I have a reoccurring nightmare…. I am scrunched up in a hospital corner in a metal chair clutching our baby's infant carrier. While my eyes and body beg for sleep, it is interrupted by the sounds of a family. They are loud. Evidently somebody’s uncle’s brother’s cousin has had a turn for the worse. Throughout the night, my sleep is constantly interrupted by the intercom. I keep hearing the urgent voice of a nurse, “Stroke patient room 11, stroke patient room 8, the list goes on…” Where am I?”
I wake and remember this is not a nightmare… this is my reality.
It is February 28, 2009. At age thirty-five, my husband had a stroke. Our baby (number 5) was just 12 weeks old. After Travis was put on life flight to the IHC Stroke hospital in Murray, he was placed in Neuro ICU. The decision to life flight him was made after less than 12 hours at our local hospital where more tests and blood work than he or I can count were performed. Two black spots on his brain were found. He had indeed suffered from a stroke. And the question lingered, “Strokes happen to old people right, not young healthy 35 year olds?”
It had been nearly 24 hours since our sweet little three year old daughter came to get me in the bathroom. I was brushing my teeth. Our other four were settled for the night. She said, “Mommy daddy needs you,” Doesn’t daddy always need mommy (were my thoughts)? I kept brushing my teeth. “Mommy, please daddy needs you now,” she said with a pleading, urgent tone.
I went into our family room where I met his eyes-those beautiful blue eyes that had seen me through 5 difficult labors were filled with panic and fear. And then he spoke. His words were nonsense. Something was wrong.
There were so many miracles that transpired through this “lesson” in our life. It would be hard for me to count, but miracle number one… Months before the stroke, I was being prepared. It seemed everywhere I went, I saw or heard information relative to strokes- the back of doctor’s doors, TV and radio ads etc. I also received emails and had conversations with associates about strokes. I read literature about the signs of strokes. So when the night came, I knew Travis was having a stroke. I knew to give him an aspirin, and then I knew to call our neighbor who was a doctor. He took Travis in the back door of the hospital and announced, “this man is having a stroke, he needs a doctor immediately.” The ER staff came to attention.
Long story short… After spending the weekend in Neuro ICU and after various tests and lots of blood work, the doctor ordered an echocardiogram. This test showed that there was a hole in Travis’s heart that had caused the stroke. Conclusion, to prevent any future strokes, the hole would need to be repaired. The surgery was performed and a 20 mm hub shaped somewhat like a mesh umbrella was placed in my hubby’s heart. The cardiologist told us it was the biggest hole he had seen in any patient. After nearly four hours of making sure his vitals were stable, he was discharged. We were told his heart was fine — now just go home and get over the stroke…
The stroke affected the speech control portion of his brain. Typing a one sentence email was a crowning moment for Travis. Speaking in front of a crowd was another milestone. Feeling a connection with deity took nearly four years (during the initial stroke I experienced an overwhelming spiritual high. There were so many angels strengthening me. Travis on the other hand, was left without words, without clarity, and without the ability to feel the comfort of God), He would have preferred his limbs had been affected by the stroke and not his communication, Wanting to be around large groups of people…. Hmm…? We mark the years off like birthdays since the stroke. This month: February — thirteen years
With the onset of Covid-19 two years ago, let us not forget the other lingering killers. Awareness is the key. The following statistics can be found at cdc.gov.
In 2018, 1 in every 6 deaths from cardiovascular disease was due to stroke.1
Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke.2
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.2
About 185,000 strokes—nearly 1 of 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke.2
About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.2
Stroke-related costs in the United States came to nearly $46 billion between 2014 and 2015.2 This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.2 Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.2
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following simple test: F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange? T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.