On Friday, Nov 29, 2013, I suffered a stroke. I was 29 years old. Sure, I had high blood pressure, but that was it for medical warning signs. Out of the blue it came, and it hit me, and it is finally going away.
The story really begins on Thursday, Nov 28, 2013. That day I woke up from a nap with the left side of my body tingling and numb. I went back to sleep though, woke up half an hour later, and all was well again. This was apparently a TIA, or “mini stroke”, and is the only warning sign I was given. Naturally, since it was transient and went away after half an hour, I assumed I had just slept in a strange position and went about my day.
The story really begins on Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013. That day I travelled from my home in Northern Virginia to a hotel in North Carolina to celebrate my grandmother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Because of this celebration, I was away from home and local help.
The story really begins on Friday, Nov 29, 2013. That day the stroke hit me. I took a shower and dried myself off. Suddenly, vertigo. I managed to hold onto the walls and stumble to our bed. After a quick consultation with my wife and her family, we called 9-1-1. Paramedics came, decided I had just had too many energy drinks, but took me to the hospital for a stroke eval anyway. After several hours, two CT scans, and an MRI, it was official: I had suffered a stroke.
I have diminished sensation in the left side of my body. I have lost two senses on the right side entirely. The left side of my throat is paralyzed, including my left vocal cord. I have double-vision (vertically oriented) thanks to a left eye that refuses to track properly its compatriot.
My left side is tingly and a little bit numb. All sensations are still there, but in diminished capability. I have lost not only sensation there but fine motor control and coordination as well. I can no longer walk. I can barely stand for short periods of time. My left arm and leg are weak and difficult to control. If I go to brush hair from my eyes with my left hand, half the time I will smack myself in the face accidentally.
My right side has perfect motor control and most senses. However, in the entire right side of my body I can feel neither pain nor temperature. I can feel textures, I can feel pressure, I have coordinated movement and motor control. But I cannot feel heat or cold or pain. I am terrified of hot surfaces now, like stoves, because I may burn myself without even realizing anything is wrong.
Where I am, and how I got here
At this moment I am at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Virginia, and it has proven to be an excellent facility so far. It has been fifteen days since my stroke.
In the Carolinas Medical Center North East, in Concord, NC, I spent 10 days in the intermediate care unit and three more days in the neurological ward following my stay in the IMU. Most of my time in the IMU was spent in a stupor of Xanax and Vicodin, for which I am forever grateful. My poor wife had no such comforts, and spent 12 hours a day at my side, fully aware of how much danger I was in and unable to do anything about it except trust the doctors.
After 13 days at the Carolinas Medical Center I was discharged to travel back to Virginia, to HealthSouth. We broke the journey up into two days, stopping at a hotel overnight. I had my first shower in two weeks with the help of my wife, and for the first time in two weeks was clean and happy again. I could not walk, I could barely talk, and I could not see except in double, but I was out of the hospital and literally on the road to recovery. Life was good again.
I arrived yesterday evening at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. The cafeteria is excellent, and even my “cardiac”
diet is no burden on my palette. Despite my sensory and motor losses, my stroke has been a relatively minor one, and I am blessed to look forward to a speedy recovery. I have already worked with both physical and occupational therapists, both of which were impressed with my performance. I feel good about this. I will make it.
Where I’m Going Next
The next place for me, once I leave rehab, is back to work. I work for a non-profit government contractor. I enjoy my job, and provide essential technical expertise to both my team and my department.
Challenges I Face
One big challenge I face is remembering that I am disabled. I’m beginning to feel better. For example, a few minutes ago I forgot that I need assistance to stand and tried to just stand up out of my wheel chair and walk to bed. I didn’t get very far. Half way through standing my legs gave out, the wheelchair flew backwards, and I almost hit the ground. (I managed to land in the chair instead and avoid a fall, but the reminder is still strong.) One of my biggest challenges I think will be not pushing myself too hard, whether intentionally or not.