Annette P.


What my heart had to do with it?

How a congenital heart defect cause my right side Ischemic attack

I will never forget the day that my head felt like it was about to explode after five minutes of exercise. It was an unusual day in Charlotte, North Carolina where 12 inches of snow fell to the ground. Due to the inclement weather policy that my employer had in place it was okay to not report to work when conditions could result in personal injury. I called out from work that day and decided to utilize that time by exercising. I put in one of my work out DVD's and picked up my hand weights and began to vigorously put in some much needed work.

Now that it has been about 3 years since the stroke and I'm now able to articulate what happened to me clearly and I now realize that I had some symptoms days prior to the Stroke. Three days before as I sat my desk at work I had a sudden headache that resulted in a "white out" of my vision for a few seconds. The headache was sharp and painful but subsided very quickly so I thought nothing of it. On the way home that day I began to feel dizzy as I drove home and prayed all the while driving. The weekend went on uneventful; however that Monday was the day that a congenital heart defect called a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) was going to cause an Ischemic stroke on the right side of my brain. The patent foramen ovale is an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) of the heart that allowed un-oxygenated blood to flow between two chambers of the heart. Based on my understanding that during exercise the clot was able to dislodge from my heart chambers and travel to the brain and cause the ischemic stroke. After the exercise I had to use the restroom and suddenly during that time It felt as if I was hit on the right side of my head with a brick! I could only imagine that is what a brick would feel like when it strikes the side of your head. Instantly my face twisted towards the left and I began to drool on myself. I thought what in the world is going on with my mouth, my face, my head! I thought dear lord is this my last day on earth?? I knew I had to get rid of the pain and tried to get up from the toilet but began to fall to the ground. I pushed myself back up and tried to run to my kitchen cabinet but then realized that my left leg was dragging behind me!! I proceeded on to the kitchen with my left leg in tow. I again thought oh my I'm going to die today!!! I never had a chance to open the Tylenol in my hand and began to scream to the top of my lungs " My head!! My head!! My Nephew was lying on my living room couch and heard my cry. I began to fall again to the floor in my family room screaming as loud as I could. My voice sounded strange to me right then I thought "I'm having a stroke". My nephew and son came in and decided that they needed to call 911. The look on my Nephews face as he looked at me was one I will never forget as long as I live. He was really concerned and nervous for his Aunty! I believe I blacked out for a moment because the Emergency personnel frightened me when they all of a sudden appeared in front of me. Within 30 minutes of my stroke I was at Presbyterian Hospital Emergency Room in Charlotte, North Carolina. I spent 5 days in the hospital with 4 being in ICU. I went through Angioplasty to repair the PFO and on the finally home for a long six months of therapies and recovery. I still struggle with the residual effects of the stroke such as Depression, Aphasia, short term memory loss as well as numbness on my left side. My face, arm torso and legs are very numb often times where it inhibits my ability to ambulate up and down stairs. I have my good and bad days but I'm a survivor!!


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