"The Face Of Stroke No Longer Looks Like Our Grandmothers"
Ten days after giving birth to my third child, I woke up with the worst “migraine” of my life. I felt as if an elephant was sitting on my head. At the insistence of my mom, I went to an outpatient clinic. During my pregnancy I had developed preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure. I have a family history history of hypertension, and my blood pressure remained uncontrolled after my daughter was born. My blood pressure was extremely high that day. I fact it was the highest it’s ever been. Since I had preeclampsia, and a history of migraines, the doctor dismissed my warning signs and sent me home. I left in more pain than I had arrived.
A couple hours later back at home the headache had intensified. I started speaking incoherently and developed tunnel vision. When my husband came home from work he rushed me to the emergency room. As I walked through the ER doors the last thing I remember is having an overwhelming feeling that I would never leave that hospital. I made my husband promise me that he would take care of our three children. I urinated on myself and everything else for the next 3 days was a blur. I woke up 3 days after I arrived in the intensive care unit (ICU). I spent 3 1/2 weeks there. I was told I suffered an intracranial hemorrhage on the right side of my brain which caused the entire left side of my body to be paralyzed. During my inpatient stay I suffered a second hemorrhagic stroke to the frontal lobe of my brain.
Although I was only 27 years old, I fit the description of someone at high risk for a stroke. I just didn’t believe it because in my mind I wasn’t the face of stroke. I thought someone’s grandmother was the face of stroke, but I was overworked, under enormous stress, overweight and had uncontrolled high blood pressure. A walking cocktail for stroke.
After nearly a month in ICU, I was moved to a step down unit in the hospital where I stayed for close to 2 weeks. The night before I was set to be discharged, I complained of chest and leg pain. Once again my concerns were brushed off. I was told I’m anxious about going home and given Mylanta for indigestion.
This Can’t Be Happening Again
The very next day I was driven right back to the hospital because my chest pain had intensified to where it felt like knives were sticking in my chest and I couldn’t lean back. It was discovered that I had suffered a bilateral pulmonary embolism and that both of my lungs were almost completely filled with blood. Everything happened so fast. I had less than 5 minutes to use the phone and call my family. The doctors began prepping me for surgery literally as soon as the CT Scan results were read. I felt like I had just dodged death with surviving two strokes and then I was right back at death’s door the very next day after dis charge. My faith was definitely shaken that day. I remember thinking it was easy when I was asleep going through a variety of procedures and not having to think about it because I was unaware, but being awake and hearing explanations for why these procedures have to be done immediately to save your life is like feeling every emotion imaginable all at once. It’s almost indescribable.
A team of Cardiologists performed the pulmonary embolism surgery and placed a filter in one of my arteries to prevent a future clot from spreading. It was found that during my first hospitalization for the strokes I had developed a blood clot in my leg that traveled up into my lungs. Lucky me right.
I am very blessed to be alive today. Although I was told by doctors that I would always need assistance with everyday life skills and would never walk on my own again, I can do anything I set my mind to do. I never doubted that, even when many wanted me to confuse my faith with denial. It took many months of physical, occupational and speech therapy to get back to the point I am today. I fully function on my own. The left side of my body definitely has a deficit and memory, concentration and headaches are my biggest challenge, but I’m alive and I AM LIVING!!
Perspective is Everything!
Change Is Required!
It would be a fairytale ending to say that after enduring all of that I had an epiphany and change the unhealthy behaviors that led me to that fate. Well this isn’t that fairytale. It actually didn’t take long to slip right back into the old familiar unhealthy
lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, poor food choices and lack of exercise was my “go to”. My wake up call came a few years later when my then 9 year old daughter who was also overweight developed severe high cholesterol. It was so severe that she was referred to a pediatric cardiologist who wanted to start her on staten medication. The side effects were horrendous and I asked what the alternatives were to the medication to regulate her cholesterol. The doctor’s answer blew me away. He said “diet and exercise, but no one has success with that.” That was all I needed to hear. I knew I didn’t know how, but I knew how to ask for help. I enrolled our family in a nutrition program through our local Children’s Hospital and we began to work as a team to combat obesity and prevent further disease in our family. As a result my daughter lost 40lbs. At age 18 her doctor finally stated that she no longer has high cholesterol and wished that more patients took diet and exercise as serious. I have lost 80lbs and gone from having to take three different blood pressure pills down to just one. Every person’s health journey is different and of course you should consult with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication. We’ve not only seen in a change in our household, but in our extended family as well. Our change has inspired our family to be healthy. The face of stroke doesn’t look like our grandmothers. It can be any of us at any age.
To encourage other women I became a spokesperson for the American Heart Association Go Red For Women campaign and started the Fat Girl 2 Glam Girl support group on Facebook. As a Mother of 3, Author and Business Owner (Pink Carpet Glam Girl Spa), I know first hand that nothing is more powerful than a man or woman with a determined mind.
For more information on my latest book, “Change Your Mind, Change Your Waistline”, visit www.glamgirl.shop