Struck By (En)lightening: How Having A Stroke Changed My LifeOn August 14, 2008, at age 32, my life changed forever: I had an aneurysm that caused a burst blood vessel resulting in a hemorrhagic stroke. It blew while I was a passenger in a car, and my husband was driving (thankfully). I heard, what I call, a "whooshing bang", slumped to one side, my eyes crossed, and I vomited. I was a nurse manager of a mental health unit, so my nursing education gave me the knowledge that it was neurological. I knew the hospital where I worked specialized in cardiac events, but that our competing hospital specialized in neurology. Plus, I didn't know how comfortable I'd be with my colleagues providing my care, so I had my husband drive to the competing hospital (it was closer anyway). But if my hospital were closer, I would have gone there, and my comfort level wouldn't factor in at all!
Before my stroke, I worked approximately 60 hours/week: during the day as a manager, then inevitably we would be short-staffed for some evening or night shifts. I had to either stay or come back in to work as a staff nurse since if something were to happen because we were short-staffed, I would have to deal with the ramifications. As a result of working so much, I sacrificed my health: I ate poorly (whatever was quickest), drank a lot of soda for the caffeine, didn't sleep as much as I should have, and didn't have emotional well-being of spending time with my husband and children. My job consumed every aspect of my life. If I had known I had this "ticking time bomb", I'd have taken better care of myself!
The stroke was in my cerebellum, and wiped out everything: I suffer from ataxia (hand-shaking), dysarthria (raspy voice, garbled speech), and ambulatory difficultulties (have to use a walker, cane, or "counter surf", and have issues with balance). I call it one of my "trifectas"! The other being my bunions: Hereditary (my grandmother had them), on my feet a lot working in nursing, and having to "squinch" my feet to compensate for my balance issues. But I'd take bunions any day-used to be in a wheelchair, and got them from WALKING!
I also move quite slowly, and have problems with my coordination.
As a result, these afflictions contribute to be not being able to work anymore, so I have time to take better care of myself. I exercise in ways I can to build up my core strength. Including, but not limited to; using the elliptical (since it doesn't require much balance and coordination) lifting weights, and riding a recumbent trike my husband got me for my balance difficulties.
I am able to eat healthier, because I can make heathy meals and eat slowly.
Since I don't have to be at a job out of the house, I can get sufficient sleep to help my brain heal.
I am also able to spend more time with my family, and just "be me", not be defined by my career. I guess you could say, this stroke helped me to escape!
My husband has been my main contributor to my recovery. He has done everything he can to assist in my lifestyle changes. He was told by one of the doctors to put me in a nursing home. He instead found a stroke rehab for me.
When I encounter a challenge or hardship secondary to my stroke, I just think how close I came to dying. I try to concentrate on the positive side of my stroke!