Michelle's Stroke Recovery
Two days later, at work, I noticed that my left arm felt tired, I thought, "I must have slept funny", or maybe pulled something. Later that day I started having some tingling in my fingers. I'm a nurse in a long term care facility, so I've seen strokes and heart attacks. And I have risk factors, history of high blood pressure, overweight, smoker (ex smoker now, one month + smoke free!) I was worried. I asked my supervisor to check my blood pressure and when I told her what was going on, she immediately started to assess me. Blood pressure and heart rate were normal, oxygen saturation was normal. No headache, chest pain, shortness of breath or visual disturbances, no facial drooping. I had equal grip strength in both hands, equal strength and movement in both arms and legs, both pupils were equal, round and reactive. I had been making a Christmas stocking on my knitting loom and we decided that the tingling must be from too much repetitive motion, nothing to worry about. I had forgotten all about the mumbling.
The next day when I woke up, I couldn't feel or move my left arm.
My daughter took me to the ER. Again, I'm a nurse, I know my risk factors, I was really scared. But with every normal or inconclusive test, I thought, maybe its nothing. Then an MRI gave us conclusive, devastating news. It was a stroke. After an overnight stay and lots more tests, it was determined that I had a plaque formation in my right carotid artery. My attending and consulting physicians felt that with medication and diet changes and quitting smoking, the plaque might resolve, I was to consult with a vascular surgeon to decide if surgery was a necessity and I was allowed to go home.
On October 10, my daughter left my side for the first time in 5 days to have dinner with friends, and my symptoms returned, my left hand started to tingle, then my arm went numb, my speech became slurred. I went to my best neighbors, right across the street, they called 911 and rode along and made calls to my family as I was rushed back to the ER. More tests were done and a CT scan showed changes in the affected artery. After a video consult with a neurologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, it was decided that I needed to be transferred to their facility for further treatment. At Hershey, I was placed in the neurosurgical ICU, poked and prodded some more and told that surgery would be necessary. The plaque in my carotid was unstable and a clot had formed at its edge, this was causing additional strokes. I was stabilized with IV Heparin and scheduled to have a carotid endarterectomy. The surgery went very well, the surgeon would tell me later that the clot was almost ready to detatch and would have caused "the big one" (yes, he really said that!) In the recovery room, I had another stroke.
But I survived! With God's blessing and outstanding care at both Memorial Hospital in York and Penn State Hershey Medical, I am alive. They don't even know exactly how many strokes I had, but considering all I've been through, I'm in pretty good shape. Strokes kill and disable people every day, I had lots of strokes, but none of them were major, I'm right handed and it was my left side that was effected, I didn't lose vision or speech. I have loss of function in my left arm and some memory/mental defecits, but in time, I'm expected to make a full recovery. My left carotid artery was clear and now, thanks to surgery, my right one is too. That, and continuing to make healthy lifestyle changes greatly reduces my future stroke risk.
In the meantime, this situation has left me financially devastated. I have been unable to work since 10/5, my meager savings are gone and I'm not allowed to return to work until January at the soonest. I have health insurance as long as my premium is paid every 2 weeks, my policy has a $4000 deductible with 80% coverage after that is met. From 10/5 when I first went to Memorial Hospital until 10/13 when I was discharged from Hershey Medical, I had 2 ER visits, 2 hospital admissions, 2 ambulance rides, 3 MRIs, 3 CT scans, 2 echocardiograms, 2 ultrasounds, surgery, anesthesia, and countless blood tests, My medical expenses are in excess of $10,000 already and are still building, each follow up visit or therapy appointment is a $40 co-pay, I'm following up with 3 different doctors and therapy is twice a week.
And as blessed and fortunate as I am, life doesn't slow down or stop when bad things happen, the bills still need to be paid and I have no income, so I am asking for help. Any gift would be significant and appreciated more than I could ever express. I would also be incredibly grateful for likes and shares.
Thanks for reading my story,