- Nearly 4 years into this, I still come across people who don’t know what happened 1224 days ago
- So I’ve decided to resurrect my blog and make ut a place for me to share my life these days. In 2015, I survived a massive stroke.
- I use that word “survived, accurately and intentionally Surviving 9/1 odds and still battling to recover and rejoin what’s left of the life I left behind. So many people don’t survive to fight their way down the long road toward recovery
- Yes. I was 40 at the time and everyone from friends, family, and medical professionals were all surprised that I was so young. The only thing that surprised them nearly as much was that I was a non-smoker. Turns out Smoking is really bad for you. Do what you can to quit even if you’re just a casual/social smoker. Cold Turkey, patches, hypnosis, just quit it.
What caused you to have a stroke?
- I have a family history of high blood pressure (hypertension) and went for years without a primary care doctor, so my high blood pressure was undiagnosed and untreated for who-knows-how-long. Couple that with some very stressful circumstances and rather unhealthy stress relief methods. I had pretty chronic headaches, some worse than others, but they likely masked some symptoms that should have prompted me to seek a primary care doctor. In hindsight, the headaches could have been blood vessels in my brain tearing creating a bleed that eventually clotted, stopping the flow of blood to my brain. I’ve put together plenty of pre-stroke regrets, but I accept that I can’t change the past, I can only control the NOW
What advice do you have for friends to avoid stroke?
If I haven’t already made my advice clear, Have regular check-ups with a primary care physician (PCP) that you trust and feel comfortable with them being familiar enough with you to notice any changes between visits. PCPs can put together referrals to specialists for symptoms or signs. Don’t be like me and stay away
Have a good sit-down with your family to get a clear picture of your family medical history. It’s good to know this for your sake, but also for your children or grandchildren.
What are the effects of your stroke?
This is kind of the crux of the whole thing. What’s still away from my old life, why I’ll never be the same.
Because My stroke happened on the right side of my brain, which for whatever reason affects the strength of my left side. That includes total lack of control or strength in my left arm, left hand, left leg. The call it hemiparesis or paralysis on the left side of my body. This has limited my mobility significantly. Confined me to a wheelchair or walking aid with assistance.
While I’ve been known to consistently have a lower affect than most people, something that I’ve been confronted for more times than I could count; That said, after waking up and catching up on what had happened, I had a pretty solid case of PBA. You can certainly Google that, but spoiler alert. It’s Pseudo Bulbar Affect, put simply, I cried a lot without a prompt or control. Another effect of PBA is laughing without reason and sometimes finding humor in unusual things.
Initial effects were a nearly complete loss of voice. I was lucky to.
I was reduced to a very faint whisper and resorted to some very frustrating sessions of writing things on a dry-erase board. Frustrating for the friends who had to interpret my terrible penmanship, and frustrating to me to just want to be able to say what I was trying to say
Where were you when you had the stroke?
Strangely, maybe luckily, I was asleep when the stroke occured. I woke up Monday 7/13/15 with a headache and not feeling well. Neither unusual symptom for a Monday morning. I went through my normal morning routine including showering, dressing, gathering and packing my things I kept in my messenger bag, took an Aleve for the headache which seemed normal based on the chronic headaches mentioned above. I’d borrowed one of the company vehicles with the thought of moving some patio furniture, I’d only recently moved in to a new place and was tstill filling in the spaces. Got in the truck in the truck would felt different and it was a relatively new route from my new home to work. Once I got to work, I drove to my usual parking area on the fourth floor, got out of the truck and walked to the stairway and down four flights of stairs, all without feeling any odd sensations. When I opened the door to my office “wing”, It seemed stuffy, which was typical for a monday in mid-July in Austin, so before making my coffee, I likely went to the thermostat to either get the fan going or A/C blowing to start circulating the stuffy air around. What I remember for sure was making a cup of coffee and heading in to my office. Feeling tired and not 100%, I went to sit in a comfortable leather chair I had in my office. When I went to sit down on the chair I got dizzy and flopped to the floor. I couldn’t seem to get up and ended up laying on my back on the floor of my office. Earlier I h’d texted one of my best work friends to see if she could drive me home. Just about the time I was on the floor, she called to see what was going on for me to want to be taken home. I’m pretty sure I mentioned that I was on the floor and couldn’t get up. I remember slurring some words in the conversation. To my knowledge, this friend has and had no medical training, but after we ended our phone conversation, she called or texted a my office neighbor Mike, also a great friend in and out of work. that something is wrong. That third work-friend whose office happened to be in the office next door and was in my doorway within a few moments. After talking for a moment they quickly and decisively
Called 911. To say our office was a maze is an understatement, so after hearing that an ambulance was being sent, My work friend Mike ran out to the cross street by our offices to wave down the ambulance and lead them through the maze to my office. It starts to get fuzzy here on out. I remember the bustle of the EMTs coming into my office. They put down a stretcher and helped me on to it. That was my first time on a paramedic’s gurney. There they asked me a few questions to gauge my alertness. “What year is it?” “Who is the president?” “Do you know where you are?”and asked me to smile. I got all the quiz questions correct, but failed the smile portion.
