Last week I had a stroke. I’m a healthy 30-year old woman and I had a stroke. It was wild.
One minute I was getting ready to finish Christmas shopping, and the next I lost all feeling on the right side of my body and was unable to speak. Three days in ICU over Christmas and I’m a-okay now and on the road back to 100%. But, man, it was one heck of an experience.
I was so fascinated by the whole thing that I decided to write about it. I’ve published my account on Medium here: Bad Year for Boars
Below is my original unedited version. If you’ve read any of my past posts you’ll be able to see the effects of the stroke - in functionality on my right hand with typing, as well as some cognitive disparities in getting sentences out coherently.
Bad Year for Boars - UNEDITED
I awoke suddenly from a loud, dark, and intense Space Mountain like dream. I saw a hospital goown, arms clad in iv’s, and surses surrounding someone. The person had fained, was being revived, and bring back to bed. I felt I were watching watching it in the ghird party, a scene first person scene froma movie. Quickly, though, I realized this was no movie, this was no dream – oh man, this was me. Iwas an ICU patient in this hpstal. And it was Christmas Eve.
Two days earlier I had a stroke. After an awesome 75 degree California winter mornig spent surfing with my dad, boyfriend, and the dolhinss, I was at my parent’s home getting ready to go fnish up some Christmas shopping. While in my bathroom getting rready, I recognized that something was very wrong.
My right arm seemed no longer a part of my body. I coouldn’t contrl it, it was limp at my side, likthe worst dead arm you can imagine ,but completely out of nowhere. Mmy boyfirned was just coming to chec on what time we are leaving and I xiested the bathroom, slumpted on the ground, and told him what was going on.. Except I didn’t. I couldn’t . What I was saying in my head came out as jioggberish,. . Words firmed in my head could nto get out of my mouth. I felt stupid and even laughed at myself a bit, saying 9it’s ok I’ts ok to him, thinking it might just go away., let’s not make a big deal about it. but then the reminder that something was vert wribg set in again. In a whisper, I finally go the words “call my dad” out , at least so I thought. He did, my parents happened to be right outside about ready to run errands themselves,. My father, a physician, ran up the stairs to find me and when he saw me nnoldoing my hand and unable t speak, called for an ambulance. By now I was crying, perhaps in hysterics, as the numbness had seeped from my earm to my whle right side. I stopped tying ti speak, it was frustrating and piutless, and ooked ito Reecee’s eyes saying to him with mine, “I may not walk again. I may die.” I had no idea why this was happening, but I thought to mysekl, “no, that can’t happen I gotta fight iut” and ckicked off my boots to tried to keep moving my leegs and focus omy mond on not dying.
The paramedics quickly arrived and as they did pulled mbe on to the stretcher and carried me down the sairs into the anbkace , it sank in that this was happening. man, was I bummed. This should ‘t be happening to me.
In case you don’t know me, Hi. Im Diana. I’m a 30 year old lady. Itallerthan your average girl, thinner tha your average girl, and and active than your average girl. Yeah I run an ice crea business for a living, but like to thing I’m healthier than your average girl too. No priorn medical history. Nothing.
my first ever ride in an ambulance was uneventful – the hops;ital is a 5 minute drive from my folks’ house. By now I had somehow regained some ability to sspeak and answered the EMT’s incessant questionsining. still stuumbling over my words, even laughin at my mstakes.
Arriving at the hospital it was straight into the CT Scan, weyre I had plent of time to ty lay very still and reflect. Woulld I be satisfiected with life if I had died fight now? Am I doing what I am supposed top be doing in life? Have I been nice enough? A good enough friend/sibling/daughter/partner? Or, Man, how different will it be if I cannot function the way I am used to What the hell is going on?
Which is tge first ting I said to my family upon returning to the ER: “Well, what the hell?”
“Yeah, what the hell” my dad said, “This shoudn’t be happeing to you.”
The dotor urmised it was a stroke based on my syptoms, ad the CT scan showed on uternal bleeding so he aadministered TPA intravaneisly. TPA is a protein that breaks down blood clots and improves the flow of oxygen to the brain. See, if you are a stroke victim, you’re suffering from a lack of oxygen to the brain, either due to a hemogage or due to a blood clot that blocks the blood flow. After about 1 minute of being deprived of oxygen, brain gissue ceases to function. Itstartsto die. If left without oxygen for any longer than about 3 hours, it’s irresversible –ndead. So there’s a short 3-hour wondeow that the TPA needs to be administerd to be effective - the sooner the better, really. Once the TPA was administered the doctor conferred woth my dad, as colleagues, and I I overheard him say “You know exactly where she is going.” The dreaded ICU.
For years my father has encouraged a healthy lifestyle, usging us to “Stay out of tge ICU” as much as we can hel; it. My whole life actually. He’s even now written a book about it. And I’ve heeded his advice my whole life, living a healthy, active, vegetarian lifestyle as Ive previously descrubed. . But never had I really understhood hs warnings until I was an ICU patient. Its torturous, and I don’t ever want to go back.
I was a champ though, if I do say so myself, and took everything in stride. The tw hour turned 50n hour bed redst The iv’s I my arms the oxyyge tubes in t\my odes, the wakeup calls every 15 miutes half hour then hour to do the same tests to stest my speech and moveme t in my fight side. The ultrasounds of my heart and legs to look for any abnormalitieities. The f’ig TEE, transesophagael echocardiogram where they stuck a probe down my throat to cheyc o8ut my eart , which turns out it has a hole. Which also turns out abit 25% of people have the same hole. The MRI which confirmed stroke wth a big white section of unoxygenated brain tissue in the top left part of the brain as well as a smaller stroke at the very bacy of the train (yes, not one but TWO strokes). It was a wild ride.
