Strokes are serious, don’t ignore the signs — Finale

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Nov 162021

This is the third and final installment of recounting the three strokes I had in 2009 and how they changed my life.

Part 2 ended with the drive back to Connecticut from Maine where I’d spent most of my last vacation in the hospital.

The Staff Is What Makes A Hospital Great

Once home, my kids and Ashley brought me directly to that big New Haven hospital, where the doctor looked at my MRI/MRA images and totally disregarded what he saw. The stroke CD showing the collapsed artery, the “doctor” told me that I did not have a stroke, and I was experiencing problems from diabetes.

Up until then, I had NEVER heard anyone tell me that I had diabetes, even though I had daily blood tests at previous hospital stays. I asked the “doctor” where he went to college and told him if he needed help reading the results from the hospital in Maine, that I could help him. He declined my offer, insisting there was nothing there, yet, before I got to his office, I forgot how to operate the elevator. I stood and stared at the number panel and didnt know what to do.
“Mount Desert Island Hospital is NOT Yale,” he told me in his best Charles Emerson Winchester III (from MASH) condescending tone — No, but I would go THERE for treatment any day before I’d trust anyone in New Haven again.

I left the hospital without checking out, disgusted with that “doctor’s” attitude and I asked my primary doctor to refer me to a “real” neurologist. I’ve never trusted that big reputable hospital since.

A week passed and my awesome new neurologist hooked me up with the “best neurosurgeon” at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Which brings me to “My Independence Day.”

My ex-husband accompanied me to New York to meet with Dr. Yves Gobin at NYPH, and after going over the images from Mount Desert Island Hospital, he showed me the trouble spot where an artery had collapsed and was restricting blood flow in my brain.

Dr. Gobin gave me a game plan and a week later, on November 16, 2009, I went under the knife, a stent, he decided was not necessary after he explored through my arteries and learned that my brain was starting to heal itself by rerouting blood flow to critical places without having to use the damaged area.

Except for a couple of minor scares early on after the surgery, my mind has been at ease for the past 12 years. I take a handful of maintenance drugs every day to keep things in check.

I thank the doctors who believed in me and took my “frivolous” complaints seriously,  especially, the staff at Mount Desert Island Hospital and Dr. Gobin. Thanks to you I am still a functioning human being. Not as sharp as I’d like to be, but functioning.

The only lasting complications I have after three strokes, is short-term memory loss, reading comprehension, and some loss of organizational skills, and 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. Other than these, I’m doing fairly well.

A Different Person

I am now a much different person than I was pre-strokes. I used to be a voracious reader, but these days, even the simplest text can leave me confused and I have to read things over and over again in order to get the gist of what it’s saying. The cognitive disabilities have stunted my storytelling skills and writing for a website is much less satisfying than the expectations I had and found easy during my newspaper career.

I used to enjoy going out to parties, and events and meeting new people, but now crowds make me uncomfortable and I would much rather be alone. Even one-on-one outings with friends are difficult. If I have something to do, it often takes a lot for me to get out and do it.

I have terrible anxiety attacks now. In the past few years, I have driven for an hour to get to an event, and once I arrive, It’s not unusual for me to turn around and go back home.

If I can drive myself somewhere instead of commuting, that’s a blessing, I can leave rather than hang around.

Unusual MRI still – the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, what’s the point? Strokes are serious, don’t ignore the signs like I did. If I had gone to the doctor when my foot started dragging behind on the treadmill at the gym, or paid more attention when I kept having headaches or tripping over my feet when I took my golden retriever for a walk (these came with the TIAs) or even if I had gone to the hospital on that Tuesday when I was clearly having the first stroke instead of waiting several days hoping it would go away, maybe I would still be comfortable going out into the world like I used to.


Apr 202020

Since the Coronavirus crisis began in our state we’ve been preparing for this, but now, the time has come. At 8 p.m. tonight, Monday, April 20, we will be required to wear masks or some kind of face-covering when in grocery stores, pharmacies, or other tight spaces where social distancing are not necessarily guaranteed. 

I’ve heard many stories about people who’ve gone to stores like Job Lot or Shop Rite and have worn a mask and tried their best to keep the proper distance from other customers, only to have an unmasked individual nearly plow them down as they round the corner or rush down an aisle going the “wrong way” because they don’t take the virus as seriously.

I’ve been locked away in my house for 40 days, and it has been 40 days since I’ve gotten a hug from my granddaughter. A beloved aunt died over the weekend and I can’t get together with the family to mourn her death or celebrate her life. I am in desperate need of money, but that won’t come unless I can get out. Yet, I know that if we open everything up prematurely just because we’re anxious, it would be a huge mistake, and the last 40 days would have been for nothing. and we will most likely just jump into the second phase of this outbreak, which would mean more isolation, businesses being closed even longer, schools being closed indefinitely, and healthcare workers, first responders and others on the front lines continuing to risk their lives.

Thank goodness CT has the super-fast test now, (less than 15 minutes instead of 10 days), and that’s a HUGE step in the right direction.

Make sure your mask fits properly, it shouldn’t slip down below your nose or expose your mouth. If you’re making a mask, use tightly woven fabric with double or triple layers. I put 4 layers AND a filter in my homemade masks, and a wire in the bridge of the nose to keep it snug and in place. Wash your mask after you use it and don’t touch it while you’re wearing it. Wash your hands when you take it off.

Be ridiculously careful, and stay safe. Some day this WILL be over.