Friday, December 31, 2010

Thankful for 2010

It's New Year's Eve and I for one am happy to say goodbye to this year.  While I had a great year, I am ready to say goodbye and start 2011 new and healthy!

I had a long talk with myself after all this happened and decided that this stroke was the best and worst thing to happen to me this year. Worst because of the obvious but best because it made me slow down my life.  I'm a workaholic, I work myself into sickness haha. I want to be the best friend, best worker, best writer etc I can be and sometimes that doesn't leave me much time for well, just being me.  I've had to slow down.  I am keeping that.  I am going to take time for me.

This made me see peoples true colors.  I'm talking about people who I thought were my friends.  It's amazing how one thing can trigger a person's true self.  I didn't choose to tell people outright because I don't like people seeing me vulnerable, or in pain, or anything like that.  Remember, vain :) I didn't even tell my own father at first!  When I did start to tell people, I was surprised that some of them didn't even call or check on me.  Again this is fine, it was disappointing to me but being positive, one has to say, it's ok, these people needed to reveal their colors in order for you to get toxicity out of your life.  I am going to rid myself of bad energy and those who's part in your story are over.

Even though I can't drink or party or be in a large crowd this year, I'm going to have a great New Year's.  A quiet one filled with reflection, grateful for everything that was given to me this year, good and bad.

Happy New Year!

Evil Lovenox

When I got home, all I wanted to do was sleep and forget that I had to give myself injections twice a day.  I was terrified of having to stab myself in the stomach, I mean wouldn't you? Many talk the talk and say oh yeah, I could do this but when it comes down to it, would you really be able to?  It's a BIG needle!  Again, serious salutes to diabetics who have to do this all the time, I am amazed.

The first time I gave myself the injection at home, I sat for a long time just looking at the needle and trying to reason with it.  It always won in the end though.  I unwrapped the package and tried, TRIED sticking myself in one shot...epic fail, the needle only went half way in and I had to pick a different spot to stick myself.  Success!  Down went the meds into my tummy ending with a slight stinging and the dreaded needle was tossed safely into an empty milk carton that I would bring to my doctor once everything was finished.

My mom definitely saw my hard time and decided to bribe me with quarters in order to take the meds in one shot.  Yes, I'm that chicken scared.  She said I would get $1.25 in quarters (for my quarter owl, like a piggy bank but owl) if I could stick myself in one shot and .75 if in two.  If I did it in 3 shots I didn't get jack.  I have to laugh at my mom for thinking of this but really it is a genius idea!  For 5 days I tried to get this thing in with one shot and I think I managed to do it twice.  I ended up with a red spotted stomach for about the next two weeks and $4.00 in quarters.  I'm pretty sure mom felt bad and snuck me some quarters here and there.  But at least I would never ever (fingers crossed) have to give myself injections again.

Now it was on to straight Warfarin aka Coumadin.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stroke Joke

Vampire nurse comes around asking me about how much water I had to drink that day.

Nurse: How much have you had to drink today?
Me: Oh not much just three vodkas. (RIMSHOT)

Dead silence.

Me: Uh, I had two pitchers of water.
Nurse: Great....

She walks away. Not a very good sense of humor...

My Stay At NYU: The Stroke Wing Day 3

I woke up to vampire nurses and breakfast.  The curtain in my room was finally open and I got to look at roomie.  She gave me the hood head knod which I returned and didn't push her any further for introductions.  One of the vampire nurses brought in a portable dialysis machine and drew the curtain closed again.  Roomie was going to have her blood cleaned, which would take a couple of hours.  I just heard a sigh and a "Ok, I'm ready".  I immediately decided that I shouldn't be afraid of a iddy biddy needle if she can have all the blood in her body swished and cleaned and just say three words.

One of the vampire nurses brought in the Lovenox and said that if I could do this, I could go home.  All I had to do was stick myself press the plunger and do it in one shot...and I did! This would be the only time I would be able to do this.  The next 5 days on this drug sucked and I had many red dots on my stomach from not putting the needle all the way in and having to stick and re-stick myself.

The Neurologist came in with the two interns McNerd and McShy and told me what I needed to do when I got home. I wasn't allowed to do ANYTHING.

