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Lisa F.


Fibromuscular Dysplasia

Election Day, November 4th, 2008 is a memorable one for me. I arrived at work that morning and dropped my water bottle. Upon attempting to rise from picking up the bottle I fell into my desk. My co-workers were quick to rush to help. Being my typical stubborn self, I insisted I was fine all the way to the Emergency Department. I was even angry I would now have an insurance co-pay charge!

Two weeks prior to this I was in the gym weight lifting with a personal trainer. After finishing my third set of arm curls, I noticed in the mirror that my neck veins were very prominent and my face was flushed. I can only describe the next feeling as if my head was being ripped from my shoulders and then I almost fainted. I recovered and refused help from the trainer again insisting "I am fine." I rode my bicycle five miles home from the gym. During the next two weeks I continued riding my bicycle, running and playing tennis while taking over-the-counter medicine for what I self diagnosed as a sore neck muscle.

My diagnosis in the Emergency Department was a Stroke. The Stroke Team was notified. The nurse in me said, "No, this can't be because I am only 48 years old with no stroke risk factors!" I was not diabetic, had low-cholesterol, low blood pressure, normal weight, a non-smoker with no family history of stroke. This could not be happening to me! When he asked if I could lift my left arm I would hold it up with my right hand saying see "I am fine." My Vascular Neurologist and I can laugh about it now. He recognized my "Left Neglect." I now know the injured side of my brain did not recognize what was happening to my body and this is referred to as "neglect." The left side of my body was paralyzed and the right side did not recognize it.

I was given Tissue Plasminogen Activator or tPA, the clot busting medication, and taken for an angiogram. My diagnosis, in addition to stroke, included Carotid Dissection and FMD, Fibromuscular Dysplasia. FMD is a vascular disorder characterized by abnormal cell growth in the walls of arteries which can lead to stroke, hypertension, aneurysms and dissections. The artery often gives the characteristic appearance of a string of beads. Carotid Dissection is a tear in the artery, often in the neck, which allows blood, under arterial pressure, to enter the vessel walls and split the layers. Another important member of the Stroke Team was my Neuro-Interventional Radiologist. He inserted two stents in my right carotid artery which stabilized my dissection. The dissection most likely occurred with the increase in blood pressure while weight lifting. A clot had been forming at the tear in the inner wall of the artery and broke free to cause my stroke two weeks later. I was very lucky. Upon waking in the ICU and after the breathing tube was removed my first question was "Who was elected President!" My second question to the nurse was "Can you print out something off the internet about FMD?"

My hope in sharing my story is public awareness of the importance of Stroke Teams in the community and obtaining immediate medical intervention, even if your co-worker or loved one has to insist! Educating your family and friends of the symptoms of stroke are so important, especially when neglect is occurring. It is also critical to note the time of onset of symptoms. The clot busting medication which I received tPA, tissue plasminogen activator should be given within three hours of onset if the stroke is ischemic such as mine. I appreciate the National Stroke Association for recognizing Fibromuscular Dysplasia as an uncontrollable risk factor for stroke.


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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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