Monday, August 19, 2013

The early history...

     The stroke occurred on Jan 5th, 2011.  During the month of December 2010, I had been having what I characterized as transient episodes of numbness in my face.  About daily, I would have an episode whereby the left side of my face would numb over like a wave and my hearing in that ear would frequently seem a bit muffled during said episodes.  These would last about 30 seconds and then dissipate.  I actually had made an appt to go in and discuss it with my primary care doctor later the week of the stroke, but it was too late in retrospect.  Apparently, these were TIAs, or transient ischemic attacks - an early warning sign of stroke.  Had I gone in to the doctor earlier, it is conceivable that the stroke may have been avoided.  The actual day of the stroke, I was at work in my office in the morning and had another seeming-TIA.  This time, however, the episode did not pass and persisted for a couple of hours before I had HR call an ambulance.  Other than the facial numbness, the only symptom I had was losing my balance and falling out of my office chair.  Well, when I was taken to the hospital, they took me in the er and sent me for a ct scan, confirming that I had had a stroke. 
     Initially, they were uncertain as to what kind of stroke I had - either ischemic(a clot) or thrombotic(a bleeder).  I was presented with the option of having a "TPA", which is a clot-busting drug that can be given within a certain window of time, but with the caveat that they didn't yet know the type of stroke and if it was a bleeder stroke, it could make things significantly worse.  Well, with that caveat in mind and not being familiar with the real effects a stroke could have, I declined the TPA.  In retrospect, now that we know it was a clot, the tpa could have spared me some or all of the effects of the stroke (the paralysis, et al).  However, I didn't want to take the risk with a young family of things getting much worse.
     Over the course of that initial night, I lost function in my left arm, hand, leg, and foot and was eventually admitted to the hospital as a stroke patient.  Soon after this I was started in physical therapy and occupational therapy as an inpatient and also some speech therapy, although my speech wasn't especially affected by the stroke.  One high point in the hospital was that my assigned occupational therapist was none other than a lady by the name of Michelle Royer Jefferson, who was Miss USA 1987 and is now married to Lansing local Country music dj, Banana Don Jefferson of WITL.That was a treat in 'coolness', working with such a person of fame and a very nice lady :) Incidentally, the cause of the stroke was determined to be damage to the involved microscopic blood vessels by intense radiation therapy on the brain tumor I had when I was young.  The 'nails in the coffin', so to speak, were my blood pressure and cholesterol which were apparently elevated and not being controlled by meds.To this day, I am still taking bp and cholesterol meds to keep those risk factors under control and hopefully avoid a 2nd stroke.

Well, the moral I would take away from all this is that those warning signs like I described above should be attended to immediately.  The issue with the TPA was probably moot, given the risk of not knowing the type of stroke.  If anything, I would advise you not delay in seeking medical help in the event of a stroke, as there is a limited time window past the onset of stroke symptoms during which a tpa can be given.

Well that's all for now, but hopefully someone can benefit from my experience!