My stroke story
January 18, 2018
It was 5AM and my husband, Rich, was leaving for his morning shift at work. I got up to make him breakfast and coffee - a rare occurrence to be honest. As he was heading out the door, his hand on the door knob, I went to hand him his coffee and dropped it. As I reached down to pick it up I felt as though I was swimming though jello. All I could think was, “hurry up Leathy! You’re going to make Rich late!” When I stood up Rich’s expression turned quizzical as he observed an awkwardness about my face. I tried to mumble out words, “i’m fine.” Instead only a garbled mess came out. Rich looked at me and asked, “what’s my name?” I opened my mouth but nothing came out. My hand jerked to my mouth in shock. He asked, “what day is it today?” I just looked at him with a helpless blank stare. Nothing of sense would come out my mouth.
AT THE EMERGENCY ROOM
We arrived at the emergency room around 6AM. The doctors on call performed an evaluation and thought perhaps I was having a migraine (I had been suffering from severe migraines for over a year at this point since a terrible car accident). They sent me back for a CT scan. I remember waiting on the hospital bed. A man in his 30’s came in my room dressed in normal clothes. He began asking me a series of questions and he looked troubled. At this point, I was lying down and was actually able to talk normally again. It puzzled the doctors. Since I was able to talk normal we thought that perhaps I was fine and would be going home soon. I asked Rich if he could go out and grab me a coffee from down the road. While he was out another doctor came in. She was dressed in her uniform. She asked me to sit up and asked a few questions. After trying to answer her first question and all the garbled mess returning she said, “we are taking you into surgery.” All of the sudden my room was flooded with doctors and nurses prepping my body for procedure. At this point I still had no idea what my diagnosis was, what was happening, or where Rich was. All I remember is the nurses around me saying, “she’s so young… she’s so young…”
As they were about to wheel me back to the surgical room Rich returned confused. I told him to talk to the lady over there about what was going on. He briefly talked to her and came back by my side as I was being wheeled down the hall. He squeezed my hand and tears flooded both our eyes. I wondered what life would be like when I saw him next.
As I entered the surgical room I saw the man who had previously been dressed in normal clothes in complete scrubs and a mask and ready for surgery. I thought, “whatever is going on must have been serious enough to have him come in on his off day. He seems worried for me.” They told me that they were going to remove a clot from my brain that was cutting off oxygen to important vessels. They told me that because this was a brain procedure I would be awake but with gas. Initially my body shook with fright. I prayed and felt peace fill my soul .
The doctors were performing an emergency thrombectomy. It was around 9AM. If the supply of oxygen to my brain continued to be cut off past 6 hours then the brain damage could have been fatal.
Dr. Fields, one of the few doctors in the state of OR trained and able to perform a thrombectomy (and just happened to be at the ER 5 minutes down the road from us), told me that he was going to be grabbing the clot now and that I would feel some pain. I felt it. It was that acute, pin pointed, unbearable pain I would get with each migraine. I said, “ow ow ow ow…” and he said, “okay turn up the gas.” I drifted off.
In Intensive Care Unit
I woke up with Rich by my side. He told me my Mom was already on her way out. I was still confused as to the seriousness of my condition. My nurse called me her little miracle. They evaluated my motion, speech, and cognition to find that I passed each test without hesitancy.
Dr. Ford, the doctor who came in and made the call to send me into surgery, came in to meet with me. She told me I had a stroke, the thrombectomy was successful, but recovery may last weeks or months.
They continued to testing my blood, taking ultrasounds of all my veins, evaluating my family history, and performing neuro evaluations through the rest of the day. I also had many wonderful friends and visitors come by and pray with me, bring food, and care for me. My Mom arrived that night.
I stayed in ICU until the following morning. Dr. Ford came back in to let me know that they really had no results showing any indication of a clotting disorder. I was in excellent health. She said she couldn’t tell me why I had a stroke but suggested I take baby aspirin for life.
I walked out of ICU that day at noon. With my wonderful nurses cheering for me and encouraging me. They said they rarely get to see their patients walk out of ICU.
I love each one of those nurses and my doctors. They cared for me so well and so deeply. I knew I was in good hands. There is no doubt about it, modern medicine saved my life. I praise God for giving man the knowledge and grace to develop science and medical procedures such as a thrombectomy. Who knows what the quality of my life (if life at all) would have been like without these doctors and this procedure.
My husband, my Mom, and my dear friend Cassie and her husband (who drove back to Portland from Seattle on their babymoon) cared for me so sweetly after getting home. They stocked my fridge, encouraged me, prayed for me, cooked for me, loved me, and listened to me.
Although I passed my speech, physical, and occupational therapy exams in ICU I found that I was not the same.
Over the next several months I struggled. I struggled with:
Anxiety - what if I had another stroke? I would wake up and talk to myself at night just to ensure I hadn’t lost my speech again.
Words and speech - I found my speech was slower, I would stutter, and couldn’t find my words. This also contributed to my anxiety of feeling as if I was having another stroke in the moment.
Low blood pressure (80/50) - low blood pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Better than high blood pressure! But all the side affects were new for me. Feeling of light headedness, extra care when standing up, taking deep breaths.
Dull headaches - since my stroke I have not had a migraine like what I had prior to my stroke. I thank God for this every. single. day. The migraines I suffered from prior to my stroke is the only physical pain I have cried from (and I even birthed my daughter naturally when it should have been a C section!).
Brain fog/inflammation - this manifested itself in the symptoms above.
After being on baby aspirin for about two weeks, I ditched it. If my stroke wasn’t caused from a clotting disorder, what good was the aspirin doing me? Not to mention it was causing more harm than good with the easy bruising.
16 months later
Today, I’m migraine free, have a beautiful daughter, rarely feel symptoms from my stroke but live extremely conscious of the fact that my brain is forever damaged.
I’ve had the priviledge of seeing many different practitioners from all different fields and expertise. I’ve attended conferences on neuro-development, and can’t tell you how many books, podcast, and youtube lectures I’ve watched on this subject.
So, here begins a series of posts… stay tuned for the next posts!!
What caused my stroke at 26 years old
The reality of living with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident
Pregnancy/birth after a stroke
Inflammation in your brain and nutrients you need for neuro-support
Exercise and light therapy as stroke recovery
And if you have questions beyond the topics listed above that you’d like to see answered, drop them below!