A Stroke of Insight
32 years old...too young, and yet...such a great reminder of how precious life is
I will never forget the 7th day of May in 2007...I woke up with the worst headache of my life. My family has a history of migraines, so this headache was for sure what I thought was my right of passage...my first migraine at age 32! It was the worst pain of my life...which is what my mother and sister always described it as. I was finally not the only one migraine free...or so I thought!
I told my husband (who was getting in the shower) to please bring me some ibuprofen when he got out. He got out and I was asleep with the pillow over my head. He quietly snuck off to work so as not to disturb me.
I awoke and went on about my day. I was in the store shopping at one point and my daughter (who was 4 at the time) had misbehaved and I stooped down to quietly explain how her behavior in the store was inappropriate (much the way Moms do when they are alone). I stood back up and there was a man right next to me. I realized at this point that I didn't see him at all. All day I thought my contacts were bothering me but at this moment I realized something terrible was happening...I had no peripheral vision. I never saw the stranger at my side shopping. It freaked me out! I called my mother and inquired as to whether her migraines ended in a temporary loss of peripheral vision. Her answer was to call my doctor. I did. He asked to see me ASAP. I declined, as I had to pick my son up from school. To this day, this makes me laugh...I had no idea how serious the situation was. He scheduled me a couple hours later so I could get my son from school. I picked my son up and dropped him and my daughter off at a neighbor's house so I could go to my appointment. I went to the doctor later that day and he did a field of vision test and confirmed what I knew...I was missing my peripheral vision on my right side. He asked me to go to the ER immediately.
This was quite ridiculous for me, as I was sure I was fine. I had to "inconvenience" my neighbor by asking her to watch the kids a little longer so I can go through this ridiculous ER procedure. I called my husband, told him I was headed to the ER for tests and I would see him later at home. Obviously, that didn't fly and he was at the ER immediately. I had a CAT scan and they had no conclusive signs of any problems. After being stuck at the ER for hours, they were FINALLY going to release me. We were literally signing the paperwork when a doctor came in and said he had consulted a neurologist who did not agree with releasing me. He said that due to the loss of vision I needed an MRI. In order to get the MRI, I would have to be admitted if I wanted results in a timely manner. Needless to say, we were admitted into the hospital. Scary to say the least, because I felt FINE!
I had the MRI, and then in a whirlwind I was being hooked up to heart monitors and no one was telling us anything. It terrified me (hence, the only time I had high blood pressure). We spent the night in the hospital (further inconveniencing my babysitting neighbors, in my mind...who , in retrospect, never thought a thing about it). The next morning a neurologist showed up in my room and told me the news...I had suffered a stroke. I can honestly say, after a night of being hooked up to heart rate monitors, that was GOOD NEWS! Then came the bad news...I was to stay in the hospital for a few more days while they ran tests to see why someone so young would have had a stroke. A tube down my throat (to look for a hole in the heart), wire thingies attached to my head...I was a mess of experimentation. Turns out it's a mystery. It was eventually determined it may have been the birth control pill and I was released.
This release led to several more blood tests. I kept personal blog at the time and here is an entry from May 27, 2007: I met with the hematologist today. The only abnormalities from the blood test I had were that my ANA is positive, and my Lipoprotein A is quite high. I had more blood drawn (to test for Factor VIII), and I need to make an appointment with yet another doctor concerning the ANA. Tomorrow I see the neurologist again. I have a list of questions ready. I'm turning into quite the medical marvel. If any of you have had either of those blood tests come back abnormal, I'd love to hear about it. I'm getting a little worried. Hopefully my neurologist will put me at ease in the morning. One thing I have learned from this is how important it is to know your family history. I would love mine in writing so I can remember all of it!
A little over a month later, I blogged this:
So, had my follow up with the neurologist today. He confirmed the brain is healing and told me how to get a CD with my MRI scans. Too cool! I have quite the assortment of freaky brain pics now! Anyway, he told me that he didn't want to tell me before, but the reason for the MRI was more than just a follow up. He said the shape of the damage from the stroke is unusual, and given my age he needed to rule out the possibility of a tumor. Apparently, he didn't want to freak me out by telling me that before. And now that he sees the healing he is 99.9% sure it was for sure a stroke. Isn't that a relief?!?!? So, I have yet another MRI in 4 months to make sure he can be 100% sure. He did sound pretty sure, though. I am happy they are taking such good care of me and exploring all options.
"Whatever any man does he first must do in his mind, whose machinery is the brain. The mind can do only what the brain is equipped to do, and so man must find out what kind of brain he has before he can understand his own behavior." --Gay Gaer Luce and Julius Segal (from Sleep, 1966)
It is now 2012, I have had so many MRI's...there are no answers. I am healing. I am lucky. I never did get my peripheral vision back. I'm the luckiest person on Earth that I'm blind on one side. Seriously. Talk about a dose of perspective.
Life is short. Live it while you can. If I can't see you there on my right side...I'm not ignoring you...I've had a stroke. A stroke of insight.
I'm 37 years old now...living my life to the fullest.
Blind on one side and thankful every day for that.