. Why - You ask? I was fed up with my health and just felt the need. If you are a smoker you will understand.

On December 11th, 2008 was parents’ night at the school for the dance line. My daughter is in it and I am very proud of her. It was the first dance of the season. I didn't want to miss it. I had to work that day and asked a guy to come in early so I could leave around 4pm to have time to get ready for the parents night. Around 2 pm I went on break and had a cigarette. At 3:30 pm I started to feel funny, I had a headache and heartburn really bad. I thought it was from the cigarette and the chest cold I was getting. So I continued on with my work and watched the clock for the guy to come in at 4. When he got there at 3:45 I said, "I am so glad to see you!" He said, "Why?" I said, "Because, I don't feel well at all." I was putting my coat on and getting ready to clock out. He said, "Have fun at Parents Night!" I knew then I was not going. I got in my car and normally I would have light up a cig and headed for home. I did not feel like a cigarette at all.. all I wanted to do was get home and go to bed. I was so tired. It takes me about 15 minutes to get home. I throw my purse in a chair and my coat in another and flop down on the couch and fall asleep instantly. Jeff came home around 5:30 and nudged me awake. He said, "Come on, we need to get ready to go!" I said, "I am not going. I don't feel well this chest cold is kicking my butt!" He said, "You don't look so hot!" I said, "I know!" Jeff thought I should call "Ask a Nurse" which is a thing through our insurance to see if I should go to the doctor. So I did. The whole time I was talking to her I kept saying "Look lady, this is a chest cold" She insisted it was a heart attack and instructed me to call an ambulance. She told me she would call back in 5 minutes to see if I called 911. I hung up.. and Jeff and I agreed maybe we should go to the hospital. I was throwing a few things in a bag when the phone rang. It was the nurse.  She said, "Did you call 911?" I said, "No!" She was upset at this and was going to call one for me when I told her that my hubby could get me there faster than an ambulance coming here then back to Marshall.. that would take an hour. This way would take 1/2 hour at best. So off we went.

After much convincing and I mean much! I am very ornery! After all, it was just a chest cold! LOL They called a helicopter to get me to Sioux Falls Heart Hospital. It took 15 minutes to get there from Marshall which would normally take around 2 hours by car. After they stabilized me they did an angioplasty. I had 100% blockage of the right coronary artery. I was in shock! LOL Still am! I don't feel any different than I did the day before the attack. But I have quit smoking and am working on the heart healthy diet. ugh.. I hate fish and white chicken and white turkey meat. But I guess, if I want to get healthy I better learn to like it! I take Plavix and a host of other drugs to lower the cholesterol. I am still on Coumadin and a baby aspirin as well.

I am doing great and working each day to get my health in check.

Attitude is one of the best things I can say you will need after suffering a stroke! My attitude was, “I will be the best me no matter what!” I never let the effects of my strokes make me upset. Though that is hard sometimes! It is what it is! My fault? More than likely, but it is all part of the BIG picture God has in his plan for me!

If my testimony can help one person then, my job here is complete!

Remembering, “There is always someone out there worse off than I am!” is how I get through every day!

Thank you for reading!

God Bless you

Billie Jo


 

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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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