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Michelle K.


I was only 16...

It was early Saturday morning of June 2, 2007. I had woken up and dressed to go take the SAT. I was at the refrigerator filling up my glass with water when it suddenly slipped from my grasp. I thought it was awfully strange but cleaned up my mess and started filling my glass again, this time making sure to hold on as tight as I could. As I left the kitchen I raised my left hand to turn the light off, only to find my arm wouldn't raise all the way. I tried several times and each time my arm got lower and lower. I started to feel tired and weak. It was very strange, I thought my body must be exhausted from the work out I had done the night before. I made my way into my mother's bathroom, where she was getting ready to go meet a friend and I laid down on the floor of her adjoining closet. She proceeded to fuss at me because I was going to be late for my test if I did not leave right away. As she left the room, I started to get up off of the floor only to find I could not. I was tired, and my left side was even weaker than before. Now my left leg wouldn't move either. Grabbing the door knob with my right hand I tried to pull my body into a standing position; however, I could barely get on my knees let alone stand on my feet. I ended crawling into my mother's bathroom using just the right side of my body. At that point I was physically spent, confused, and frightened. My mother came back to the bathroom to find me lying there. She proceeded to fuss at me. When I tried to tell her something was wrong, my words came out slurred and garbled. At that point my fear grew. My mother could tell something was wrong but since I was only 16, she started yelling at me asking what drugs I had taken. I tried over and over to communicate to her that I hadn't taken drugs and that something was wrong with my brain...but the words that were so clear in my head just would NOT come out. I started crying and screaming. At this point I was flailing my body trying with all my might to move the left side. My mother was holding my left hand and telling me to squeeze but I could not. Instead I grabbed her with my right hand and squeezed as hard as I could to let her know that I just could not do it with my left.

She immediately called 9-1-1 and just a few minutes later the paramedics showed up. By the time they had gotten there my mother had calmed me down and I again could walk, crookedly but still I could walk. The paramedics said I was fine and that it was just an anxiety attack because of the stress of the SAT! My mother's response was, "Even when Michelle does not study, she never stresses over a test. It just isn't like her. Are you sure? She couldn't move the left side of her body at all—that doesn't sound like an anxiety attack." However; they convinced my mother to sign a waiver saying everything was fine and I did not need medical attention. They advised me to sleep for the rest of the day. So I was put to bed and given something to help me sleep. Eight hours later I woke up to find my smile was still crooked, I could not raise my left arm all the way, I walked crookedly, and I could still barely grab anything with my left hand.

My mother then took me to ER. The CAT scan came back negative but the MRI showed that I had a stroke on the right side of my brain due to a blood clot. I was in the hospital for a week and they ran every test possible. The only thing they found was a small hole in my heart called a PFO. While in the womb it helps the blood flow but when you are born it is supposed to close. Apparently, it does not close for about 20-30% of people. The risk with this is that this hole could allow a blood clot to pass though it up into your brain resulting in a stroke. However; they did not directly attribute this to the reason I had my stroke. They said there is just no way of being sure. Due to several factors I recovered quickly rather than slowly. I was young and according to the doctors, "If anyone were to have a stroke, you had a stroke in the just the right place so that there wasn't much damage done." I was discharged from the hospital after a week, no cause was ever found. I suffered from severe headaches after that for several months.

After I was released from the hospital, I continued to wonder why it had happened. Why had I had a stroke? I was only 16. After that I took everything seriously and went to the doctor when I thought the slightest thing might be wrong. The results were all the same, I was healthy. However; later that year something happened that made me extremely thankful for my stroke. My sister Amy became pregnant with her second child. Upon one of her first doctor visits she gave her family medical history where my stroke was documented. Her doctor immediately decided to run the necessary tests to see if she had any blood clotting disorders. During pregnancy, your chance of having a blood clot goes up and can be fatal to the fetus if you have one. The test results came back and my sister had not one blood clotting disorder but three! Her doctor informed her that she was incredibly lucky that they caught this in time because it could have ended very badly. Maybe I'll never know the medical reason for why I had a stroke but that is okay, because I have a beautiful, healthy niece who is almost 4 years old now.


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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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