Jill J-W.

Photo of Jill J-W.

I am … a Survivor.

My Story

I hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of weeks. Lots of headaches that were migraine-like but my normal migraine meds weren’t helping. On Saturday, May 30, 2015 I ran my first-ever 5k with a headache. I was so excited. I had planned on walking but once I started I just kept running. My 17 yo daughter’s prom was that night. She looked so beautiful. On Thursday, June 4 it was my Dad’s birthday. I also had a tennis lesson this evening as I had plans for Saturday. I played the best tennis ever, with a headache. I was pumped! When I woke up Friday, June 5 to go to the gym I had no idea what was in store for me. I met my trainer at the gym and did spinning for about 30 minutes but I was really dragging. I hurt all over and had my ever-present headache. I have Fibromyalgia so I often have wide-spread joint and muscle pain so I thought it was that acting up. I lifted weights and did some other work at the gym and then I hit the showers. I worked for 8.5 hours. Despite my nagging headache that I thought was maybe turning into a sinus infection, I had a very productive day. I went to my sister Jody’s for dinner. My brother-in-law was cooking. My niece was there but I think my nephew wasn’t for some reason. Jody saw across from me at the dinner table and asked me if I felt okay because I didn’t look like I was feeling well. I told her I had a bit of a headache but was fine. After dinner I drove the half mile down to my house. It was about 7:15pm. My husband was mowing the lawn and my daughter was with her track and field team at the state finals. She is the manager.

As I was taking care of my gym bag and re-packing it for Monday a dime-size spot began tingling on my left temple. It felt like tiny electrical jolts. I thought that was odd as I moved onto sorting the mail. Then a spot the size of a half dollar in my temple went numb. At this point I wasn’t too worried but I thought it was strange. I called my Mom but she wasn’t home. I called my sister Jody who was going to come down and check it out. I flagged my husband down on the mower and told him what was going on and that Jody was coming down. He came in from mowing. Jody got there and by then half of the left side of my face had gone numb. I thought it was a pinched nerve from the knots in my left neck/shoulder from stress. Within a couple of minutes my speech didn’t slur but it became very difficult for me to think of words and then my coordination was off. Jody told my husband Dale right then that he had to take me to the hospital. None of us thougth it could be a stroke. It never occured to us. Fortunately my husband drove me to the hospital that is 25 minutes from us and not the hospital I work at that was an hour away (I was in charge of marketing/PR). Where we live it would have taken an ambulance about 30 minutes to get to us.

When we got to the hospital I walked in holding onto my husband’s arm. I was asked what was wrong and when I told them the left side of my face was numb I jumped to the head of the line. I climbed onto the exam table in the bay by myself. My husband had to stay and finish getting me registered. I was asked what was wrong and I told them what I wrote here. I was asked if there was any other numbness and I told them no. I was told that was good news for me otherwise it could be very serious. Then I was asked to lift my left leg. I went to do that, thinking it was no issue. My left leg wouldn’t move. My left side wouldn’t move. My let arm wouldn’t move. I had no feeling on my left side at all. I was then rushed in for a STAT CT Scan. By the time I was back in the bay the ED doctor was on the phone getting the read from the test. Along with this when the hospital staff tried to draw my blood it clotted before they could get enough into the tubes. It confirmed a stroke. This came as such a shock to my husband and I. This was when I was told about the clot-busting drug. I was also told that 1-5% of people receiving this die in the first 6 minutes. I asked the doctor how long I had to make a decision, still not quite understanding the urgency as it was all happening so fast. The doctor confirmed the timeline with Dale and I and said we were 15-20 minutes under the magic 3 hour mark and I needed to do it NOW. I gave consent and received the first big dose. Meanwhile the ambulance was there to transport me to the large teritary teaching hospital in our state that’s about an hour away. They then put in the IV that needed to drip for an hour with the second part of the medication dose.

My daughter was told by my sister Jody, her godmother, that I wasn’t feeling well and was at the hospital and that she shold come to her house after the state meet. She was to be home about 10:30pm. My daughter wrote to me write after I received the clot-busting drug and told me she was sorry I was sick and how was I doing. She had no idea, none of us had at the time, how serious things were. I remember crying and having my husband text her back a message telling her that I loved her very much and that the doctors were taking very good care of me.

In the ambulance on the way to the next hospital a scrape on my knee that had scabbed over started gushing blood. The good thing was that as we got to the hospital I began to be able to move my left leg.

I spent the next 4 days in the Neurology ICU. It was such a blur. I’m still learning things about my condition. I had a left brain stroke but my left side was impacted so that is still something no one exactly understands. As I understand it, my left carotid artery is discected (torn) and that caused blood clots that caused my stroke. I’m 10 weeks out from my stroke. My left side is about 50% weaker than my right side. I still easily get sensory overload. July 4 fireworks were a nightmare! I also easily get tired. Right now I’m not allowed to lift anything, go to the gym, do sit-ups, play tennis, play golf or run in anymore races. I am waiting to have another CT Scan at the end of August to see how the artery is healing. Hopefully the baby aspirin and Lipitor are doing their job. I don’t have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In fact, I’d lost 40 pounds over the last year on a health journey I had called “Fit by 50”. I turned 48 on May 5, one month before my stroke. I stutter fairly regularly because I can’t get the right words to come out.

I am now discovering what my new normal is. I know it will never be exacctly like it was before but I’m getting there. I have trememdous family support.