Sometime between being put on the stretcher and starting out the door for the ambulance, some arrangements were made, because Mike, my office neighbor and good friend told me very soberly and authoritatively said, “Matt, they’re taking you to the hospital, and Courtney is going with you.” That second part stuck with me. Courtney was one of my best work friends and knowing she was going with me gave me some sort of comfort that things were going to be okay, at least the trip to the hospital in the back of an ambulance with a siren blaring and quickly navigating our way through West Campus and onto an arterial street to the hospital. The only thing I really remember about that ride was trying to figure out the codes and words the EMT was relaying to the hospital. I remember the words “likely stroke,” But the only other memory I have of that trip was trying to reach out for Courtney’s ankle to squeeze it and thank her for riding along, but in the process of trying to reach out for her I passed out on the somewhat comfortable gurney, remember I woke up tired and queasy. But what felt like a little faint and nap, I fell hard asleep and only have a series of strange dreams as I floated in and out of consciousness for a month or so. What I’ve come to learn about things that happened when reaching the Emergency Department at University Medical Center Brackenridge Hospital. Knowing what I know now,I would have been rushed to a triage station where nurses determined that in order to save my life, I needed a Neurosurgeon .. A brain surgeon, like the adage about brain surgery.. Pretty elite medical.. I would have been transferred from the gurney I arrived on to a sterile surgical table and prepped for surgery including shaving my head. Now, I’m no neurosurgeon (Surprise!), in fact I have never taken a health science course in all my higher ed schooling, so my description of the surgery is rudimental at best. The goal of this first surgery was to remove part of my skull (a Craniotomy)
)to allow any brain swelling without damaging the brain by smushing against the inside of the skull. I’m told the inside of our skulls are spiky. I’ll take their word for it found and removed the clot and restored blood flow to my brain. At some point, the designated people at work had to call my emergency contacts on file at work. Which in my case were my parents 3,000 miles away in Oregon, and my sister, also on the other side of the country in WashingtonAlso in here they would have stopped the bleed from continuing to bleed. While I would love to get a detailed play-by-play of all of the treatments I underwent, and the timing of them. What I do know is that some point soon after arriving at the Emergency Department ( that’s what they call them now, it would put a whole new angle on the 90s NBC Hospital TV Drama.), I was intubated and given a tracheotomy. me to be alive to type all of this out. That and how my pulmonologist reinforced that I shouldn’t get caught up with things outside of my control. While I would love to have more of an idea of what went on throughout the process of getting me stable with manageable vitals. At some point , I was stable enough to be transferred to an Acute Care Neuro Rehab hospital in South Austin after spending a few weeks in (Unconsciously)0. :\I was stable enough to be transferred to an acute neuro rehab hospital where I eventually woke up to discover what happened surrounded by family and some very special friends. That was nearly four years ago and I’m still fighting every day to gain mobility and rejoin life. Other than the hemiparesis, I’m healthy; I take medication for my high blood pressure and have regular check-ups with my doctor including blood labs and other vitals.