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Jodi C.
Jodi C.
Survivor

Tracey E.
Tracey E.
Survivor

Shannon A.
Shannon A.
Family

Bob B.
Bob B.
Survivor

Owen R.
Owen R.
Survivor

Cheryl B.

A Stroke Survivor's Story
A Stroke Survivor's Story

Survivor

Still Stroke Free After 22 Years

I had a brainstem stroke when I was 40 years old.  Because of my age it went undiagnosed in the emergency room.  Have not had another stroke for 22 years and am in fairly good health; I still have short term memory deficits, muscle spasms and tiredness.

I was studying for my orals and completing my Ph.D. in April of 1989. I was working on the school computer several hours a day and I began to have blurred vision and my left arm was going numb. I went to the eye doctor 2 days prior to the stroke and he thought it was eye strain, although I also had a very bad neck ache which would not go away either. When I went to see one of my professors the next day to practice for the oral exam I couldn't remember anything I had studied. The following night at about 1 am I woke up with a really loud buzzing sound--something like a train sound getting louder and louder in my right ear. Then I felt an explosion in my head where the headache was located that dispersed throughout my brain--it felt cold like icicles but there was no pain. I tried to sit up and discovered that my left side did not work. I had nausea, I was in shock and I couldn't walk. I felt that I would die if I did not stay awake. I knew I was having a stroke but I could not communicate this to anyone.

My boyfriend got me to the hospital emergency room and the stroke was misdiagnosed as an allergy to monosodium glutamate. I literally passed out as soon as they got me on the table. My temperature was down to 93 degrees and I was out on the table for a few hours. When I awoke, I could sit up but had no feeling in my body.
I complained to the doctor at the university on the following Monday that I still had no feeling in my left side, but he said that was typical from the MSG. A few days later I was still vomiting, the headache had not been alleviated and I couldn't function. The doctor decided to have me take a CAT scan and an MRI and they found some lacunae along the posterior portion of my brain and damage in my cerebellum.

I was home for several months after that. I slept almost continuously the first month and could tolerate no noise. I dragged my left leg. My handwriting was very poor--I was left handed so this was a problem. I gained a lot of weight from the medications that I was taking over the summer. I had no physical therapy whatsoever. In the fall I began to have muscle spasms--until that time my muscles were fully contracted in my left leg.
I had difficulty remembering things, word finding problems, emotional lability, muscle spasms and jerky movements, along with tiredness, among other long term term effects from the stroke. I felt like my brain was a file cabinet but I could not reach the information inside. This is still true to this day.

I take medication to prevent another stroke including blood pressure medication and muscle relaxers. So far, I have not had another incident and I consider myself very lucky. The doctors were never able to determine the cause of the stroke. However, one of the doctors that I saw over the years did not believe that I had a stroke and I had to have another MRI to convince him. I found that because of my age at the time there seemed to be a reluctance in the medical community to consider that this was a possibility. They thought I was just too young to have a stroke, hence the misdiagnosis.

Over the years I have found that more and more young people are having strokes. I have also read stories in the Stroke Magazine that many people are misdiagnosed in the emergency room when they arrive with symptoms. I find it amazing that the medical community still has trouble diagnosing stroke when the symptoms are so obvious. I had all the symptoms, but they were ignored and I was sent home. I discovered shortly thereafter that with the type of stroke that I had, I had an excellent chance of having another one within a day or two afterward. I think it is a miracle that I survived.

 

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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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