A week ago today, I was discharged from the hospital after a two night stay for a TIA (mini stroke). Steve and I joked that if we were given the opportunity to spend two nights away from the kids – a hotel would’ve been more logical choice. This is a long post related to that incident with far more details than one might ever want to know or than I typically post – but for my sake needs to documented.
Friday evening. we were enjoying some family time (along with some kid’s friends) at a local park with a beautiful sunset and weather. Steve was laying down on the grass and I was making sure Briggs made it up and down the ladder safely. In a matter of seconds, my left hand fingers started to tingle and I noticed my left side arm and face started to go numb. It was quick. I realized I couldn’t feel if my left eye was blinking – it was completely numb. I could feel it in my teeth, as if the dentist had really numbed me up for some serious dental work.
I quickly made my way over to Steve, it was when I made my way over to him I realized I had no speech. He had been laying down, and I caught him off guard. He quickly sat up and was evaluating my situation. I kept trying to get words out and nothing came no matter how hard I tried and that’s when my fear started to set in. I used my right hand to hit my left arm and face to communicate I had no feeling. He said my face was drooping and drool was making its way out of my mouth, my eyes were also trying to communicate, but all Steve saw was fear.
He called 911 and while he was talking to them, my speech started to come back just minutes after I realized it was gone. We called the ambulance off as my symptoms started to subside. (I’m still a little surprised that knowing my symptoms, they didn’t suggest I get myself to a hospital.) I was so confused as to what just happened. I was scared, but completely aware of what was going on around me. I rested in the grass for just a bit while Steve collected our reluctant children/friends and we made our way to the car. We had promised them a treat, so we made our way through the McDonalds drive-thru for ice cream as I googled my symptoms.
The same thing kept popping up – mini-stroke (TIA). Which are scary – but are not overly dangerous and present no permanent damage. More than anything, they are a warning of a potential larger stroke in the future. Although I matched every symptom, my logic kicked in and justified it was far fetched because I am young and healthy. I didn’t have a single risk factor listed. I was uneasy and still numb/tingling in my arm, face and now my leg.
We dropped off friends and picked up our own kids. We relayed the information to one friend (who happens to be dermatologist) and he suggested taking an aspirin and calling our primary care doctor. It was 8 at night. I had our doctor’s wife’s cell phone and tried calling it. No response. Steve and I racked our brains of all our medical friends from our Milwaukee days for someone that might know – we couldn’t think of someone in the related field (although looking back now, I’m sure had we called many of them they would’ve suggested the same thing, go to the hospital!)
I felt strongly to call a woman from our church – she’s a mother figure to me and I figured she would have an idea of what to do. In a panicked tone, she told us to rush to the hospital. That’s what we did. Our kids were in bed with Hallie up – we called a neighbor to come over and stay with them while we rushed out.
The ER was packed – at least 125-150 people in there. We walked in and about walked back out, we would be waiting there for hours. Luckily, my friend had followed us to the hospital and when she walked in behind us – seeing Steve and I not walking up to the check-in desk – she prodded us along and assured us the wait wouldn’t be long. It wasn’t. Stroke symptoms are viewed very seriously and they got me right back for a CT to check for bleeding which there was none. It then became a wait and see game.
I saw a neurologist who admitted me for additional testing. I was the youngest patient in the cardiac wing by a long shot. Every nurse and doctor seemed to look at me as though I had grown horns. I was young. Extremely healthy. No risk factors. And most of my symptoms were gone, except the tingling in my face and arm were still present. Why was I there? They asked me over and over what had happened. What was I doing when it happened? What were my symptoms exactly? I repeated the story over and over and over again. I told Steve, had he not been there with me to witness it, I honestly would’ve been questioning my own story. Clearly, I was mistaken. My health chart was ideal and every doctor was scratching their head.
The first test was MRI – the doc was confident it would come back clear, and everything would be great. I had an echo on my heart. My MRI came back – two abnormalities (I can’t remember the exact term, two density areas!) and something showed up in my neck – which could have been an imaging problem. With the MRI not clear, they wrote more tests on my board. Check my carotids. CT angio (contrast image), check for clots in my legs and a bubble study. This was a long drawn out process.
I just wanted to be home. I wanted to be coaching Hunter’s soccer game. I wanted to be doing Saturday chores. I wanted to feel peace. I wanted to be anywhere but there. I went in to have an ultrasound of my carotids. They asked what pandora station I wanted. No question in that situation, Josh Groban – it’s my feel-good/relaxing music. The first song that came on was our wedding song. What are the odds? The next song was Michael Buble Home. I fought back tears as the anxiety of the hospital and the TIA were catching up with me. Let me go home | I’m just too far from where you are | I want to come home.
After the testing was complete, a nurse entered our room. My bubble study showed a hole in my heart, PFO, which was the culprit. She told us a cardiologist would be in to see us. Twelve hours later he finally came in and his 20 second visit was cold and brief. Take aspirin every day. For the rest of your life. He walked out. I waited 12 hours for that?! He didn’t even call the hole by name. Explain it. Tell how it related to the TIA. Nope that was it and I was tired and angry and done. Two nights staying in the hospital and endless testing and blood draws left me depleted and emotional. I wanted more answers, more help but he gave nothing.
I was discharged feeling more unsettled than when I walked in. Is this going to happen again? Was there something I did to trigger this? Are there any activities I need to avoid? I went home and slept for 6 1/2 hours…during the day and had no problem going to sleep that night.
It’s been a week. I still don’t feel normal. My energy is still wiped. I’m still light headed and occasionally dizzy. My heart rate is elevated. I feel off. I’ve had a follow up with a different cardiologist who is ordering more testing – checking to see the size of the hole. He answered many of the questions the hospital doctor didn’t give me a chance to ask and yet I still walked away from his appointment still feeling unsettled. He wasn’t convinced that the hole caused the TIA so he’s sending me back to neurologist for answers. Perhaps more imaging. Which leaves me with more questions and more uneasiness. But I have a feeling we’re on the right path.
I realize I’m probably not going to get any answers soon and I’m starting to be okay with that. I’m on blood thinners to minimize clotting so my fear has subsided. At this point, I just want to feel good again. The cardiologist reminded me that it may take some time so I’m working on being patient.
I’m grateful Steve was with me when it happened and with me through two anxiety filled days. I’m am beyond grateful that testing showed no damage. I am alive and still quite healthy and I have a myriad of tests to prove that! I am grateful for the village of people who stepped in to help us in a number of ways. Grateful for doctors who are knowledgable beyond my comprehension. I have a grateful heart in all of this – even with the hole! 😉