Speed Walking
Bending my neck
Exerting myself

Also, on this drug, Warfarin, I couldn't have much vitamin K because of the clot factor.  Warfarin regulates your blood clotting abilities.  It is supposed to keep my blood thin enough to prevent new clots from forming and going back to my brain.  Vitamin K is in so many of my favorite things too.  I am usually a healthy eater and I love my salads, veggies and green tea....and now I had to give that up. Even sushi! Seaweed has intense amounts of vitamin K....epic fail. So I had to be on a pretty restrictive diet, but not a diet....that's also restricted. Ugh!

I left the hospital at around 3 WITH my shoes, went home and started my recovery. 2 visits a week to the Anticoagulation Clinic (to check my INR level aka make sure my blood isn't too thick) and sleep.  As I packed my few things and was ready to leave, I looked over at the closed curtain at roomie, to be so young and have MS, just goes to show that these things do happen to people as young as us.  I smiled and said goodbye and be well through the curtain and left.

My Stay At NYU: The Stroke Unit Day 2

It's hard for me to remember everything that happened as is the case with stroke victims.  Your short term memory sucks which is extremely frustrating at times.  What I remember from day 2 though starts with me being moved from the ICU to a regular room on the floor.  A small victory but man was I going to miss that awesome view and a personal nurse!

I moved just across the hall after being tested for walking ability, speech and strength in my right side.  This was a two person room and I had the bed closer to the door and no view.  Very upsetting haha.  My roommate kept the curtain drawn so I didn't really see her but I knew that she was my age and had MS.  I would have liked to talk to her but she didn't seem to be in the best of moods...wonder why.  My mom kept  a close watch on me, my purse and my shoes.  I say a close watch because she knew I wanted to leave that hospital and because I'm over 18, I could have, no one would have stopped me, I would have been able to just check myself out.

Before she left, she took everything with her so that if I did leave, it would be without shoes and without money.  She left me with chapstick, my phone, a charger and my toothbrush, bare essentials.  Not even something I could trade with my new roomie for cab money!  I was now put on Heparin non stop in a drip.  They said that hopefully my blood would be thin enough for me to be out of there soon. Music to my ears.  They said I could get out of there sooner if I could give myself Lovenox.

Lovenox is a "bridge" to help ease me off the Heparin and into Warfarin, a blood thinner.  Lovenox sounds great would mean I would have to inject myself with it.  Kudos to you diabetics on the real, I don't know how you do it!  This freaked me out so I put it in the back of my mind and decided to just give myself a pep talk the next day since I was already down that I wasn't going home that day.  I kept getting woken up every couple of hours by vampire nurses coming to take my blood and still the curtain separating the beds in the room was drawn so no chance of becoming friends.

More Percoset and off to sleep I went.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Caused This Stroke?

The truth is...I don't know.

I don't know what caused this vessel in my neck to tear.

Some of the interns at the hospital McNerdy and McShy asked me if I had rough sex recently and I said no.  They again asked and said seriously, you can tell us, that may have caused this.  Again, I said thanks for making me feel that much better but no.  No rough sex. Wasn't caused by that.

It wasn't caused by the pill either.  Everyone keeps asking me that and I assure you, it was caused by that.  Although the pill does account for many strokes in women, in this case (for what seems like the first time), I am not in the majority.

The Neurologist said it could have been caused by me lifting something or even a quick movement.
I do lift a ton at work so maybe that's it or maybe it's from simply turning my neck too fast.

I just don't know!
...I need House.

My Stay At NYU: The Stroke Unit Day 2

I woke up to a lot of hustle and bustle in the ICU Stroke Unit.  New patients and new scared families were all around me.  I was scheduled to get an ultrasound of my heart in the morning so I wasn't allowed to have any food from midnight on.  This was really torturous for someone like me who LOVES food. I eat like two lunches every day!  The man straight across the bed from me had a far more serious stroke, one that seriously affected his memory.  He thought he was in the VA clinic and that it was 1978. He didn't know what President was in office and couldn't remember his last name.  I thank God I didn't have that happen to me!

I noticed that they started Heparin in my iv in addition to saline.  Now, I can't remember if they put this in the night before or what especially since I was groggy from the Perc but I now had fresh little marks on my arm from nurses taking blood from me every couple of hours.  A speech therapist came to visit me and gave me tests to evaluate if I needed speech therapy or not.  My speech was slurred when I would speak to her but when I would read something, I would sound normal.  She said that was good and everything would be back to normal soon.  She tested my memory and did various other things all of which I passed.  Even in the hospital, I was a class nerd.

