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Erica J.
Erica J.


On August 1st 2011 the morning of my stroke, I had gotten to work, sat at my desk and was checking my email. I remember looking to my left and then turning back to my computer and the whole world started to spin. I even remember thinking "woah, that's weird, I feel lightheaded." Immediately I started feeling sick to my stomach. I tried to hold it back but I needed to vomit in my trash can. My co-workers were helping me at this point and called our security (medical) people and they came to check me out. They asked immediately if I had any history of anxiety and I said yes. I was sweating profusely and couldn't stand up due to the dizziness. All I could do was stuff my head in the garbage can and kept saying "something isn't right." I was texting my husband to come get me because I knew I couldn't get myself anywhere. Our security staff decided to call the paramedic. Everyone thought I was experiencing an inner-ear infection or Vertigo of some sort. They wheeled in the stretcher and I rolled my chair to it and flopped on. I was extremely sensitive to light and sound, so I kept my eyes closed and vomited into the "courtesy" bag. Once at the closest hospital they tried to treat the nausea by pumping me full of IV and anti-nausea drugs. Nothing seemed to help. In fact, one of the drugs made me feel itchy and panicky. Several times through my ER stay I had to hobble down to the bathroom (with my husband and a nurse on each arm) carrying me. I couldn't go to the bathroom without falling over and had pretty bad diarrhea. At this point I lose track of time, but it was a while before we got a CT scan. That test seemed to not point to a stroke because they just admitted me to a medical unit. After a while the vomiting had subsided (naturally I assume). I spent the night there and the doctor came in that morning and asked how I was doing. My vomiting had improved dramatically but my balance was still off. The doctor told me it was probably a migraine and low potassium. After that they discharged me. Just like that. With only some nausea pills and a information sheet on potassium. As you can imagine, looking back I feel very dismissed and not taken seriously. Maybe because my stroke didn't present "traditionally" and because I was a young woman -- they just slotted me into another category.

Thank god for my mom.

The next day, she had an appointment for me with the Earn, Nose and Throat doctor. When I arrived they ran some hearing tests on me -- but within five minutes of doing balance tests on me the doctor said "that's not normal, something is wrong" and he left the room. The nurse came back in and said he needed me to get an MRI and they got me in right away. By the time I was out of the MRI, my doctor was on the phone and he said they'd found bleeding in my brain and I needed to be admitted immediately. "You're probably not going to die" he said. How comforting! I was immediately wheeled up to the ICU where there was a team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, doctors and nurses that were prepared for my arrival. Within an hour or so they came back and said that it wasn't bleeding in my brain -- but a stroke.

The remainder of my week was spent with dozens of doctors and nurses testing all my faculties, blood, cognitive skills, physical skills, heart, cholesterol, blood-pressure etc to find the cause of the stroke. They think I had an ischemic stroke in my PICA artery -- with unsure origins to where the clot formed. After four weeks had passed my neurologist said we may never know why or what caused the stroke. The only thing we can do is mitigate the chances of another one in the future. As a result, I'm taking an aspirin a day, a statin to help control cholesterol and inflammation and staying off the birth control. Some factors that may have contributed to my stroke are my weight, the fact I was a premature birth with low birth-weight, being less than post-pardum, some familial influences, and being on birth control pills. For the most part, my neurologist said he "wouldn't change the way you live your life, for the most part." Personally, I'd like to reduce my weight and just live a healthier life. I feel a little more in control if there's outcomes that I can work to change myself and not leave everything up to fate.

Obviously I'm very lucky to be alive and doing as well as I am. I want more people to be aware that women, and younger women especially, CAN have strokes and should be taken seriously. Always call 911 if you think you're having a stroke and don't let anyone tell you it's just a migraine.


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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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