Stroke at 46 Years Old....
I am a stroke survivor. Those words are still hard to believe and accept. However, it is my reality, and I am thankful to be here to tell my story.
On the morning of September 9, 2017, I awoke to get ready for work, like normal. However, part of my visual field was gone; I could not see the right half of everything I looked at. Being a nurse for 23 years, I knew I was showing signs of having had a stroke. Of course, I was scared out of my mind but knew I had to get to a hospital. I asked my husband to call an ambulance and was taken to a large, university hospital (I requested this, because I knew our local hospital was not the best place for me if I had a stroke). I spent 4 days in the hospital going through all kinds of tests to determine what caused this to happen.
My MRI showed I had a small, ischemic stroke. Prior to the stroke, I thought I was in great health. I exercised regularly (biking, running, hiking, etc.), never smoked, had excellent BP, was of normal weight and had not had any health issues, except for a gallbladder removal 11 days prior to the stroke. I never took any medication, except a birth control pill.
After many tests, an echo bubble study showed I had a PFO. I was discharged from the hospital on a baby aspirin and a heart monitor to be worn for a month. After the results of the heart monitor came back negative (no abnormal heart rhythms), I reached out to my PCP and asked if she thought an aspirin was enough of a stroke prevention strategy. She asked that I come in and see her, and we both felt I needed to see a cardiologist. I got in to see one the next day, and he immediately said he felt my PFO should be closed. I agreed and had it closed on November 9, 2017.
It has been 5 months since my stroke and 3 months since my PFO closure. I have recovered well from the stroke and went back to work in December. I am so blessed and thankful for my recovery.
The hardest part now is dealing with the fear of having another stroke. This is lessening as time goes by, but it is always in the back of my mind. I notice every little tick and pain in my body now, and I struggle with what to ignore and what to worry about. I never had any anxiety issues before all of this, so it's been eye opening.
Being a nurse and a patient gives me a unique perspective on health care delivery. I intend to use the experience to help advocate for patients and improved medical care.