The morning of January 2, 2017 began like any other. It was the last day of winter break and I had planned to spend all afternoon grading after spending the morning with Mike. We woke up, changed into sweats, and went for a three mile run around my neighborhood in Queens. I was so proud of myself because I had run the fastest I had ever run with him. We came back, made and ate oatmeal and I went to use the bathroom after, leaving Mike with his coffee in the kitchen. I started to feel like my head was cloudy, almost like I was drunk, and I couldn’t think clearly. After washing my hands, I walked out into the hallway and dropped my phone. All of a sudden I couldn’t hold onto it and it had slipped from my hand onto the floor. I reached to pick it up and walked back to my stool in the kitchen. I took a sip of tea from my mug and as I did Mike said “You’re drooling.” Just as he finished saying that, I lost complete control over my body and fell to the floor, unable even to sit up. He grabbed me and propped me up against the fridge, reaching for his phone to call 911. I kept assuring him I was fine, but he insisted saying “You’re slurring your words, you’re not fine.” By the time the ambulance arrived, my head had cleared and felt normal again. They took me to the hospital anyways to make sure I was okay. After checking to make sure I didn’t break my hand during my fall, they were about to send me home when I stood to walk to the bathroom and my legs immediately gave out. They felt like jelly, too weak to stand. Mike carried me to the bathroom and held me up so I could use it (not a sight you want your boyfriend of 2.5 months to witness). After many tests and 24 hours in the ER, they admitted me and we finally found out what it had been - a stroke. I spent the rest of the week there while they made sure there weren’t any other clots and then tried to figure out why a seemingly healthy 29 year-old non-smoker who ran a couple times a week had had a stroke.
Its impossible to know for sure why my body produced that clot, but they think three factors came into play: I was dehydrated from running which thickened my blood, I was on the pill which made me more prone to clots, and I had a PFO they found (a hole in my heart that was supposed to close at birth but never did) which allowed the clot to pass from one side of my heart to the other and up to my brain. That day in the hospital I stopped the pill, started drinking more water and after many opinions from cardiologists and neurologists, had the hole closed exactly five months later on June 2.
I’m doing this walk for many reasons. First to raise money to help those who aren’t as lucky as I was in their recovery post stroke. Secondly to raise awareness about stroke because before it happened to me I didn’t know the signs which could have helped me advocate more and insist in the ER that something was seriously wrong. Thirdly this is a celebration of how lucky I am. I’m lucky to have a mom who slept in the hospital bed with me every single night and who has always been there for me. I’m lucky to have Mike who I learned early on is also someone who would not only always be there but who would be there even when things aren’t easy or pretty. And I’m lucky I was able to come back fighting to walk and now run again :)