My Story, My Recovery, My Stroke
My husband and I, John, got married on September 18, 2010. We thought everything was going our way. John got a permanent position as a store manager at Sherwin-Williams, which we thought at the time would be impossible, I got in to the dental hygiene program at Bellingham Technical College so I wouldn't have to move to the Seattle area. I started school the winter of 2008 and graduated the summer of 2010. In the meantime we got engaged! I was so excited to start planning my wedding. We decided that financially it would be smart to get married in the fall after I graduated. So I started planning our wedding in the midst of tests, state board exams, and juggling the fact that I now had a fiance. Our life for those two years while I was in school was turned upside down. He knew that my late night studying and fretting over the state board exams would soon be worth it.
As graduation and our wedding day was fast approaching I noticed this soreness in my neck. As most people do I took some ibuprofen and went on with my busy schedule getting ready for the wedding. The pain came and went and as we neared the wedding day, it was more of a dull ache. Since doing dental hygiene I thought that maybe my sore neck had to do with my posture and I made a mental note to sit more straight up to take the tension off my neck. The wedding day came and went seamlessly, and within a couple days we would be off to Maui for our long awaited honeymoon.
Maui was amazing! We stayed at a very nice hotel in Maui and were very excited when we found our the hotel had Starbucks. On the fifth day of our honeymoon my neck really started to hurt, we went back to our room early after dinner and I took a couple ibuprofen and we went to bed early seeing that we had an early morning of wake boarding in the morning. The following morning we woke up, the pain in my neck had gone away completely and we were off to go wake boarding! We were about ten minutes away when I all of a sudden got really dizzy. John pulled the car over and asked if I was okay, at this time my tongue went numb and he called 911. He tried to describe where we were, while he got out of the car and was now holding me. I couldn't stand on my own and my whole right side went tingly. The ambulance finally came with what seemed like hours, I could hear everything that was said but was unresponsive. They put me in the ambulance and rushed me to the hospital and told John to follow. In the ambulance they were having a hard time diagnosing what was wrong with me seeing that all my vitals signs were normal. They put the oxygen mask on me and that was the last thing I remembered.
When John got to the hospital he was told that; "I was in bad condition." They rushed me off to take an MRI and they saw that I was having a stroke. The vertebral artery in my neck dissected and caused a blood clot. Because I got to the hospital in 46 minutes I was able to get the drug tPA. This drug thins out your blood to dangerous levels and melts the blood clot. In a small percentage of people this drug can cause you to bleed to death and because of this John had to sign a waiver okaying this drug to be given to save my life. A huge decision for a man that just got married 6 days ago, you hope that you never have to make a decision like this but since he was left with no option, he of course signed it. When a person has a stroke you only have a small window, 3 hours, to be able to get this drug in hopes that the person will not have permanent damages. The neurosurgeon that did brain surgery on me was able to get the blood flowing again to areas of my brain that were deprived of precious oxygenated blood. One of the side effects of the drug tPA is bleeding in the lungs. I started to bleed in my lungs and was quickly put on a ventilator. I was on the ventilator for 6 days while the doctors tried to control the bleeding in my lungs and John was told that worst case scenario if the bleeding didn't stop they would have to take out one of my lungs. After 6 days the bleeding stopped and the ventilator was removed. Was the brain damage too extensive? Would she be able to live a normal life again? And most importantly, would she know who I was? Being on the ventilator and heavily sedated I couldn't communicate, all I knew was that I wanted my husband next to me. I tried communicating with the nurses and was told that I pointed to my ring finger and they knew then that I wanted my husband. When he got to my room I squeezed his hand and he knew everything was going to be alright. When the bleeding stopped and the ventilator was removed they learned that my memory was fully intact. My two years of dental hygiene school were still there. What wasn't was my fine motor skills. I struggled to hold utensils in my right hand and do anything with my right side. In the hospital they had to re-teach me how to do the everyday normal things one doesn't think about, walking, swallowing, and using my right side again. Through the 2 weeks in the hospital, John never left my side for a second. The first thing I told him was, do you still want to be married to me? He told me; "What kind of man would I be if I left you when you needed me most?" We said our vows just a short 10 days earlier, to death do you part, through sickness and health, through the good times and bad. We tested those vows and strengthened our very new marriage.
Through this John has taught me that he really loves me. He showed it to me before the wedding and there was no doubt in my mind that that I married the perfect man for me, but he showed it after. Very few people can say their significant others' saved their life and I can. He is exactly the man that I would want for our daughter and exactly the man I would want my son to be. We were fortunate in that we didn't have any children, so my recovery has been all about me. Because of him I love deeper, the relationships that I have with people are deeper. When someone tells me that they have a terminal illness or that they know someone with a terminal illness I really feel for them. I did before, but it's different now. Our marriage is unbreakable, we don't sweat the small stuff anymore and we never miss a chance to tell each other we love them. This stroke has been the best thing for me, I was fortunate to have it at age 27 so I can go my whole life looking at if differently. Since September 28, I was told that I would make a full recovery in 6 months. When I got home I went back to the basics, I had to relearn how to do everything again, including holding my dental hygiene instruments. I went to the gym daily and got my strength back in my right side. I was very fortunate to have such a caring boss that told me to take as much time as I needed and that my job would be waiting for me when I was ready. I was back to work in 3 months, my worries about starting a new job were just magnified by my stroke, was I ready? Could I do this again? Could I communicate effectively? Being the determined person that I was, failing was just not an option.
John saved my life in every way imaginable. He is my soulmate, my best friend, and my husband. He is my other half, I feel whole when he is around. I ache when he isn't there. Some people say that they climb a mountain to get where they want to be, we climbed a range. He has been my rock and has been there for me when I needed him the most.
In the hospital I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Fibromuscular Dysplasia. This disease primarily affects woman of child-bearing age and is usually diagnosed after a stroke. Fibromuscular Dysplasia affects primarily the arteries or kidneys and is noted by a "string of beads" appearance.
My stroke was of a catastrophic magnitude and I was told I am very lucky to still be alive today. At first, I went through the normal emotions of "why me" and "it shouldn't have happened to me" and unfortunately it did. I moved passed those feelings and tried to focus my energy on the good that came out of it. I am still here and I really believe that I am because I was put here for another reason that I initially thought. I am here to educate others that strokes can happen to anyone. You can recover! At first I was told in 6 months I would make a full recovery. A long the way I realized that stroke recovery is a life long process. It's up the person to determine how far their recovery will go.