I get asked alot about my stroke -- if I knew I was having a stroke, what it was like, how it happened. Looking back on it I see now that there were episodes leading up to it that were red flags. Slightly elevated blood pressure for about three years. Pounding heart and uneven beats for about two years. Four visual migraines the week before. The visual migraines - losing sight with no pain- started after the birth of our son around age 35, and I only have one every two to three years.
The migraines and extreme sudden dizziness that happened two days before were the big flags, but with most things got brushed off. Called my doctor. Heart palpitations? The medicine I was on for my blood pressure. The migraines? Menopause or allergies. In fact, many symptoms were explained away by perimenopause.
After the first dizzy spell on a Monday, where the world suddenly reeled, spun and then stopped, I knew something was different. It felt like being on sudafed... kinda like there is a big fuzz over my brain. That evening, I had a dinner to attend, and I remember it was all I could do to pay attention to what was being said. I was very tired, and things became "simple". I had that feeling many times pre and post stroke, the world becomes compartmentalized, and simpler. I realize now after reading about it that is because the brain has to pay attention to everything -- the part of cognition that is automatic and running in the background, i.e. The tv is on, someone is doing the dishes, the telephone rings, the dog is hovering 'cause she's hungry, someone is talking to you.... is altered. Whereas before all those things could be occurring at the same time and you isolate the conversation, my brain couldn't isolate anymore, and all of life's happenings came in at the same importance level. It was simple, because basically I could only focus on one thing at a time.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up and had my regular cup of coffee. After about five minutes it did not taste good anymore so I set it aside. I felt dizzy in the bathroom so went outside to feed the chickens and horses and it lightened and went away. Wilder had a doctor's appointment and so we were getting ready to go. I walked to the front door, knowing something was not right, but forged on. Wilder came outside with me to get in the car and asked if I was alright. I had been speaking to him with a slur, and was having left side failure. My brain was sending the words out correctly, but my mouth could not navigate creation of the sounds. I have not forgotten the look of fear on my son's face when he looked at me and said something's wrong. That's when I told him to get his sister to drive me to the hospital. She ran downstairs in her pajamas. (She didn't change out of them until the evening when her dad took her home) I decided I should go to the bathroom first. That is when I had major left side failure. I started standing up from the toilet and sliding to the left toward the wall and floor. I remember thinking that something was not working right and being somewhat surprised... like What?! Oh no you didn't... you are getting your butt up. I still remember the will it took to get my body upright -- my leg shaking and my brain solely focused on being upright -- but I was not going to traumatize the kids further. And really, what would be more traumatic than a mumbly mom on the floor of the bathroom with her pants down? The stroke at this point was coming and going, I was having intermittent left side failure. This is also possibly due to an embolic ischemic stroke, a clot that comes from the heart, and then dissipates into many little clots. Reminds me of the Angry Birds bird that starts out as a single, but breaks into several smaller bombs. (This stroke cause is a possibility, not a definite. They still don't know why I had a stroke, but are narrowing the options.) Next up: To the hospital.