I was also visited by a physical therapist who made me walk the corridor a couple of times.  Again, it was so strange to walk.  My legs didn't feel like my own.  I got winded quickly and almost immediately needed to stop once we got about 20 ft from the room.  This was incredibly frustrating.  I started to get angry at myself but the therapist assured me that it would get better.  I have to keep thinking that whenever I get will get better, I just have to have patience.

After that, I went to get my ultrasound and fell asleep during it haha.  I woke up during the tail end of it just in time to ask the technician to show me my heart on the monitor.  It really is quite amazing to see your own heart and actually see it pumping delicately.  I'm thankful I woke up for that. Small victories, right?

My Stay At NYU: The Stroke Unit Night 1

I woke up at some point in the middle of the night to some dude dressed in white scooping me into a wheelchair to go get an MRI/MRA with and without contrast in the depths of the hospital down down down in the basement of NYU.  I was really groggy. I remember that. I was parked outside the MRI room and got up to my feet.  I wasn't very steady but I was determined to walk...right on out of that hospital.  I found two exits and seriously was considering bouncing but one security guard saw me and must have seen me plotting and made his presence aware.

Now, for those of you who don't know what contrast is, it's basically this solution they inject in you to highlight parts of your brain or whatever the doc wants to see what kind of dissection they are looking at aka how bad the stroke messed you up.  What they tell you when you go in there is that the solution will be cold.  What they don't tell you is that you will feel it down to your bones...seriously.

I propped myself onto the slab of white plastic and was given some headphones to listen to some music while the noisy machine whirred.  This test required me to stay absolutely still for about 45 minutes.  If I wasn't so exhausted, I would not have been able to do it.  The machine sounds kind of like that hatch sound from the show "Lost" when the peeps didn't press the button. Know what I'm talking about? That kind of loud "You did something wrong!" sound.  It's really jarring when you first hear it and I definitely cried for about the first half hour of the test but then it was over and I was being wheeled back upstairs.

Now comfy cozy in my bed with the nice view, pain in my neck set in and I was given my first taste of Percoset and my first injection into my belly of Lovenox (anti-coagulant therapy drug). I don't know why they call it Lovenox, there's nothing loving about it. It's a straight needle jammed into your belly!  The nurse shot me as carefully as she could and I ended up with my first red dot on my tummy. More on that in later posts.

I also had a new roomie.  An old lady who insisted on bothering the poor nurse every 5 minutes.  I was about to get loud but just as the evil thought entered my head, I drifted off to sleep due to the warm embrace of Percoset temporarily melting away my neck pain.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Stay At NYU: The Stroke Unit Day 1

I made the Stroke Unit look seriously.

The Stroke Unit at NYU is gorgeous. I mean seriously, when I was there, I felt like I was at a four star hotel.  There were four beds and a personal nurse in that room, plus a beautiful view of Queens and the water straight across.

I'm so five star and my case was so urgent that I was almost immediately shuffled upstairs and placed in a bed near the door...I later sweet talked my way over to a window bed. As I lay with ivs and plugs all over me, I laughed.  I still couldn't believe this happened to me.  Now, before I continue, I have to say, I'm pretty vain. I would rather you see me smiling and all than sick and in a bed which is why I didn't tell many that I was in the hospital.

The only other patient in the room when I was first brought in was a woman who had to be at least 35.  She was being discharged....I was highly jealous. The vibe in the room was so chill, it hardly felt like an ICU.  The nurses were so helpful and nice and catered to my needs.  I really felt like they cared.  It really bugs me that I can't remember their names right now, damn you stroke, but wow, they were like little angels.

At this point, I was only being pumped with saline.  Can't drug me up if they don't know what caused the stroke, right?  It was just saline, a heart monitor, some other monitor and me still in my makeup from the morning and wearing pj bottoms (I was not about to let things hang out! Told you I was vain!) in a surprisingly comfy hospital bed.

That night, after my loved ones left, fear started to set in.  I panicked...but at least I got my bed moved to the window! Two older patients were brought in, I would say in their 70s and then I got nervous.  Suddenly, everyone around me was older, like fossil old, and then there was me, alone in a room with a nurse about my age staring out the window at the water.

Snow Is Not My Friend

I know I'm trapped indoors for most of my days recovering...but I love the snow.  We had a big BIG blizzard in NYC (like you didn't know) and I had to take a peak outside to see everything.

