Did you know that May is national stroke awareness month? It is. I saw the sign on my way back to the OR from the cafeteria.
So I thought I’d share a little story with you.
It was December 2006 one Friday night near midnight. I was reading my Bible when suddenly I couldn’t see anything out of the left side of both of my eyes. Yes, both of my eyes. I remember thinking how weird. Why can’t I see out of the left side of my eyes? I got up from my chair, walked into the kitchen, examined the photos on the fridge, continued to be astounded with my sudden left sided blindness, shrugged my shoulders, and went to bed.
Before I lay my head down I began to pray out loud. Then my heart started racing. I couldn’t speak coherently. Okay. What’s going on? Am I having a TIA (warning sign of a stroke)? Am I having a stroke!?
I got out of bed and went to the kitchen. I sat down on the stairs. I spoke sentences carefully. I rationalized as I prayed. I’m okay. I’m too young to have a stroke. I’m only 43. I can’t possibly be having a stroke. After 30 minutes or so, the symptoms disappeared. I did what any good nurse would do. I climbed into bed and went to sleep. (Denial is not just a river in Egypt)
All weekend, the thought nagged at me (or probably the Holy Spirit since I didn’t know the voice of the Lord all that good because I was practically a brand new follower) that I must have had a TIA. I felt off. The world felt tilted, Batman TV show tilted, funhouse room tilted.
When I went to work that Monday, I mentioned what happened to one of the CRNAs. She flipped! You need to go to the emergency right now Michelle! Go! You could have a massive stroke any minute! I thought she was totally overreacting, but I went down to the ER. They promptly called a stroke alert overhead. It was a little more than embarrassing. Out came the oxygen and the IV. My blood pressure was 200/110 (yes that is way high). I bought myself a 24 hour admission and a bunch of tests which thankfully showed no stroke. It was transient, the way folks have chest pain with no permanent damage.
By the grace of God, I walked out of the hospital with blood pressure medicine and aspirin to take for the rest of my life. The world remained tilted for a few months, but eventually became level again. And now I know what THAT’S like.
The moral of the story? I should have called 911. If the weird half blindness didn’t trigger that, the not being able to speak should have triggered the call.
Here are a couple of things to look for in yourself or the people around you:
- S – smile. If your smile is at all droopy you may be having a stroke
- T – talk. If your words are jumbled or you can’t speak at all you may be having a stroke.
- R – raise both arms. If you can’t or if one arm drifts down you may be having a stoke.
If you have any doubt at all, call 911. The faster a stroke is treated the better the chance of survival and complete recovery.
*as a side note, I learned several years later that the eye symptoms meant if I would have had the stroke, there was nearly a 100% chance it would have been fatal or left me in a vegetative state.
You’re welcome. 😊 Happy Saturday!