I am not invincible. Part 1: The time I was assaulted and strangled to unconsciousness in Bolivia -
Bad Year for Boars -
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.
I’m going to tell another story today. It’s an old one, but even if we’re pals, you likely haven’t heard it yet.
I was invited to be on the Rachael Ray show. This was all the way back in 2011. When I got the call, they had asked if MilkMade could make a flavor special for Rachael. How about EVOO, I suggested. (We all know it’s her favorite, right? She even has her own brand of the stuff.) Perfect.
So we went about crafting the perfect EVOO recipe - finding the best olive oil from as local as possible of a source, the Filling Station in Chelsea Market. It was a California Arbequina EVOO, for what it’s worth to you. We added a swirl of our Mast Brothers chocolate sauce, and it was, indeed, perfect.
Until it wasn’t anymore.
At the time we were renting a kitchen out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It was about 6pm the night before my scheduled on-air appearance and I was just finishing the last batch of ‘scream. I was working alone, save for my mom who had planned a visit from California to cheer me on. (She’s the best.)
So here’s how it went. One minute I’m looking at allllmost ready, allllmost perfect ice cream being churned in the machine. And the next, I’m looking at butter. My ice cream overchurned. Into butter. Albeit delicious sweet EVOO butter. But butter, still.
This happens to ice cream at times, see. If you overchurn it, the butterfat of the cream and milk separates and produces a buttery consistency. And higher fat ice creams (like, say, an olive oil flavor) are especially prone to this. (There’s a tremendous amount of chemistry behind ice cream making, just so you know).
Okay so here’s where it gets really fun. Again, ya know, don’t cry over spilled milk, or churned butter or whatever; there’s not enough time for that! With 20 hours to go before said scheduled on-air, live-audience appearance on the RaRay Show, I somehow managed to dash out to Mast Brothers in Williamsburg to get more chocolate before they closed, to Chelsea Market for more EVOO, to Whole Foods to snag more milk from Ronnybrook (our dairy supplier), and then back to the kitchen to start over again. Oh, and all of this was in the pouring rain (of course), in which my mother (who was accompanying me every step of the way because, remember, she’s the best) slipped while carrying one of the milks.
Hi mom, yep, this is my life.
Back at the kitchen, this time I watched every single rotation of that mixing blade and yanked the ice cream exactly on time. EVOO ice cream was made, chocolate was swirled, and the pints were packed and set to freeze. We made it to the studio just in time for those three glorious minutes of airtime and that emphatic “Mmmmm” from Rachael on air.
So why tell this now? Well I was reminded of it today because I had agreed to share the recipe and tell the story for my friend Bryce’s new project, Kitchen Letters, a subscription of recipes and the stories behind them from great chefs. Kitchen Letters launched today on food52, and so did this story.
And why not tell it before? I guess because for quite a while, these sorts of misdaventures were embarrassing. I was afraid that you’d figure out that I may not know what I’m doing. That sometimes I overchurn my ice cream. That I run around the city foraging for ingredients (and then sometimes re-foraging for those same ingredients). That we set up a makeshift (I mean makeshift) photo studio in our production facility to shoot the ice cream glamour shots that are shown to our 1.5 million followers on tumblr. That I spill orange custard all over the place and thank goodness my boyfriend knows how to mop an ice cream shop. (Sidenote: appropriate timing giving his post, eh?)
There was that risk of being vulnerable, of exposing a behind the scenes account, of putting it all out there. Been thinking a bit about this after I stumbled upon this great TED Talk about vulnerability, which I recommend watching (after you watch the Rachael Ray clip, of course!). I’ll likely write more on it later, but for now…
Hi everyone, yep, this is my life.
Well this seems an appropriate place to start.
That’s me in the kitchen, last week.
It was 9 o’clock in the evening, I had been there since 4am. Everyone else had left for the day. With a few minutes to spare, as I awaited my chariot (my sweet beau was biking over to pick me up and walk me home), I decided to make the kitchen spotless, cleaning even the mop bucket. (Sidenote - yep, that’s the glorious life as a founder of a craft food biz, scrubbing filthy mop buckets.) As I saw Reece arrive outside, I opened the fridge to check on one last thing, and BLAMMO - the hinges failed, and the top shelf of the fridge came crashing down. Along with everything stored atop it. All over me.
I was soaked in the ice cream custard base that we had just spent hours crafting. It was an orange-julius inspired flavor, called Orange County Fair, that was setting in the fridge over night to be churned into pints in the morning. After a 17 hour day, and with a bloodied hand, and orange julius soaked vans (RIP old friends), what could I do but start to cry.
So okay that happened for about a minute. Until, what could I do next, but start to clean it up.
1.5 hours later, the kitchen was as spotless as I had earlier decided to make it. Moreso, even.
I guess what I learned here was “don’t cry over spilled milk..made” as, of course, was the first joke of the night. And, ya know, messes get made. And the longer you cry over it and wallow over the current state of affairs (be it in your kitchen, or, hey, in your life!), the more the custard spreads on the floor. It’ll start to soak through the cracks and creep under the fridge, or spread to places you didn’t even know it could go - and then it’s just harder to clean up. And sometimes you find that your kitchen is even cleaner after a mess has been made than it would have been otherwise.
Cheers and aloha. Remember me?
A couple years back I’d write these long posts about the things I was learning — stuff like what the financial crisis meant for you and me, or about keffiyah fashion, or things like Starbucks’ brand revitalization.
I took a little hiatus, but I think that I’m going to write again.
I remember when I decided to start writing — it was 2007, I had just moved to New York, I had just started business school, and the world had just started to collapse. My pals were all asking me about what this “subprime crisis” meant — so, I decided to write it down. Tumblr was relatively new and made it really easy - both with ux and the welcoming community - for me to just write. So I created a blog, called it What I Learned Today, and wrote about what I was learning in school, what struck my interest in the news, what made me curious.
I liked it. I learned a lot. I briefly had a couple freelance gigs spring from it. I even considered pursuing writing further. But then — I got real busy. Life kinda took me in a direction I did not expect, and I now find myself as the founder/CEO of a craft ice cream company here in NYC. Yes, ice cream. We’re called MilkMade, and we make damn good ice cream. In small batches. With the the best local ingredients. In unique flavors. And we deliver pints to your door once a month. Here’s our tumblr.
I’ve learned a lot, and experienced many an adventure (and more a misadventure) in the last few years of building a business and living life, and I think that I’d like to pick up writing about what I’m learning again. Doubtful it will be about the markets and economy, likely it will be more about personal learnings in work/life/adventures (this post contains the most I’s I’ve ever written, ever). Ok so that’s it, we’ll see how it goes.