Everyone kept telling me, including my father who doesn't even live in this country mind you....he called me at 7:30am to say "You know you're on lockdown, right?".  Still, while my mother was at work, I took a very slow, calm couple of steps outside to embrace the stillness that never comes to the city that doesn't sleep.

I couldn't go very far because, well, if I fell, it would be off to the emergency room I would go!  Being on Warfarin aka Coumadin, a blood thinner, causes me to bruise very easily and a fall could cause intense internal bleeding.  Sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb with this body of mine but it's the only one I've got, so I've got to take care of it and stay indoors, despite everything...even if it means eating everything in the fridge...and half a cake.

Be Well!

How It Happened...

I started to feel off. I couldn't concentrate.  Simple things like writing emails or even typing were confusing. I should have paid attention initially but I shrugged it off thinking that nothing was wrong with me and I was just having an off day.  It continued and I felt like I was dreaming.

Then, the next day, I had a migraine.  Something typical or so I thought.  I had often had migraines before and didn't pay attention to them as something of a warning.  I just slept it off or took some Excedrin in the hopes that it would kill whatever hammering was in my head.  This migraine was terrible. I even remember the actual date of it, October 30th.  The pain had gotten so intense that I had to leave work and immediately go home and go to bed.  I woke up later that day hoping to be rid of it but it still lingered and my speech was slurred.  Things started to taste funny, but again, I shrugged it off hoping that it would go away.

At this point, I should have at least called the doctor, and I will never live that down. I still hear the "I told you so's"! That night, I couldn't sleep.  I was woken up by intense pain in my right shoulder and burning in my neck and face.  I thought it was acid reflux and tried to calm it by natural remedies; eating an apple, eating yogurt but nothing worked.

The next day, Halloween, one of my favorite holiday's, was no better.  My legs started to wobble, I couldn't type and my fingers went numb.  I called the ENT (Ear Nose and Throat doc) because I thought I had acid reflux and he assured me that I was fine and to just make an appointment with my primary care physician for Monday.  I hung up, shook it off and I went to dinner with some friends and made the joke that I was having a slow stroke because that's probably what was happening! I went home, staggering and walking as though I had just used my legs for the first time, like a young calf or gazelle and passed out.

That Monday, November 1st, I went to work and called my doc (she's awesome) Dr. McGugins. I ended up seeing her that afternoon and she was convinced I had intense migraines but after hearing me speak she had me schedule an MRI for early Wednesday morning. All I have to say is thank goodness for that MRI.

I went in on Wednesday morning before work at 7:00am, got the test and was back in my office by 10:00am...and that's when I got the call from Dr. McGugins.  She said what I didn't expect-

"You've had an acute stroke in the left side of your brain.  An abnormality in the MRI showed it which would explain all the symptoms and pain on your right side. I need you to go the ER right now."

What do you do in that situation?  I dropped everything in my office and ran out the door, casually went home, gave the dog a treat, packed a pair of pjs and a toothbrush and took a cab to the NYU ER.  If this happens to you, never call your mom and let the first sentence out of your mouth be "Don't panic ok?", because as soon as I said this, she freaked out and almost immediately burst into tears.  Don't make the same mistake I did, haha!

And that's how it changed on October 30th 2010.

Hello World!

Stroke-A stroke is the sudden death of a portion of the brain cells due to a lack of oxygen. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is damage resulting in abnormal function of brain. It causes by blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain.

I am 29 and I had a stroke!

A real stroke, an actual stroke.

A blood clot to my brain that landed me in the Emergency Room kind of stroke....and it was scary.
The scariest part of all this of course, to me at least is that I had a stroke in my 20s, something unheard of or at least not discussed enough.  It left me feeling depressed and alone, mostly because there is not a lot of information about young people in their 20s having strokes. No support, no discussion...until now.

I want this to be a place where young people can come to to discuss their journeys and their strokes because...well, there isn't a support system for people like us.  I'm determined for this place to help me heal emotionally.  I have so many feelings and questions that are aching to get out and I want to share them...finally.

Luckily, my effects of the stroke are not lasting.  My speech is almost fully back. I can walk pretty normally and type pretty well again but my neck will take 3-6 months to heal.  Strength in my right side is building back to normal.  My short term memory suffered a little but if it is that bad, well, I wouldn't know, I won't be able to remember anyway ha! In other words, I'm lucky. I'm blessed!

I don't want to feel embarrassed by my condition. I want to feel empowered!  And writing about this does just that!

This feels like ripping off a band-aid.  I feel great!

Be well!