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Greg S.


An Unexpected Change

Now for about 20 years time, I was relatively healthy with no real major health issues. Come September 11, 2011 was a day that would end up changing my life forever. Now I didn't have the usual stroke, as it was a rare stroke Lateral Medullary Syndrome also known as Wallenberg Syndrome (Vertebral Artery Dissection). There is belief that my stroke might have been caused from the Kingda Ka rollercoaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. A few days after being there I started complaining about neck pain and made an appointment with nurse practioner at my family doctor's office. I was told it was Cobblestone and/or neck strain that I should take Aleve and put a warm compress on it. After another week or so I was still having symptoms and did have a follow up appointment which I had cancelled due to work. Saturday, September 10, 2011 I was having new symptoms that had me feeling funny almost like vertigo and what felt like sinus issues. So I had taken Aleve and some sinus meds together thinking that might relieve the symptoms.

Sunday came and symptoms got worse with vertigo, dizzyness, etc. I decided to go over to my sister's house to watch a football game. Once there I was complaining about my neck, breaking into sweats and vertigo. After the game, we had dinner at my parents house. Well I had eaten an I went and sat down. I was still feeling same symptoms and I thought maybe my blood sugar was low, so we tested that and also decided to take my blood pressure but both seemed fine. I started to make my way home about 6:30pm, about three minutes into my ride a sensation came over me and I felt like I couldn't swallow anymore. I pulled over and called my parents telling them I couldn't swallow and thought I might be having a heart attack. My mom told me to stay there and they would be there in a few minutes, but I had gotten off phone and decided to make my way back to my parents house. Once I hit the driveway and stopped the car, got out and went in to house and sat down trying to calm down.

My parents had called 911, ambulance arrived maybe about 15 minutes after which they gave me Adavan to try to calm me, they took vitals and those seemed to be fine they determined. I then walked to the ambulance and settled in but from what they gave me as we were leaving made me so out of it I don't remember much arriving and being at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. Only thing I remember is going for a GI test September 12th and complaining of a massive headache and it hurting really bad on my right side of my head. Over 18 hours later, it was determined that I had a stroke and was transferred to Jefferson Hospital. Being there I remember having major hiccups and lots of spitting up. Also remember I had a peg tube put in for feeding after was determined I couldn't swallow good enough yet. After about a week and half at Jefferson, I was then transferred to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital for three weeks as well for rehab, therapies, etc. I ended up coming home in October, homebound starting in-home therapy in a couple weeks. To being able to eat again around Thanksgiving 2011 and weeks later getting my feeding tube out. Eventually I moved up to having outpatient therapy, as I moved along in recovery. Keep in mind I couldn't walk on my own until months later in my recovery as things got stronger. Having to relearn in different steps, first a wheelchair, walker, to a cane. Eventually walk though it's still not totally normal gait by any means.

This stroke has left me with a lot of issues. Examples include the loss of temperature sensation on my left side and pain tolerance is higher on that side as well. I developed anxiety and stress levels that are more common in an older person. I have Horner's syndrome of my left eye and sometimes have to battles bouts of vertigo, which can be severe at times. One of the most annoying issues I have to deal with is recalling things due to short term memory loss. To help minimize this inconvenience, I've had to start writing and organizing lists, thoughts, tasks, etc.

Another hurdle that came into my life after this stroke. Is the summer after the stroke I was in the hospital for an overnight stay and it was determined that I had a pseudo-aneurysm in my right carotid artery. At this time, there hasn't been any change in size to the pseudo-aneurysm, thankfully.

In November 2013, I had a scare in the early morning hours and had to go to Reading Hospital's ER. I was having severe symptoms of vertigo, which including nausea and sweating. I had various tests done on me, including a cat scan (due to my background history of stroke). Well, some 11 hours had passed and they were just going to send me home. I spoke up, once again having to defend myself and the fact that something was really wrong with me. The doctor on the second shift didn't believe me at first until he started to manipulate my body and make me move my head from side to side. He noticed my eyes, which is weird since the first doctor didn't so much as look at my eyes to check for vertigo. They decided to keep me overnight for observation. So the question is why did it take so long to diagnose this? This is why my frustration with this system has me so upset. In the course of two years, I had to suffer through my symptoms when people around me where telling the doctors what to really check for. How many times does a person have to say, "I think he's having a stroke", or "I've had vertigo before", for someone in the medical field to listen?

As young stroke survivors, I feel 'we' have even more stress in trying to maintain our lifestyles, compared to the older age brackets. My question is once you have a stroke, must you live below your level you were at financially before the life altering event. What about if you still want to prosper in your life and look to have that American Dream with a significant other? You don't want to sit around being a vegetable, and instead want to work doing what defines you as a person.


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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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