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Ray L.


Go with God and you can't wrong

By the grace of God, I am not a stroke victim. I am a survivor.

I'll start by saying that I've struggled with high blood pressure most of my adult life. In early Feb. 2011 I saw my doctor because I hadn't been feeling well since mid January and thought I should find out what was going on. He diagnosed me with A-Fib. I have no idea how long I have had that condition. He prescribed and advised me to start taking Pradaxa, a drug to help patients with A-Fib. For various reasons, including the cost (I didn't have insurance and couldn't afford it) and the fact that it is a relatively new drug and I was afraid of the side effects, I didn't fill the prescription. He gave me samples, but I had seen advertisements and read that once you start taking it you shouldn't stop and I thought it would be harmful to start it knowing I couldn't afford the medicine after the samples were gone, so I didn't take them. Less than 2 weeks after this visit, I suffered a double stroke. I had worked that Sunday morning and when I came home in the afternoon just all of a sudden the room started spinning like Dorothy's house did in the tornado in Oz. Thinking I was having a migraine, we saw no need to go to the ER. We chose to wait and see how I was feeling and see my doctor if we thought it necessary. The rest of that day I had a headache and was dizzy and vomiting, but these were my only symptoms. When they saw me at the doctors office on Monday afternoon they immediately sent me to the hospital. Using a wheelchair, I wheeled myself into the cubicle to sign myself in while my wife parked the car. This was about 5:30 p.m. I was still at myself, talking and alert. I just had a terrible headache. But things went downhill from there. I don't remember much after that and rely on my wife and daughter to tell me what went on during my stay.

I was taken for a CT scan and a MRI. The later it got the worse I became. I got restless, trying to get out of bed and my speech was garbled. You couldn't understand me and I was very frustrated. During all this, I went into resp. failure and was moved to ICU. My wife was told I had a stroke. The report reads "a left cerebellar CVA with Hemorragic conversion". The neurosurgeon told her early Tuesday morning I needed surgery to make room for swelling or I would die. I had a craniectomy and ventriculostomy on Tuesday Feb. 22, 2011.

I'm told the doctor said the surgery went well and on Wednesday and Thursday Feb. 23 & 24, I was communicating by writing on paper since I was on a ventilator. Sometime within that first week to ten days there was a student observing the unit and she asked if I could be her case study. She said she along with everyone else was amazed at my progress because I initally really wasn't expected to survive. She asked a series of questions that my family answered and then her final question was "if I had one philosophy for life, what would it be?" I motioned that I wanted to answer that one and wrote" Go with God and you can't go wrong." I firmly believe this. During my 72 days in the hospital I had kidney failure and was on dialysis. I had to have blood on numerous occasions. I had a shunt put in as well as a pacemaker and an IVC filter. I was on and off a respirator several times and then had a trach. I also had a PEG tube for feeding since I was having problems swallowing. Once while on dialysis I was very restless and given morphine. I had an allergic reaction to it and my heart stopped. Thank God, the nurse that was watching the dialysis machine was rubbing my chest because it seemed to calm me some and she knew immediately when my heart stopped and called a code and began CPR. Three ribs were broken in the process, but I'm so thankful to that caring nurse that went above and beyond to help me. Another time when we thought things were looking up, I had another allergic reaction to a BP med and was again returned to ICU.

As I've said, I don't remember much after I signed myself in. I was given Propofol which my daughter said she was told they refer to as 'milk of amnesia'. In my stupor I had visions I must conclude coincide with when I was in cardiac arrest. On one occasion I saw the grim reaper, but he was dressed in a white robe instead of the traditional black attire. There was a pirate that I saw also and he was dressed in black. His appearance caused me to conclude that I was at deaths door. I feel that the devil tried to take me on numerous occasions but God had other plans.

I didn't know what my family went through. The long hours of waiting, not knowing what the news or outcome would be. I'm sure it wasn't easy on them. I am so blessed to have them in my life. They were by my bedside as often as they were allowed. Having them with me helped with my recovery. They told me there were times when I wouldn't respond to doctors or nurses when they asked me to move my hand or foot or do something but I would if my wife or daughter asked. They continue to be a big part of my recovery.

I don't like to be referred to as a stroke victim. I am a survivor. I had so many friends and family praying for me. People whom I don't even know prayed for my recovery. I am so blessed. I entered the hospital February 21, 2011. I was dismissed on May 4, 2011. Of this time I was in ICU for 37 days and then moved to resp. recovery until I was sent to the Rehab unit for the 15 days I spent there. After I was sent home with a walker and wheelchair, I spent most of the summer in outpatient rehab.

I had part of my cerebellum removed which affected my equillibrium a great deal but I'm told my brain will compensate eventually to normal function but the progress is very slow right now. Another side affect of my stroke is that I have double vision but have glasses with prisms that help that problem.

Life can change so fast. I thought I was in decent health except for my BP, but I was wrong. I just never realized how serious the situation was. I advise anyone to keep a close watch on their cardiac activity. As of now, I have minimal deficits and am able to read and write with minimal difficulty. I have no paralysis. I have a long way to go but I've come a long way. Thank God, due to medical advances, I survived the very thing that killed my grandfather in 1964. It has been an ordeal, but I'm so thankful to my family for being with me and for the excellent care I've received from everyone involved in my care. I am thankful to be alive.

On January 1, 2012 I celebrated my 57th Birthday. Go with God and you can't go wrong.


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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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