Do you know how to spot stroke symptoms?

I learned the hard way…

FAST is the acronym used for identifying stroke symptoms. 

F is for face. Is one or both side(s) of their face drooping? Ask them to smile big showing teeth. Is their smile even? Or does one side of their smile droop downward?

A is for arm weakness. Ask the person to hold their arms at a 45 degree angle and count to 10. Does one arm drift downward?

S is for speech difficulties. Is the person having trouble speaking to you or understanding you?

T is for time to call 911. Time is of the essence when someone is having a stroke. Don’t hesitate to call 911. It can make all the difference. 

I bring this up as I lay in a hospital bed because Monday morning (4 days ago) I woke up and the left side of my face was not quite right. My left eyelid was drooping. My smile was crooked with the left side of my lips not turning up like the right side.  

I knew this look all too well from 2013 when I had a stroke and had no idea what was happening and waited a week to go to the hospital. I was having symptoms throughout the week, but had no idea what stroke symptoms were. I had always heard about heart attack symptoms, but nothing about stroke. I couldn’t swallow or talk correctly, but I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something and spent the week taking Benadryl. Had I gone to the hospital the first time something felt “off”, I might never have had that stroke. 

My left artery came apart (carotid artery dissection) sort of like an aneurysm and a bold clot slowly formed that became dislodged and went straight to my brainstem. I couldn’t walk, talk, swallow or anything. I’m lucky to be alive and to have no residual effects, aside from right side body neuropathy. 

Anyways, Monday morning the left side of my face was dropping and my head was pounding only on one side. I called my daughter who is an RN and told her what was happening and she advised me to go to ER right away. But what if it was nothing? I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time and have it be nothing. So I did nothing. For several days. 

Finally on Wednesday night I promised her I would see my doctor the next morning. I ended up in Urgent Care since my primary is on vacation. The Urgent Care doc asked if I had anyone who could pick me up to take me to the ER. He would notify them I was on my way. 

I got there, handed in my paperwork and was taken in immediately. Within 10 minutes I was already on the table getting ready to have a CT scan, which came back negative. I also had an ultrasound of my arteries, TONS of blood taken, a chest x-ray and an EKG. All within like 30 minutes. 

They decided to admit me, which I figured they would. I’ve done this a few times before. I was moved to a room before long where I was greeted by 5 nurses who helped me into bed and got me all hooked up to heart monitors and all kinds of other tubes that monitor stuff. Dilaudid for my pounding head and a shot of something in my stomach to thin my blood. Lastly I drank a horrid orange cocktail of potassium something because mine is super low.

Brings back so many memories. Not very good ones. I’m nervous and anxious and groggy as hell. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for an Echo, and MRI and an EEG. I will also have a consult with a Neurologist. 

So here I lay in a hospital bed. Listening to the sounds of the compression things on my legs that continually squeeze them, and the sound of the lady next to me snoring. Wondering what will happen. 

Insomnia is bad. Insomnia in a hospital is even worse. Sleep meds should be here shortly since I had to choose between pain meds or sleep meds first. I can’t sleep in pain and they couldn’t give me so many sedating things at once. Did I mention it’s hot as HELL in here too…?

I am 44 years old and in excellent health in terms of my cholesterol and LDL and HDL and all that stuff. Nevertheless, I had my first stroke at 39. The doctors couldn’t see how I survived it. I shouldn’t be alive was how they sort of explained it to me. With the size of the clot and the fact that it went to my brainstem… and for months afterwards I wished I hadn’t lived. I was immobile. PT 4x a week and doctors appts 3x a week and then blood work twice a week to check my Coumadin levels and make sure my blood was thin enough. But not too thin. Had to change my diet because so many foods work against blood thinners. I never craved leafy greens more than I did in the 2 years I couldn’t have them. 

I truly hoped the nightmare was over. With everything else I am battling right now… this is extra weight I don’t need or want to carry. All I can do at this point is hope for the best. Hope that I am ok. And that someone turns on the air conditioner. And that I don’t go through major caffeine withdrawal since coffee and Diet Coke aren’t a part of the cardiac diet I am now on. 

Sleep will not come soon enough…

Please keep me in your prayers ❤️

Author: Autumn Delaney

A screwed up girl in an even more screwed up world...

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