Archive for the ‘stroke’ tag
A little less than a month ago, when I was feeling like the kitten that had cream for supper, I was jerked back to reality and had a small stroke. As usual, my knight in shining armor, Tim in case you were wondering who that could possibly be, was right there by my side not letting me fool myself into thinking that the extreme weakness in my right arm would simply go away with a good night’s rest.
My fingers were so weak I could not lift them from their position on the laptop keyboard. So off we went to the ER at MetroHealth. Sure enough, the CAT scan showed that I had a small stroke but within 24 hours I was showing a sign of returning strength, my speech was no longer halting, and the heaviness and tingling in my right leg was tolerable.
It turns out that the tripping up steps, stumbling, and the feeling of always stepping on a rock was my first clue of a stroke that I ignored. You see, when I had my strokes in 2008 I still had I had the heaviness in the leg, the constant tingling and that “stepping on a rock” feeling that has a specific name but I NEVER remember it when I was released from the rehab center About eight months ago, “the rock”, the heaviness were simply gone and the tingling was only intermittent. That Monday when I was doing the laundry walking up and down the basement stairs they all came back with a vengeance including an incredible weakness in my hip and my balance was none too good. My neurologist told me one out of two’s not bad, but in the future any CHANGE is what you look for which would have meant not ignoring symptoms that had gone away and were now right in front of me.
As usual, I lived and learned. And again, I am sharing Act F.A.S.T.: FACE- Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop? ARMS-Ask the person to lift their arms over their head. Does one arm drift downward? SPEECH-Ask the person to repeat a simple sentense. Are the words slurred? Can she/he repeat the sentence correctly?TIME- If the person has any of these symptoms. Call 911. DO NOT DRIVE yourself or have someone else drive you there. And if you are with the person having the possible stroke do not ask them if they want to go to the hospital YOU make the decision. The last person who should be decision making is the person who may be having a stroke.
I waited to post this latest health incident until after I talked to my cardiologist and the Neurologist Nurse practitioner. I am cleared for beginning to exercise again which I plan to ramp up gradually. My cardiologist and I have a plan for continuing my cholesterol numbers to continue downward because I cannot tolerate statins so it makes for more of a challenge, but it has steadily been improving even though I have been off statins for over a year. If you are wondering what caused my stroke, we do not know. It could have been any number of things or a combination of things. When the recovery from a stroke begins quickly, 40% of the people who have them do not have a definitive cause. I’m okay with that because I am extremely thankful that my symptoms are continuing to go away.
Many of you have asked me about this event so I thought I would post about this latest adventure in the continuing Health Saga of Gloria Ferris. In the words of Rosanne Roseannadanna: “It’s always somethin’.”
When Monica Robbins interviewed Tim and me a few weeks ago I mentioned that when I spoke at the October Stroke Conference I did three things related my experience, and shared seven things I learned. She immediately asked what were they? I of course drew a blank and could only relate five. I have since found my notes and intend to relate them here over the next few days.
The first thing I learned was to Count My Blessings. Actually, I had learned that years ago when I was a small child, but over the years I had remembered to do it much less frequently. While I was in ICU the nurses would turn on the television for background noise. I don’t know if I listened to the dialogue from “White Christmas”or if I simply dreamed portions of one of my favorite Holiday Classics.
In any case, it reminded me of my father who taught me to “count my blessings”. When I was much younger I was a “worrywart”. I worried that my cousin who was in the Navy would get lost in the jungles of Panama, that my teacher would call on me and I wouldn’t know the answer soon enough, that my Dad would go to work one day and not come home again just like my Grandpa, that my mother would get very, very sick. The list was a mile long, and I would stare in the darkness long after the house was quiet with my spinning, worrying mind.
It was shortly after my seventh birthday when my dad walked me into a starlit pasture and told me that I needed to learn to count my blessings instead of chronicle my worries. That night he showed me how to count on the people who loved me, to count on myself, to count on my strengths, to count on the thousands of stars in the sky. That night I fell asleep confident my blessings outweighed my worries.
Fifty years later lying in a hospital bed with arms hooked up to too many IVs to count, with a machine to help me breathe, it would have been easy to have a head spinning full of worries. What if I never walked again, what if I couldn’t use my left hand for eating and writing, what if this and what if that. I could have spent my hours endlessly worrying, but instead I decided to count my blessings. It worked. It helped me stay positive on the hardest of days and saw me through long, dark nights.
So just as Bing Crosby sang Irving Berlin’s words to Rosemary Clooney in the movie “White Christmas” so many years ago, I would tell you this Christmas ”when you are worried and cannot sleep try counting your blessings instead of sheep”. It worked for me.
Many of you know that last November began a a very long and scary adventure for my family, friends, and me. Some of you don’t know the details but know I haven’t been around much any more. Today, I got clearance for Cardio Rehab and I believe that it is safe to say that I am out of the woods and on a long trek back. It is time to begin the story.
Today I will begin the story of the last six months. I have decided to share my experiences at MetroHealth with my wider net of community because, if nothing else, you may see that anything is possible. Let me say this, I have no answers only the experience itself to illustrate what is possible. My aunts continue to say “it is a miracle”. My doctors don’t say they are wrong. Me, I don’t remember the first 23 days. Tim tells me it is just as well. As I learn bits and pieces I can only say I believe him.
On the seventeenth day of November I traveled to MetroHealth courtesy of Cleveland EMS. Within minutes, I was there. Tim says he never saw so much activity, so much determination and focus in one place. It appears that day I suffered a heart attack. Shortly after, I suffered three strokes. Somewhere in there are a stent that became clogged calling for three more, two cardiac arrests, and after a talk with my cardiologist about just how dire my situation was, a DNR was put in place. My friends and family were greatly impressed that my doctor included them in the status report after asking Tim if he wanted to do it or could he? Roger later heard this same doctor tell a group of interns “this woman is the sickest patient in this 700 bed hospital”.
After they took a CAT scan, the doctors told Tim and the girls that chances were good that I would never go home again. There was a great probability that when I left the hospital I would enter a skilled nursing home where I would eventually succumb to pneumonia. Tim said he wasn’t ready to seal my fate on a few fuzzy pictures of my head. My doctors agreed.
And this is where my family, my friends, you, and many I have not met or know enter the tale. Tim had already called people. The girls, Geri and Teagan were there. Many of you had already been to see me, to hold my hand, to remind me of all our good times, to thank the nurses and doctors for me because I could not. Tim asked for help. He asked for your prayers, your energy, whatever you had to give. Whatever you did, however you did it, I am here to say it worked. On December 10, the woman no one expected to live left CCU and moved to the Seventh Floor to begin Stroke Rehab.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Next: The Beginning of the Long Road Back