I did not believe that I had a stroke, especially since I was declared in excellent health a year prior following a complete exam by my primary physician. It still feels surreal. I was convinced that I had suffered a pinched nerve in my neck. After the neurologist brought my MRI/MRA results to my room, the reality of it hit me hard.
I had no high-risk factors that I was aware of, but experienced all of the typical stroke warning signs. I was on my daily one-mile walk when it felt as if someone had turned a light-switch off. Nothing on my left side would work. I was lifting 5lb hand weights over my head in triceps’ curls at the time. That is why I thought I had pinched a nerve in my neck.
When my neurologist explained the MRI/MRA showing an acute cerebrovascular right parietal watershed territory infarct a.k.a. ‘stroke damage’, the severity of my condition became clear. He told me that paralysis from a stroke always starts in the extremity and moves up. He said pinched nerve symptoms always move downward. My numbness started in my lower left leg and moved up through my left arm and into my cheek. My right carotid artery is 100% blocked. This was determined by a CT scan with dye contrast. The artery is dead from the block up, so a stint could not be used.
Since nothing could be done with the blockage, I was given limited treatment options. It was recommended that I take an 81mg aspirin a day, a 75mg plavix/clopidogril – a ‘blood thinner’, and a statin – ‘cholesterol control’ once a day. I researched the different statins because they have many side effects, but the benefit for me outweighed the risks. I was told the statin would also help improve the elasticity of my arteries and reduce the likelihood of a second stroke.
The hardest step for me was initial acceptance. Limited mobility was my biggest hurdle. I was always very active. I started working my left arm and leg, using my right arm to assist movement, on the way to the ER. I believe that it helped with reducing the long term paralysis from the stroke. Above all else, follow your neurologist’s instructions, but push yourself to recover as much mobility as possible, as soon as you can. Accept what happened, and live life to the fullest.