According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/ web site, “Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of adult disability. About 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year. One American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes, on average.” Scary statistics.
But a few years ago, on September 18, 2010, I thought I knew a lot about strokes. I was a medical editor and prided myself on my knowledge. But like many others, I associated strokes with the elderly. I knew it happened in younger patients, but only those who didn’t care for themselves properly. I had recently lost 75 pounds and was walking 10 miles a day. So shocked I was on that day. It was the end of Yom Kippur, so I was breaking the fast. Shortly thereafter, I felt funny and weak. Those were the only signs. It wasn’t one-sided, more of a general weakness and there were no other symptoms. My sugar was way above normal and I took some medication and it started to lower. I would see the doctor in the morning. But by the time I woke up, my entire left side was paralyzed. What in the world was happening?
Obviously, I had a stroke. What was fascinating was that it never affected my speech. I never slurred my words or couldn’t be understood. However, my language and emotional ability were greatly affected. I had (and still have) trouble with memory, words fail me, and I now get panic attacks and cry at the drop of a hat. Because I was no longer able to move as I had, my weight came back along with many physical ailments. All of a sudden I was getting kidney stones and I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other gastrointestinal problems.
My family and friends were wary around me because I seemed to lose control of my emotions. Everything was much larger than life. I was afraid to go out around people and the more I tried to do, the more frustrated I became. The problem is, I didn’t look like anything was wrong. By all appearances, I was a fully effective member of society. But that is not true.
My ability to edit and proofread is limited and I am not yet able to work. I am on disability and until now, I have been hesitant to write. But there are some valuable lessons learned. I learned that material things are not important. I appreciate that I am still alive and will get to watch my 10 year old son continue to grow and thrive. I have a new found respect and understanding for others with disabilities and what we all take for granted. Life is precious and I for one am going to enjoy each and every opportunity I get. Don’t assume everything is okay, if anything is different, check it out immediately. It doesn’t always come with a warning.