From the Far Side of a Stroke

I am one of the lucky ones.

I had a stroke on December 14, 2019, (maybe because of Afib that I didn’t know about until 3 days before the stroke when I had cataract surgery).

I was home alone and my phone was in another room.  I fell and ended up on the thick rug under the dining room table and couldn’t get up. My left arm, hand and leg were sort of out of my control, but I could think straight. I skootched on my back to where I remembered my phone was. That took maybe 20 minutes. I’ll explain later why time mattered.

I called the retired man I live with instead of 911 because I didn’t want the EMT’s to break down the door and let the dog out. (Dumb logic. Call 911. Time matters.) He was home in 10 minutes and called 911.

Here is why time matters if someone is having a stroke. There is a drug, TPA, called “the clot buster,” that can break up the clot that is blocking blood flow to the brain. It must be given by IV within 3-4 hours of the beginning of the stroke. The protocol requires a brain CT scan and/or head MRI before it can be given to be sure the stroke is caused by a clot and not a brain bleed.

After a brain CT scan and a head MRI, I was given TPA. Before the drug took effect no one could understand my speech and I couldn’t control my left arm and hand. Within a couple of hours, my speech was normal and my left side was getting better.

I was one of the lucky ones.

After  2 days in Neurology ICU and a week on the Rehab Unit of the hospital, I am pretty much good as before.

A few things I’ve learned:

  1. If you are alone, have your phone close enough to touch–in a pocket, in your bra or underwear or in a pouch hung around your neck (someone please design and market these!)
  2. If you are alone and  think you are or might be having a stroke, call 911 FIRST, even if you know they’ll break down the locked front door and freak out the dog. THEN call your significant other.
  3. Every minute matters if you’re having a stroke. There is a drug called TPA (see link above) that could save your life and/or the function of your brain and body. But you have to get it within 3-4 hours of the start of the stroke. That includes time for the ambulance to come and take you to the hospital, get you into the ER, and get a CT scan of your head and/or get an MRI of your brain. Not all strokes qualify for TPA. These tests help doctors know who is eligible.
  4. CALL 911 FIRST. Even if you can’t talk, they’ll figure it out.
  5. If you have a stroke, let people know and ask them to pray for you. I did. And I could feel those prayers surrounding me and holding me up. Hard to describe and impossible to explain, but it did help, tremendously. Thank you, friends.
  6. Those Life Alert things with the commercial (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) we all laughed at when we were younger aren’t a joke. Give it some serious consideration. I did, in the hospital. I now have an Apple Watch, thanks to the retired man I live with. I bought Apple Watch for Dummies, but all I can do so far is make a call, answer a call, read a text or email. Most of the time.
  7. My present lack of strength and stamina are mostly because I rarely exercised before the stroke. Didn’t like it, didn’t want to, so I didn’t. Don’t be like me. Go for a walk. Often. Aging will go better that way.
  8. I’m not sure how much of my current limitations are from before the stroke or if they are complicated by subtle stroke deficits. I do know they won’t get better without more effort and discipline from me. If you’d like to still pray for me, that’d be helpful and appreciated.

I am one of the lucky ones. I did get TPA in time apparently to stop the stroke. One thing I read said 1 in 10 people are cured by TPA. I think I got close.

I am very grateful.



Published in: on January 25, 2020 at 5:18 pm  Comments (7)  
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My Trainers

I changed gyms and paid for one-on-one hours with a trainer.  I got Jodi.  She’s 25 (sigh) and kind.  She challenges me, but she listens when I describe how my body works.

I’ve written before about having rheumatoid arthritis (click on Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cloud of words down below on the right).  Life can be a challenge some days.

So can an 18-month-old granddaughter.  Someone asked me yesterday if she’s walking.  I said, “No, she runs.”  She’s not chubby anymore, but she is solid.  And sometimes squirmy.

So Jodi helps me strengthen my upper body and core.  And we do cardio stuff.  Ever try an elliptical machine?  I am awed by people who do it for a long time.  An hour?? My goal is to move beyond 5 minutes.

Humility and a sense of humor go to the gym with me.  (There’s a fine line between humor and self-denigration.)  I am grateful for all my body can do.  Jodi pushes me past stopping just because I want to.

I led a writing group at a drop-in center for people who are HIV-positive yesterday.  The prompt was a quote from an article by Nancy Copeland-Payton in Presence (the journal of Spiritual Directors International.)

It’s a roller coaster.  I didn’t buy a ticket, never wanted a ride…the illness will keep recurring and I will die of it.

Who am I…?  I’m no longer the person who used to be in control, who had energy to take care of tasks and other people.  Rather, I’m the one who needs care.  I’m the one who is vulnerable.  This is not an identity I choose.  Buried inside are losses that need to be cried out.  This is a long mourning process.

I finally let go of my control and let myself be vulnerable and cared for by others.  When I learn to receive their care with profound gratitude, I receive the greatest gift.  I realize how much I am loved.  It’s extraordinary.  This love lets me be even more vulnerable.

While we wrote I played a Kenny G CD (they like soft jazz).  As we finished, we listened to the music and rested.

I wrote a whiny page about not liking roller coasters and not wanting to be vulnerable.  They wrote and shared about God’s love and how their disease saved them from drugs and a wasted life and changed them for the better.  I didn’t want to share mine.

The last song we listened to (not planned by me) was Louis Armstrong singing “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  They sang along and smiled when it ended.

Amazing grace, again.

Six Simple Steps To A Stress-free Season

Advice from the Experts at Duke Integrative Medicine

when the world is still sleeping.TAKE TIME FOR TEA
The caffeine and polyphenols in tea have the combined effect of mild stimulation and lasting calm.

Breathe in for 4 counts.
Hold your breath for 4 counts.
Release your breath for 6 counts.
This “UJI” breathing quickly reduces stress and calms your central nervous system.

Take a break from demanding tasks
(like shopping or cleaning)
and difficult people (like that family member who rubs you the wrong way)and do something that nurtures you!


Fill a bucket with warm water and add some drops of rosemary and peppermint oil.
Place a golf ball in the bucket as well.
Soak and massage your feet and calm your entire being.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a local shelter and help someone who is struggling. Discover the benefits of a practice of gratitude.

What tips do you have to share?  I say:

Bake cookies.

Get lots of sleep.

Remember, this too shall pass.

And try to laugh.