This is a column that I wrote in 2009 when I was the editor of the Amity Observer newspaper.
To recap, 10 years ago I had a series of transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or mini-strokes leading up to actual strokes which have left me with some lasting complications — most noticeable are the seizures.
This is the second in a series of three columns that I’m publishing 10 years after the original run date.
Originally published on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009
It’s been exactly six weeks since my doctor called to tell me that I had a stroke.
The hours and days before and after a blood clot traveled up my carotid artery and split off into two different sections of my brain had quite an impact on my life and who I am today.
I am extremely fortunate that I didn’t lose any motor skills and the residual effects of the stroke are minimal and to some, unnoticeable.
The hardest thing for me was not being able to do my job for the past six weeks.
After 42 years of non-stop working, I don’t know how to sit around and not work. I had the biggest newspaper route in the Milford Citizen newspaper company when I was 10 and kept it throughout my high school years, delivering my papers every day by either walking or riding my bicycle.
I then went right into the working world taking a full-time job at a factory when I was 18. But I realize that for my health I can’t go back to the frantic 24/7 pace I’ve had for the past 10 years.
Even in the hospital, I had my laptop computer, studied my Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) slides with my neurologist, kept up with family and friends on Facebook and, yes, even wrote a column about my stroke experience before I left.
My friend, Jill, has been giving me advice on how to fulfill my obligation to the paper and find time for myself.
She and my daughter both are paying attendtion, and let me know if I seem to be falling back into my old routine.
My five-day stay in the hospital was pretty intense. My treatment included four MRIs, an ultrasound of my carotid arteries and even having a camera lowered down my esophagus so the doctor could have a close-up look at my heart. There were constant blood glucose checks, and I was on a heart monitor. It was fascinating watching the doctors try to figure out what had happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
My regular physician seemed more worried about the anemia and my extremely low iron count once I got back home. The normal iron level isa count of 65, mine was down to 8, and sealing all my energy and making my heart work that much harder.
I’ve spent countless hours on the Internet, studyting everything from what foods offer the most iron and what foods best help iron absorb into your systam. Spinach, you think? You might be surprised at what I found. Although high in iron, the iron in spinach is hard to absorb and might actually block iron absorption from other sources.
Following my doctor’s directions, I nearly tripled my iron count up to 26 in a matter of six weeks. It was a lot of work.
Among the orders I received upon my release from the hospital were minimal bed rest and walk as much as I could. I was advised to call my doctor if I was short of breath, dizzy or overly tired or confused. I ended up in the hospital emergency room three days after my extended stay and underwent more tests and X-rays to make sure there were no blood clots in my lungs.
In the past six weeks, my dog, Baron, and I have had a date each day for a regular walk either at the Orange Fairgrounds, around our neighborhood, or on the Milford Green, which is easier on his paws. The weather has been perfect for our daily jaunts, not too hot, not too wet.
The bottom line is, I don’t really feel like myself anymore. I’m less sociable, by no means carefree. I’m much quieter than I was. And I often struggle for the right words. My speech pattern is choppy. I pause between words in nearly every sentence and become distracted when I’m talking to someone face-to-face. But I do pretty well during telephone conversations.
I’m not really organized and I no longer have the sense of urgency that is important in this job.
I get stuck on some words, further complicating my life. Stories don’t come easily, and I spend up to two hours on something simple and familiar like this column.
Still, I’m not complaining. I realize that I could be paralyzed or unable to speak like so many other stroke victims. But I have had none of that.
I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I have to ease myself back into the routine of writing stories every week, making my deadline and designing an interesting layout for the paper. Currently, I have the support and understanding of my bosses and help from so many co-workers.
I haven’t been around for a while, so if you see me out in public and I’m a bit slow in answering simple questions, don’t be annoyed, don’t be concerned. it’s just the way I am right now. But I’m told that it should improve in time as my brain works out the issues and heals from the injury.
As I retyped this column I realized that very little had changed in the past 10 years.
I lost Baron in 2012, but aside from that, the personality changes that are described here still stand. I am a much different person than I was pre-stoke. The seizures hold me back quite a bit and it’s frustrating when I can’t do all the things that I did automatically back then. Memory issues really get to me, too.
The big mystery is why, after all the blood glucose tests doctord did back in 2009, did it take another 3 years for someone to diagnose my diabetes? Or at least clue me in about it. Had I known back then what I know now, I could have gotten a handle on iit early on.