Holli H

Photo of Holli H

I am … a Survivor.

August 31st, 2011, started out like any other Wednesday at work…until about mid-morning, when I got a sharp pain in the left side of my head and I dropped the pen I was holding from my right hand.  I didn’t think anything about it, until I went to pick up the pen and immediately dropped it again.  I looked at my coworker and said I think I need to sit down for a moment.  I sat down and within the next few minutes I tried to speak and it came out incoherent.  At this point I got rather upset, left the office went to the restroom and called my mom.  Once she heard my voice she called my PCP.

I was having no other lasting symptoms other than the slurred/incoherent speech.  I never considered the possibility of a stroke.  I was only 32 and that just wasn’t something that happened to a 32 year old, or so I thought.  I went to see my doctor who did a neuro workup and blood work.  My speech seemed to regulate somewhat and based on the nuerological exam he was leaning towards a vitamin B12 deficiency which can cause slurred speech.  So, I went on my way back to the office and then home for the evening.  I lived alone so I didn’t speak to anyone until the following day, when ironically I had an appointment with my general surgeon.  On the way to that appointment I realized things were still not quite right. I tried to sing along to the radio and I wasn’t getting the words out right.  So, I went to that appointment, mentioned my symptoms and he told me not to worry about it.  So, I went on in to work.  Once I got to the office I tried to answer a phone call and realized what I heard in my head was not what was coming out of my mouth.  My speech had continued to deteriorate, but was my only symptom.  At this point my supervisor called my endocrinologist who I was seeing post thyroid surgery.  He fit me in for an emergency appointment.

I struggled to relay the happenings of the last day or so to him and he immediately gave me a prescription for a brain MRI with and without contrast.  I drove to the radiological facility had the study, after which the radiologist came out and stated I would have to go to another office for an immediate MRA. He stated that there was a shadow present but he could not definitively determine what it was.  I immeditately went to that facility and had the MRA.  The radiologist called me back into the review room following the study.  He sat me down and very calmly explained to me that I had had a stroke and showed me the area of “necrotic” tissue that was left from the CVA.  I was stunned.  I never once thought that it could possibly be a stroke.  By this time, he explained the stroke had happened and going to the emergency room would serve no purpose.  My next step was to see a neurologist.  My father met me at the facility once I got the definitive diagnosis, as I was not to drive or be alone until fully worked up by the neurologist, whom I saw the next day.

The question now was what caused the stroke and prevention.  I had all kinds of blood work, cardiac workups, transesophogeal EKG, etc.  I saw a hemotologist once they discovered that I have Factor V Leiden, which my neuro thought could be a contributing factor.  The hemotologist thought the condition could have played a very small role, if any based on my history.  I had been on birth control for 12 years with no problems.  He stated normally with Factor V and birth control DVTs would occur within the first 2 years of use.  The root cause of my stroke will probably never be known. They think possibly undiagnosed migranes, with the conjunction of smaller that normal blood vessels on the left side of my brain and the Factor V all contributed to the stoke.  I was extremely lucky.  The lasting effects are minimal and completely manageable.  I still have a slight stutter but am able to control it unless I’m extremely tired, stressed or excited, I have some short term memory issues and have developed occipital neuralgia.  I get quarterly cortisone injections to manage my headaches. I am also on preventative meds and will be forever according to my doctors. Other than that I am A OK.  There are some days when I think man if this didn’t happen things would be so different and then I realize I don’t want them to be any different.

My stroke didn’t change me for the worse, it made me stronger, it made me a survivor.