We were going on day 3 and still didn’t know the cause of the stoke though. Was I on birth control was the first question I had been asked. Thank goodness my answer was no - I opted against birth control pillls after readying about the pussible health detriments caused by it, namely stroke because it is a known cause of thrommbisis, aka blodd clotting.
Had I hurt neck? No. Well it hurt a bit in my short nap on tmy flght from NY to CA last week butnothing abnormal. And defitely not surfing, our session was a breeze. And sure I’d done yoga last week and did do that weird back on a block, neck on a block thing,but it hadn’t huirt or anything. Other tha that, sadl I’ve let my atcitivy level slide in favor of working lately.
Was it due to that hole in my heart? Which caused a blood clot whihch broke off and ejaded up to my brai ? Unlikely since it’s such a connom abnormalitilit, but pissibly.
Was it a blood clot in my legs from sitting on the plane for so long? The unstrasounds showed no sign of clots, and man was I glad for that because I know everyone wouljd have been mad at me for searing my heels on the plane.
One final test to get to the bottom of it would be an angiogram, cutting a slit in my femur (at the pelvis), sicking a tacheteri into my vein, which would travel up with the blook flow to my neck and shoot dye in the veins which would show in a xray whether there was a tear in my neck that coud have caused a blood clot which could have broken off and gone to my brain.
The thing is – all that would do woujd give us an answer. It wouldn’t affect the treatment for the troke going forward (which is asprin for life, and blood thiners for the time being, as well as limiated activity (bye bye snowboard season)). And it’s a rather invasive procedure, as you can see. Do so you do it, or do you not?
And herein lies ones of tge oribems of edicie, you know? Theres no right answer. Dr. F, a neeufologist and family friend said don’t do it, ther’es no need. My doctor, Dr. F said definitely do it . Dr K said don’t’ do it. And Dr M said do it, it’s the last possible test ti find the cause.
Ultimately, I didn’t want another test, I wanted to get the needles out of my arms and getthee geck out of thyere. It was Christmas eve, my boyfriend and I hgad flown home for thhe holiday, I was pumpted to cance around the Cgrstnas tree with my wole familt who comes oever every eyar. But I cimplied with whgatever was recomme ded and when my dad said lets do it ,I said lets do it.
Two doses oofanteshtsia and one angiogram later, ad we had our culprit. A tiny disseccieection in the carverous part of my left internal carotid artery. Aka a tiny tear on the inside of the artery on my neck. Actually it was 2 angiograms bc thehey had to go in and check the right side to be sure it actually was a tear, since it was so tiny.
So – long stort short — I had somehow in the lat 3 months ingured my neck.. A a blood clot had formed in the dissected (injured) artery, and on the afternoon of December 21, that blood clot brke off and went up to my brain, causing an acute embolic ischemic stroke.. It blocked the supply of bloog to ta portion of the left side of my brain and the affected neurons cased to function a dbega to die. Sice the left side of the brain controls the rightside of the body and right handed people typically have their language enter on the left, my right arm and my sppech also ceased t function. Oncet he TPA was injected, the clot began to dissipiate allowing oxyen to travel to those neurns again, and my speech and arm functionarlity to return. Not mmediatley though – some of the brain tissue was permanentlyt damaged from the stroke. So it took two full days for my arm to come out of numbness, and as you can see if you read my original account, it’s taking a bit to get my typing and other right hand functionality back on track. What ‘s wild is that it will get back to normal – the neurons that surround the damaged tussiue step in an start to pick up the slack. so it’s just a matter of time and traing them how to do the things the other guys used to do. Fascicating, huh?
So to finish the story, we left off post angiogram on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately I didn’t get to gohome that day because I fainted on my first time standing on my own. That’s where we started this whole account (remember? SpaceMontain, nurses arrounding who I realized was me?). But another nnght and a few medusa style brain tests later, and I was free on Christmas morning. I was stoked.
I’m titling this postn ”Bad year for boars” because at the beginning of this year, my best friends mother warned him it would be a bad year anyone born in the year of the boar, 18873„ since 2013 was the year of the bbnake according to the Chinese calendar. Throughout the ytear, we joked abut how bad of a year it was, with our trivial matters. I even got shirts made for us for Chistmas that read “BAD YEAR FOR BOARS.” (which I had ironically worn for the first time on th emornig of my stroke).
But this isn’t a Carpe Diem story – to remind us all to appreciate what we have, it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye, don’t’ sweat the small stuff. Though of course my sense of the sunon my face, or sand on my toes is a bit more highhtened and appreciated.
It’s not a cautoinaary tale – to stay healthy if you don’t want to go through what I did. This was a wild fluke and– like I won the lottery but in reverse – and had noting to do with my health. (Though I do imagimy my healthy has something to do with my resilience and revovery.) And I’m not advsiting to stop doing fun or active things to save your neck (literally), though I will Tell you that you can tear an artery from plenty of sports, from yoga head poses, from cracking yoru neck, from putting your head back at the hair salon, even from throwing back a shot! So ya, know – be careful!
And it isn’t a lets be one with the universise and everything happens for a reason account. Though there is smoething uncanny about the events that led up to the incident and the fortunate (fortitudeoft he) time place, and peope involved.
It’s just a account. About my body and my brain. And the crazy way it all works.