Friday morning seems like ages ago, yet like yesterday. I woke up like normal to Brooke asking for breakfast and telling me “the sky’s awake! “ Little Kev followed her through the kitchen and they ate their cereal while watching cartoons. I poured my coffee and started in on my emails. Everything felt normal. Then, I noticed that my eyes were having trouble focusing on my emails, but I didn’t think much of it. A few minutes later I started feeling it more and more. I stood up to get a bottle of water from the fridge and I realized I felt incredibly dizzy like I was about to pass out. I frantically searched for my phone and had Brooke help, because I was nervous about passing out alone with the kids. Thankfully, Brooke quickly found it and I dialed my mom.
I explained to my mom that I just didn’t feel right. I felt dizzy and my vision was blurry. She thought my blood sugar might be off, so she had me eat some crackers and applesauce. I called our new neighbors and again, thankfully, she came right over with her daughter to stay with me until my mom arrived. Over the next thirty minutes I felt slightly better. We had great conversations, our kids played and then my mom arrived. Only a few minutes after my mom arrived, my vision began to worsen and I felt like I was going to black out or pass out again. Everything began to go black and I franticly told her to call 911.
I have never called 911, so I was extremely nervous to tell my mom to make the call, but with my vision going completely black and feeling so dizzy, I felt helpless. The paramedics swiftly arrived and began asking us questions. For about two weeks, I had been experiencing a lot of neck pain and even went to my primary care doctor. He prescribed some pain medication and muscle relaxers. At that point, everyone assumed my neck pain was due to stress from moving. After learning this, the paramedics began wondering if I was having an allergic reaction to one of the new medicines.
They quickly decided to take me to the hospital and by this point, Kevin was on the phone with them getting all of the details as he was leaving work. I took my first thirty minute ambulance ride to the hospital were they began checking me in to the ER. The entire time, my vision was blurred and black – I couldn’t see anyones faces, but could make out shapes.
As I laid on the stretcher in the ER, my vision began to completely turn black and my entire left side went numb. At this point, I was insanely scared and honestly thought I was dying. Everything was tingling and numb, even my teeth. I frantically called for the paramedics and explained everything was going numb on my left side and my entire vision was gone.
They got me in a room, and my vision slowly became blurred again. By this time, Kevin was there and my mom. A Neuro doctor came in very quickly and began testing my neurological symptoms. I will always remember listening to her instructions for each task, and knowing I was failing each test as she gave them to me. I had no coordination of my left side, because it was entirely numb. My mom explained that she thought I was very stressed and the doctor looked her right in the eyes and said “Ma’am we are way passed stressed”. In this moment, everything started sinking in to everyone in the room that something was very wrong.
She explained several things that could possibly be happening, all of which sounded incredibly scary. They quickly wheeled me for a CT of my brain and were closely monitoring my heart due to my resting rate sitting in the 140s. After a quick scan, I was wheeled back to the room and the ER doctor walked in and said “Good News, we found it”. He slowly began to explain that I had a Bilateral Vertebral Artery Dissection.
Bilateral Vertebral Artery Dissection. Over the course of a few doctors, we learned what this meant. Essentially, two arteries in the back of my neck dissected (frayed, had damage, closed, etc) which caused decreased blood flow to my brain, which caused a blood clot in the P3 section of my brain, which then caused three strokes.
Yes, THREE strokes. I have to keep saying it out loud, because it sounds so crazy. I am 28 years old, I am perfectly healthy, I have no conditions, I had 3 strokes. They typically see this type of thing happen when there is trauma to the neck, however, sometimes, it just happens with no explanation. My neck pain began Valentine’s night driving to dinner. There is no explanation for why/how my dissections happened.
Moving forward they did several more CT’s and MRI’s and an Angiogram to determine the extent of the damage to my arteries and come up with a game plan. In the midst of these scans, I also had a bubble test done on my heart due to my high resting heart rate. My cardiologist (yes now I have a cardiologist too), informed us that I am in the 20% of the population that has a Congenital Heart Defect. Essentially, I have a hole in my heart that never closed at birth. They concluded that it did not play a role in any of the events. We just happen to find out this new information about my body. It most likely will never cause me any problems, especially since we know about it now.
After all of my scans and procedures were done, my neurologist and my neurosurgeon determined that my arteries should heal on their own in 3-6 months. I am on blood thinners and other preventative medicine while they heal. I can’t lift the kids or anything over 10 pounds until my neck pain is gone.
Thankfully, with my strokes, I regained all function back while in the hospital except my eye sight. I can see, however, everything is pretty blurry and my peripheral vision was effected. My doctors expect me to regain my sight over time. Also, the part of my brain that deals with dizziness was effected so another side effect is that I feel dizzy a lot and have to rest. Essentially, it will just take time for my brain to “heal” or create new pathways to return back to “normal”. I also get tired really easy.
We are adjusting to our “new normal” for now and all of the challenges that come along with it.
In the past several years, so many things have happened in our families that were unexpected. We have seen sickness upon sickness, cancer upon cancer, death upon death. Life looks very different that we all expected. So what do we do now?
I read an amazing article last week before all of this happened that really spoke to me about this. When life doesn’t look the way you thought or think it should:
“Weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” – John Piper
He is good, and He is working. Have faith, believe and pray.
So, as we head into the unknown of the next several months of healing, we are thankful. Thankful for my amazing team of doctors. Thankful for my progress so far. Thankful for our family. And just thankful for our life. Thank you all from the bottom our hearts for all of your thoughts and prayers. They mean so much and we just ask for continued prayers over my healing and sight.