On March 14, 2011 I had a hemorrhagic stroke, just 2 weeks before my 49th birthday. I was at a 90th birthday party for my friend, in a nice restaurant at a hotel. I felt half of my face sagging down at the end of the party. I got up to go to the restroom to see my face, wondering what was going on. I starting walking down the hall, and quickly realized that I wasn’t walking right. I got my phone out, and realized that my fingers weren’t working, and I couldn’t dial 911. I now knew that I was having a stroke. I saw the son-in-law of my friend, in the hall, and called him over to me. I told him that I thought I was having a stroke and needed help dialing 911. I wasn’t talking right, but he knew what I needed. He had me sit down, and had a waitress come over and sit with me, while he went for help. She held my hand and told me not to worry, because she was a nursing student. When he got back after calling 911, I asked him to call my husband and parents from my phone. My husband was leaving to go pick up our daughter from the airport, because she was starting spring break from college. I told him to tell my husband to go ahead and get her, and to get our son too, who works in the same town as the airport, and then come to the hospital. I was very calm. Unusually calm. When the paramedics got there, I could answer most of their questions. My speech was getting worse, and I couldn’t stand up. My blood pressure upon arriving at the hospital, was 285/185! I didn’t know that it was possible to have BP that high! And I know the paramedics had already given me something for that, so it had been higher! I am not overweight, have perfect cholesterol, no health issues at all, but had started BP medication 6 months prior because I had “white coat syndrome” very bad, and the doctor said it would keep me from having a stroke. When the ER did a catscan, it revealed that I had a hemorrhagic stroke. The worst kind! Most people have Ischemic strokes, and can get a shot to stop it. Mine was a bleed caused from the BP, and a blood vessel burst.I didn’t get to get a shot. The stroke hit the left side of my brain, in the left basal ganglia. That area controls speech and coordination, mostly. I was completely paralyzed on my right side. 95% of people die from this kind of stroke. I was still calm in the ER. They were preparing me for surgery to stop the bleeding. I told the nurse that I thought the bleeding had stopped. She just told me I couldn’t know that. My parents were there, and my family. My husband arrived with the kids. Very emotional time for them. I was calming them down, thinking it must be hard for them to see me that way. Note: I still wasn’t talking right. Very slurred, and garbled. Little did I know at that time– I was defying all the odds! Most people who have a hemorrhagic stroke go into a coma. Not me! I didn’t even have a headache!! More doctors come in, and more nurses too. There was a lot of commotion! I was in THE stroke hospital, so they knew what they were doing. They couldn’t get my BP down until they used a heavy-duty drug. When they scanned me again, it looked as if the bleeding stopped! That doesn’t happen either! So off to ICU for me. No surgery. I was in ICU for 5 days. My BP spiked constantly. All blood tests were perfect. I was a big question mark for these doctors. Why was my BP so high? They couldn’t keep giving me that heavy medication because it causes other problems, so I was taking a lot of pills, too. By the 2nd day, I could move my foot. The physical therapists started coming to see me then, and I stood up with help. My family was there all the time, cheering me on with every improvement. When they would get there, I’d smile, and the could gauge by my smile how much my face was improving, not being so saggy on that side. My husband and kids would always rub my arm, because the tendon was tight, and they said we need to loosen it if I ever wanted to straighten it out. I guess that’s a common side effect to get a bent arm. Speech therapists came, and so did the occupational therapists. Every day there was improvement. By the 5th day, I could walk several steps, with assistance. My BP was under control with medication. Time to go to a regular room, and out of ICU. Yay! My face was almost back to normal. It was the 1st time that I saw myself in the mirror since I had the stroke. At this point, my husband was going to stay 24 hours a day with me. They made him a bed next to mine. He’s always been a wonderful husband, but after going through this, he’s more than amazing! He walked me to the bathroom every time, and helped me with that. He wrote down everything the doctors and nurses told us. When he left to go home to shower, my parents were there. My kids were there. My brother was there. My sister was sick, and couldn’t be there, or she would have. We didn’t have visitors, because there was too much going on every day, and my BP would go up. On about the 7th night, I had a nurse that changed the course of my recovery. She made me move my arm. She was stubborn, and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She helped me to kick in that part of my brain, and it worked! We were so excited! For the next 2 hours, my husband and I were doing things to move my arm. The nurses kept coming in, and cheering me on! By the time I left the hospital on day 9, I could stand and slowly wipe down the counter where the sink was! I left to go to a rehab hospital for in-patient rehab. I won’t talk much about that, because it wasn’t so good. Although, it gave me the inspiration to get out of there!
I went home 12 days after having the stroke. It was great to get home! I felt like a celebrity in the hospital, with drs and nurses wanting to meet me. They wanted to see who this 48 year old woman was, who had a hemorrhagic stroke, and was laughing, walking, talking, and moving. I had one dr who was going to miss his flight so he could meet me.
My arm started really working after 2 weeks, but my hand didn’t work until much later. I went to physical therapy for months. That included speech therapy and occupational therapy. I started walking on my own at around 5 weeks. I am a hairdresser, so I really wanted to do hair again. It took 5 months. I’m not back to work, because I don’t have the stamina to stand for long periods, and my arm won’t stay up. But a little at a time, and I’ll be back to the shop.
I went back to therapy 6 months ago, to strengthen my core, because my back is so weak from being paralyzed for so long. What I didn’t know, but quickly learned, is that when you’re paralyzed it’s EVERYTHING on that side that is paralyzed. The organs, diaphragm, tongue, and all the muscles. The brain has to re-route the signals to get everything working. When they told me that recovery is 1 to 1 1/2 years, I didn’t believe it. But here I am, a year and a half later still recovering. I feel like I am maybe 85% back to normal, but it’s the fine motor skills, stamina, core weakness, and BP, that are still the issues.
I am so lucky to have survived this stroke. I have learned so much. I’ve always been a very positive person and optimistic, and I realize how much that has helped my recovery. I don’t know why I was meant to go through this, but hopefully I’ll be able to help others. I know my angels were with me, and still are! They kept me calm. The drs and nurses always asked me if I believe in angels. Yes, I always have, and always will. I’m so thankful for my husband, kids, parents, siblings, family, friends, doctors, nurses, and everyone who has helped me in this recovery. Nothing is taken for granted. Life is not the same, but it’s GREAT!