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Joyce S.


Life Changed Overnight

And then it all changed... This is my story.

The date was November 21, 2006, and I was humming through life at my usual rat-race pace. I was working full-time as a paramedic with our local ambulance service—12+ hour shifts with frequent overtime. Married, mother of six with two in college and our third a senior in high school. Keeping up was a daily challenge and stress levels were always over the top. I had moderate hypertension, which my meds weren't effective enough to control, but I really didn't worry too much about it.

After all... I was way too young, at only age 45, to have life catch up with me.

I went to sleep feeling fine the night before. I awakened at what I'm guessing was maybe 5 AM and went to the bathroom. I had an agitated feeling and felt somewhat flushed, so I layed back down on the couch until morning. When everyone started getting up for school and work, I recall feeling somewhat stuporous and still overheated. I thought I had slept with too many blankets. I didn't feel up to talking, so I didn't. The kids left. Then my youngest called to tell me that he had forgotten his gym shoes at home. I tried to relay the message to my husband and what I could get out was, "JJJJJoe~~~ssssshoes~~~~ssssschool." Then I handed the shoes to my husband, to drop off for him. He questioned if I was OK and I nodded yes and just said..."Overheated." (I still thought I had just slept with too many covers.) Later my two oldest children, who were college-age but home for Thankgiving, had dental appointments. I went with them but drove separately because I was on backup for work.

While at the dentist, I handed the paperwork to my oldest to fill out, as I still had a strange agitated feeling going on. When he asked what to put down under dental coverage, I couldn't get any words out, so I pulled out my social security card and pointed to it. I then pointed to the line where he should write the number. He looked at me oddly and complied. Then my boss called and needed me to come into work. I was able to get the word "OK" out just fine. So I left the boys at the dentist and drove back home to put my uniform on. At this point I was thinking my blood sugar must be out of whack, as I've always had a bit of hypoglycemia. I put my uniform on and grabbed some leftovers from the fridge to heat up at work. And off I went to work as, the lone paramedic covering 2 counties.

After arriving at work, I immediatley heated up my food and sat down to eat. Only mouthing the word 'Hello' to co-workers who were preparing to leave on two out-of-town transfers. My hands worked fine, so I just didn't talk and I then went out and checked through my rig, and did some of the usual tasks arount the station.

I would periodically go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I would check my smile for symetric, stick out my tongue and wiggle it back and forth. Lift up my arms, and squeeze my fists, as well as check my pupils. All was good. I was confused as to what was going on because... my words were NOT garbled. I just had to work really really hard to get a word to come out and then sometimes the wrong word would come out. My EMT partner started giving me odd looks so I again just tried to stay busy and stay away from her, while I waited for this goofy episode of 'whatever' to pass!

It was 2 hours later when my partner looked at me and said, "What the hell is wrong with you? You aren't your fiesty self today." By this time, I was so frustrated that this feeling had continued that I broke down crying... "I-I-I ddddon'n knnnnnow"? After watching me for a few more minutes, she asked "Are you ready to go?" I asked "Where"? and she said, "To the hospital." I could only cry. She called our boss and she took me in.

I walked in and they put me into the MRI machine within minutes. They were able to immediately diagnose me with a left frontal CVA.

My life had permanently changed.

I had lost the ability to spell or type. I could not tolorate noise at all. I was unable to do anything with numbers, even looking at a page of numbers made me nauseous. My short-term memory was awful and I lost their stupid little "Remember these three items for later game", everytime. I went to speech therapy mostly for the cognitive rehabilitaion. I have come a long way baby!! I CAN type, I CAN spell, I CAN talk, I CAN walk and physically do anything that I could before. Am I back to normal? NO! I struggle greatly with mental stamina. I can still do math, but just a few calculations and then my brain shuts down. I cannot tolorate fast-talking people as they throw me instantly into overload. I cannot tolorate flashing lights at all. I can visit and chat without any problem, just don't ask me to do anything that requires concentration. I'm good for a few minutes and then I'm done. My emotional center has it's good days and bad days, and this is not hormones folks! The same goes for my speech—at times I'm as fluent as I was prestroke and other times I still struggle to find the right word. All of which, goes down hill fast when I'm tired. Mental fatigue is a daily enemy. My own personality tires me out, as I've always been a huge people person. I don't want anyone's pity. I am slowly coming to accept that I can't make people understand, what my head cannot do. I 'look' 100 percent normal. I know many people don't understand why I haven't even tried to go back to work... I mean, my gosh... shouldn't she at least have a limp or drool, or 'something'? I have not sat around feeling sorry for myself, I have challenged myself daily, accomplished many things, taken care of myself and my family and I have learned how to PACE myself accordingly. This is my new normal and I'm thankful for the many things and abilities I still have.

My faith has been my source of strength! Life is still good, it's just different.Who would have ever thought I'd be this thankful I can still do laundry!!


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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