"You're Too Young to Have Had a Stroke!" I hear that all the time! But I'm not too young. I did have a stroke, two to be exact.
I was afraid I might one day have a stroke. My dad's family has a long history of "bad plumbing" as he calls it. Arterial disease is rampant complete with hard arteries and enough plaque to stop up Old Faithful. I decided to get myself checked out in February of 2007 after my dad had survived a stroke. My primary care doctor declared I had "dodged the family bullet", and that I had no signs of my father's arterial challenges.
What he couldn't have seen was that I did have a genetic problem in my arteries, but it wasn't what we were looking for. My arteries are basically too thin and any sort of elevated blood pressure over time causes them to unravel or "dissect". In March 2007, just weeks after that physical, I was hospitalized due to a dissection of my vertebral artery which resulted in clotting which caused a stroke. I was an active runner and maintained a pretty healthy lifestyle so the recovery wasn't bad. After two months I was cleared to return to work. The diagnosis was that the dissection was spontaneous and would most likely never happen again.
In March of 2010 it happened again. This time I had a dissection of my carotid artery almost six inches long. I was fortunate to have survived. The recovery took months, and thankfully I had the option of retiring rather than returning to the stressful environment of my occupation. I decided to get involved and try to help other stroke patients. I joined a stroke peer visitor group in Atlanta and have enjoyed encouraging and being encouraged by stroke survivors and their families in the hospital. The stories I have of self determination, family love and the role of good health care providers could fill a book!
In 2010 I began work with a fellow stroke survivor and together we formed the Young Stroke Survivor Support Group of Atlanta. We have met for almost a year and we continue to grow and thrive. I have two missions in life now. To encourage stroke patients that there is hope but it takes work, and that those who have not experienced stroke should maintain healthy lifestyles because they never can tell what the future holds!
» Learn more about stroke risk factors.