Friday, September 21, 2012

When The Unexpected Happens

After some trepidation about writing this, I'm going to apologize to another blogger for again piggybacking a blog post after reading his or her blog. In this case, I strongly encourage you to go to the blog One Early Retirement and read what Kathy has recently written. Her post gives many more medical specifics and information while the below is simply personal experience.

Approximately four years ago, I woke up in the early morning hours with my hand tingling. That feeling would best be described as the feeling one gets after laying on or sitting on your hands-or after hitting your funny bone. In fact, in the beginning that's what I thought it was.  After moving around and getting to my day, the tingling would come and go. Sometimes I could feel it going up my wrist (it's important to note that never, never did it come anywhere close to going up my arm). This feeling continued on for a week or so. I attributed this feeling to a pinched nerve or similar issue (I'm the woman that looks down at a bruise and says "now, where did that come from". Honestly, this was when I was beginning doing any exercise at all other than walking while being a tourist and I thought I had overdone or injured something.

After a couple weeks, the tingling was still severe, perhaps even more severe. Again, never above middle of the lower arm, ever. My daughter was visiting on a Sunday, and she suggested that I call my Dr after hours and get his recommendation. She was afraid of a heart attack. Understandably, considering my physical condition at the time. I called said Dr and described the symptoms. His response was, "sounds like a pinched nerve to me as well", but nevertheless he sent me to the hospital because my left arm was involved. At the hospital I was given an EKG which came back perfectly normal, as did my blood pressure (in spite of being well over a hundred pounds overweight, I had never had high blood pressure until last year. The ER told me to follow up with my doctor on the following Monday.

On Monday, I went to my doctor, who sent me to a neurologist. This nice man hooked me up to a machine and stuck probes (and a few pins here and there) on my body. He some texts, and looked at the read out. Afterwards he came back to me and said "You don't have any nerve issues. I think you've had a stroke, and I'm sending you for an MRI". It was probably a half an hour before my mouth closed. I had no other symptoms, no coordination issues, no mental issues. More about that below. I then trotted over to the hospital where I had to take two tries at an MRI-I lost it entering the first one and they had to find me a more open machine.  After returning to the doctor, he looked at my lovely brain and said yes, I had had a very small stroke-a mini stroke or TIA. I was still in shock but a level of concern had arisen.

The following week, I went with my daughter and had a sonogram of my carotid artery.  Thankfully, I only had a small buildup in my carotid and surgery was not recommended. Since I had shared with him that I took aspirin for my arthritis on a daily basis, he informed me that if I took 300 Mg's every day, he believed that would be enough and he would not have to put me on blood thinners. He then informed me that unless I had symptoms or other issues, that I did not need to return to see him. I continue to take the aspirin (actually I take a 500 mg back and body does every evening-I have no stomach issues with aspirin, and it works for me).

Since that time I have lost 70 pounds and begun exercising. I still have more weight to lose and I don't exercise as I should-now that summer is over I am back on that wagon.I also attempt to eat more healthily although I am a carnivore at heart.

It's worth mentioning a few things about my experience that may or may not be a lesson to others.
  • I went to a really good, well rated, high tech emergency room. They still only looked as far as the heart symptoms and once they were eliminated did not look elsewhere for a cause of my discomfort.
  • I had no symptoms and I do not remember this happening. It may well have woken me up during the night-however I was at this point a really early widow and was awake more than I slept. No pain, nothing to indicate what happened to me.
  • I'm glad I am naturally paranoid. I'm the girl who has achy breasts, takes vitamin c and still goes to the Dr about them twice a year (sorry, men). If I had been the type of person who decided to go home and tough it out for a few weeks, I don't know what the result would have been. I'm gad I did not try to find out.
  • My doctor is generally of the wait and see, let's not panic or dole out drugs right away persuasion. Thankfully, he also recognizes the need for the opposite on occasion and had me to a neurologist within the same week
  • To my knowledge I  have no history of stoke. My father collapsed when my mother died and stroke was the easy diagnosis-but no one in my family believes it. Doctors are not so quick to recognize the emotions that cause such issues.
  • I had nether high blood pressure or high cholesterol at that time-I was however obese and did not exercise.
What do I personally take away from what happened?
  • An urgency to make major changes (a goal which I have tackled but not nearly reached-one of my motivations to consider Denver, where I have family to nag and bother me).
  • The knowledge that I am even less likely to brush off a sudden "pain or discomfort" no matter the cause. Immediate and major changes (In pain, appearance, behavior)  changes that cannot be absolutely connected temporarily to an injury should be checked out no matter what.
  • I remind myself that doctors do know best and while I am not one to pooh pooh medical advise, when the doc says go to the ER, one should go. On the other hand I also will be more aggressive should I ever have to be in an emergency room again. I'll take a lesson from my son who is a recovered asthmatic with a history of pneumonia. He walks into the ER and says" I have pneumonia in my left lung and I need pain killers and antibiotics". And he keeps saying that.
  • I live partly alone. I already was taking my phone to bed with me as it is my alarm clock and as I live alone.  If I had not already done so, I would have beend doing so again. When I am living home alone completely, I will follow the lead of a pair of friends. They call each other-one calls in the morning and one calls in the evening (I would do this even without my TIA history, as a safety measure.
I have been blessed. I have not seen any major changes in my mental ability from this stroke. No one else has mentioned observing anything. I have always, always had a terrible memory, and now I am doing exercises to help that. That however was true before my stroke (I've joked more than once that it began with the first day of the onset of menopause).

I really don't have any wisdom. I just know that I do  know that Kathy's article reminded me that it can happen to anyone-at anytime


  1. First of all, I'm glad you're OK.

    In my case, I'd completely miss those symptoms. I've had RSI issues for years ... I'd probably think it was some kind of flareup.

  2. I DO have a pinched nerve as well as carpal tunnel, and sometimes get tingling in my hand and arm. I think I'll be a dead duck if I ever have the same experience as you. Anyway, your advice is spot on ... don't ignore your symptoms. Good for you for pursuing your issues. And double good for you for losing 70 lbs. -- I lost 10 and thought I was doing pretty well. Losing 70 is a major accomplishment. Give yourself a pat on the back!

  3. I'm glad that you suffered no after-effects, other than the urge to make changes that would lessen the chance of this happening again. I had a TIA when I was only 43, vigorously exercising nearly every day and at a normal weight. I lived then in a big city and saw a well-respected neurologist after being released from the regional hospital to which I'd been sent. I do have a history of stroke in my family. However, the ultimate diagnosis in my case was an unexpected one since I had no blockages: during a "silent" migraine, my carotid artery on the effected side had tightened long enough to cause the TIA. I thought I'd mention this because it's unusual but does occasionally happen. By the way, I'm 62 and still here, no further TIA's.

  4. The older I get the more I worry about these things. When I was younger if the hubby or I had any odd symptoms I woulnd't even worry about it. Now that we are older I freak out over every little symptom and have the urge to drag him to the hospital immediately. Im glad everything came out well for you!


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