The Day Our Lives Changed
It was October 11, 2016, and I was heading home from work. My husband had been out sick for a couple of days for a sinus infection and I was on the way home to fix dinner. My husband called me and asked if I would be able to take him to the doctor the following morning. I was puzzled and asked him why since we had just been to the doctor the day before. He said that he noticed an area right above his elbow and an area right above his knee that felt weak. He said that he contacted the doctor when he noticed the arm, but recently felt the weakness in the knee. I told him that we were not going to wait, but instead go to the emergency department of the local hospital. I went home and picked him up and went to the hospital. We walked in, he told them what the complaint was and we were immediately taken back for my husband to be examined. The doctor came in and asked what the chief complaint was and starting conducting the test that went along with the stroke protocol. She stated that he seemed to have strength in both arms and legs, but that she noticed something that didn’t sit right with her when he smiled. She said that she would recommend him having an MRI to rule out a stroke. We both were fine with whatever test that they needed to conduct to determine what was going on.
Bill went on to have the MRI and we waited. What seemed like hours, was probably less than 25 minutes, when the ED doctor came in she said: “you really know your body because you have had a stroke”.
Bill laid there with his mouth wide open and my reaction was – what’s next – what is the plan. That’s all I focused on at that moment. My husband has had a stroke, having been an EMT years ago I knew that it was imperative that they start the proper treatment immediately to ensure that he didn’t have another one. The doctor told us that he would be admitted and more tests run.
Next step – he would also be evaluated by a Neurologist.
When we finally got into a room at around 1:00 am, they had to conduct all kinds of neurological tests on him – hold your hands out in front of you and close your eyes, touch your nose and them my finger, resist against me pushing down on your leg/arm, etc. We were able to get him, as well as me, settled down around 2:30 am – they were back in there at 4:30 am to draw blood. Then the rounds started at 6:00 am. We met the neurologist and he explained that Bill had severe stenosis of the distal V4 segment of the right and left vertebral artery. He went on to tell us that most people get the majority of their blood supply to their brain through these arteries, but that a minority get it through their carotid arteries. He said that thankfully Bill was in the minority and received most of his brain supply through his carotid arteries – and what a blessing. The doctor told us that it could have been much more severe if he received the posterior arteries. God knew how he needed to be developed.
Then came a scary statement…as if everything else wasn’t enough to deal with…the doctor wanted another CAT scan to determine if there was a dissection of the posterior arteries. Dissection?? What does that mean? He went on to tell us that he wanted to make sure that the arteries were not dissection because that would mean surgery and more serious. Let’s get it done, was the only statement I could come up with at that point. I wanted to get to the bottom of all of this and at that point, I was running on little to no sleep and a lot of Diet Mt. Dew.
Within about 2 hours they were wheeling him down to the imaging department to have another CAT scan and Echocardiogram (to check his heart). When we got back to his room, we waited for the test results not knowing what the outcome would be. We prayed and talked to God that no matter what the outcome was, we knew that He was with us and that He would get us through it all. Neither one of us had totally come to terms with what was going on at that point. All I held on to was that I still had my husband of 31 years with me, that we were a team and that I was going to do whatever I could to ensure that he got better. The news was good. No dissection, (Thank you Lord) but still a serious situation and that is when we were told that for the next 6 months he was at a greater risk of having another stroke. What? Another stroke! That’s like having a ticking time bomb inside of you not knowing when it was going to go off. He would have to be medication for this condition for the rest of his life and make some changes in his lifestyle. No problem! Another stroke was still in the back of our minds but we knew that all we could do is pray and know that God had this…
One more night in the hospital and then he was released. That is when everything hit us – when we got home.
So, it’s been almost 4 months since my husband’s stroke and life has been challenging. He has great days, good days and not so good days. He went back to work in November and has been working really hard to gather his strength and stamina back. It has not been easy for him – not so easy on me either because as most of you know when you see a loved one struggling, you want to help. There is nothing that I can do, but be there to listen when he gets frustrated and a helping hand that he can lean on when needed.
The hardest thing that he said he has had to deal with is patience. The lack of them…He wants to be able to get up and do what he wants to do but quickly realizes that he can’t. I keep telling him that he has made great strides and that he has a lot to be proud – bouncing back like he has. We have had to make some adjustments in how and what we do, like taking it slower, knowing that it will take us a little longer to get things done, but that’s okay – life isn’t supposed to be a race, right?
Some great news that we received is that his Neurologist released him and said that he could continue to follow-up with his doctor and that he just needed to continue on his road to recovery.
So, what is the road to recovery look like? Well, first is his diet – he has to eat a low cholesterol diet – high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber (a normal heart healthy diet). Although my husband has NEVER had high cholesterol, they put him on lower cholesterol medication because they want the number to be as low as possible. Makes sense. Next, is a full strength (325 mg) coated aspirin every day. This is something that the doctor said he will take for the rest of his life. I have also started taking one as a precaution since I have had high cholesterol most of my life (thanks to family genes). Taking the full strength aspirin reduces the clumping action of platelets and hopefully prevents another stroke.
Another important part of his recovery is exercise. Yes, the dreaded word – EXERCISE. Walking is the main way that we are getting exercise these days. It will get better and easier as the weather gets warmer. The good thing is that his job keeps him busy walking but he is able to rest when needed. It has been hard on him that he can’t do as much as he once did and that he has to take breaks – there’s that patience thing again.
The most important thing in his recovery is his FAITH in God. He and I both know that it is God’s blessing that he is still here and we have put his health and worries in the hand’s of God because we know that He is the ultimate healer. I wake up each morning thanking God for giving us another day to do the work that He is leading us to do. God Bless each of you.
Well, it’s been 11 months since his stroke and he officially retired from the emergency services. He is not sure what his next steps will be, but whatever it is, we will do it together. Right now he is just going to try and get used to not keeping a schedule and trying to decompress after being on-call for the last 40+ years.
This will hopefully give us time to work on this blog together, travel and just enjoy time together. It will take us time to get used to our new ‘normal’ but then again, ‘normal’ is overrated, isn’t it?
Below are things that you should look out for if you suspect that someone is having a stroke. If they have any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.