The purpose of this blog is to share how a stroke affected our lives, and how through our stroke recovery experience, stroke survivors, stroke victims, caregivers and others might find peace, hope and encouragement.
As the spouse of a stroke survivor, I wanted many people praying for my husband throughout his recovery process. I sent out emails to family and friends with updates of his condition with specific prayer requests. This kept them informed of his specific needs, and also kept them praying. They forwarded the emails to prayer groups, Bible studies, churches, and even coworkers; and the response was overwhelming. The recipients were being blessed as they prayed for us, and as a result of their prayers, God was moving on our behalf. They begged me to keep sending the updates.
On the suggestion of my daughter, I developed this blog to share these emails in a public forum. Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions. The chronology of events can be found in the Archives or Stroke Recovery Journal.
Here is how our journey began…
Saturday, February 23, 2008 began as an ordinary day for us. About 1:30 in the afternoon, Steve developed an unusual little cough that sounded like he had a hairball. I asked him if he was a getting a cold, and he said he didn’t know what that was. His headache came back again, too. This was three days in a row he complained about a headache. He has a very high tolerance for pain, and in the 40 years we’ve been married I knew he wouldn’t complain unless it was really severe. But he took some Tylenol and we just dismissed it.
That evening, Steve awoke at 10:00 PM from a 2-hour nap and asked me to turn the TV to the news. He didn’t look right. His face was a little droopy and he had been making odd breathing noises in his sleep.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“I’m really thirsty, have a headache and I have to go to the bathroom,” he answered. He got up from the couch and hobbled to the bathroom using crutches to support the left ankle he had broken three weeks earlier.
I got him a glass of water and some more Tylenol, and set it down on the end table beside him as he came back in and sat down. A few minutes later, he was holding the corner of a tissue, lifting it up in front of him over and over again.
This looked so strange, so I asked, “What are you doing?” When he spoke, his speech was garbled, so I ran over to him and commanded, “Steve, look at me! Say my name!” He couldn’t do it.
My 59-year old husband was having a stroke. Immediately I called 911 because I knew time was of the essence. I heard about the clot-busting drug that could reverse the effects of a stroke if administered within 3 hours of the first symptoms. Little did I know that it was already too late.
As I explained to the operator what my emergency was, Steve objected, slurring out the words, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m alright.” He took a drink of water holding the glass with his right hand, and the water poured out of the left side of his mouth. It would be a week before he understood that he had had a major right-brain stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body.
In the 15-minute wait (which seemed like an hour) before the first responder arrived, I quickly called two people and asked them to pray. In the ambulance ride to the hospital 12 miles away, I called each one of our four daughters, and then called a few other friends and asked for prayer. By the time we got to the emergency room, one and a half hours had passed.
Steve was quickly evaluated by one doctor who then consulted with the neurologist on duty. They took him for an MRI to see if there was a ruptured blood vessel in his brain (hemorrhagic), or if the stroke was caused by a blocked artery (ischemic). They found that it was an ischemic stroke.
The minutes were ticking away, but determining the time of the first symptom was crucial, and I kept telling them it was at 10 PM when his speech became slurred. They said if they gave him the clot-busting drug after the 3-hour window, it would be fatal, so I had to be absolutely sure. And then they asked if he had any headache before that, and I remembered that the headaches came on earlier in the day and even three days prior. It was then that they refused to give him the drug tPAbecause it would cause an instant brain bleed and kill him.
Steve was admitted into ICU where he spent the next 3 days before being moved to the hospital floor. He had suffered a blockage in the large right middle cerebral artery, resulting in a major stroke that paralyzed his left side. It also caused some dysarthria—a condition affecting the muscles that control his speech and swallowing. He experienced confusion and couldn’t understand why he was at the hospital, stating that he was just fine. At times he became belligerent and insisted that I bring his crutches so he could walk out of there. He didn’t know it yet, but he couldn’t even sit without falling over, let alone stand because his core balance was affected.
Steve never felt a thing when the stroke occurred other than a headache. He expected a stroke to cause pain like he had with several heart attacks. Just like that it happened, but I can’t say it was without warning.
He had experienced several Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) without realizing it, and he was in the high risk category with factors of high blood pressure, tobacco use, artery disease, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, inactivity and obesity. He jokes now that if he had known he was going to live so long, he would have taken better care of himself.
Continue this stroke recovery journey with us and read the next sequence of events that took place in Steve’s hospitalization and recovery process, and feel free to ask questions or comment on them.