Who Has a Stroke at 25?
Apparently I do.
In July 2010 I woke up the day before my 26th birthday in the ICU. Clearly, it was the last place one expects to wake up in. I looked to my left and saw my husband and on the right was one of my dear sister-in-laws. The look on their faces registered through my grogginess as serious. My husband asked me if I wanted to know what had happened, to which I hoarsely replied "Yes."
"Sweetheart, you're in the ICU. You had a blood clot and a brain bleed. You had surgery and they broke up the clot and now you're on blood thinners. They think they got everything and you should be okay now."
It was a lot of information to digest. I only made it to as far as "blood thinners" and then, "Is the baby okay?!"
"They did an ultrasound and there's no heartbeat."
I felt like my world had suddenly been turned upside down and spun in circles several times. I didn't really understand what had happened, but I did know that I had lost my nine and a half week baby and it wasn't the first time I had lost a baby either. In that moment I wanted the ground to swallow me where I laid.
Over the next day, my birthday, I learned the whole terrifying story. The last thing I could remember was Monday night when I had an excruciating headache. It wasn't just painful it felt like the worst blood rush possible. I tried pain killers but to no avail. I remember standing up and grabbing my head because of the pain while thinking, "I hope I'm not having a stroke. Of course I'm not having a stroke, I'm only 25." Late Monday night I had my husband take me to the ER, where the ER doctor told me that I was experiencing a bad muscle spasm in my neck. I had been experiencing some neck pain so it didn't seem too far off. I was prescribed some painkiller and muscle relaxers and sent home. Tuesday afternoon my sister-in-law filled the prescription for the muscle relaxer and brought it to me. We had a brief conversation and that is the last thing I remember. Apparently I slept most of the day on Tuesday and woke up in the evening and had conversations with both my husband and my brother. Early Wednesday morning my husband woke up to find the bathroom light shining in his eyes, as I was pacing back and forth in the bathroom. He told me to turn off the light and I didn't comply. He came into the bathroom and asked if I was alright to which I responded in the affirmative. He asked if I was tired and I said yes. I wouldn't get back in the bed so he picked me up and put me in the bed. He noticed that I was shaking so he asked if I was cold to which I said that I was slightly cold. He held me for some time and the shaking didn't subside and then I started biting him. That's when he knew something was VERY wrong. He got me dressed and placed me on the couch while he went and woke up my brother and called his oldest sister. My brother and husband drove to the hospital around the corner as quickly as possible. While my brother parked the car my husband carried me into the ER and said, "My wife needs help!" They got us in there right away. I kept shaking and at one point urinated on myself. The nurse asked if I knew that I had wet myself and I said "no". The ER drs performed a CT scan and found the brain bleed. The brain bleed wasn't consistent with my behavior so the doctors said I needed to go to the hospital where the neurologists practiced. I was transported via ambulance to the hospital where the doctors said an MRI scan was needed. Because I was having seizures and couldn't hold still I had to be placed under general anesthesia in order to hold still during the MRI. (Not only was I having seizures but I was fighting the restraints they tried to place me in) After the MRI the surgeon said surgery was needed immediately.
By this time my sister-in-law had informed both of my families and family members were gathered in the waiting room. My mother-in-law (one of my many angels) asked the surgeon about the baby and he responded, "I don't mean to be rude but the baby isn't a priority, she is. If we don't do surgery right now she has 2-3 hours left, then she's gone." She also asked him to say a prayer to which he agreed and he and the surgical staff said a prayer before they started the surgery. The doctors were able to break up the clot which was blocking my brain drain. Not only was my brain bleeding but the block in the drain had caused a buildup of blood that was sitting on top of my brain. After the surgery the doctors were unsure of the effects of the stroke so they decided to keep me sedated. Two days later they woke me up and whew--that was the beginning of my new life.
After I learned the whole story, it still took me a few days to understand everything that had happened. I had to have the story repeated to me several times not only because my brain felt sluggish but because I just couldn't believe that it had really happened.
On the day that I woke up the doctors asked me various questions about how I was feeling. The neurologist asked me to move my right leg-success- and then my left leg--there was only small movement. In the hours that I had awakened it had never occurred to me that I may have not been able to move my body like I used to. I hadn't thought about the ways that this would affect my body I was very blessed to only suffer minor effects from the stroke. During my 8 days in the hospital I strengthened my left leg and was able to walk, slowly, when I returned home. Today, looking and talking to me, you would never know that I suffered a stroke. I still have some very minor side effects and I feel blessed for the opportunity to live each day. After a series of tests the only conclusion the doctors have reached as to why I had a stroke has been that I was pregnant. I know that my story and my recovery are atypical of stroke victims so it is important to me to reach out to others who may have a similar experiences.