I had a stroke. I’m a healthy 30-year old woman and I had a stroke.
February 4, 2014 5:24 PM   Subscribe

jesus christ i am going to put on a neck brace and NEVER TAKE IT OFF

posted by Merzbau at 5:43 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why has this been in the news a lot lately?
posted by jimmymcvee at 5:47 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This happened to a triathlete in my area a few years back (also pretty young). I've been in a couple races with her since then and it is so inspiring to see her on the course. She can't participate in "official" races again yet because she still needs a recumbent bike, but she and I were in the same swim wave in a friendly local event -- my very first triathlon -- and she helped me through some pretty awful swim panic, caught up to me again on the bike course and cheered me on, and high-fived me as we passed on the out-and-back of the run. Every time I see something like this I am so grateful that she made it through her stroke alive too; she's pretty much single-handedly the reason that I didn't quit triathlon after that first race. Life is so tenuous, guys. Make it awesome.
posted by dorque at 5:55 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

jesus christ i am going to put on a neck brace and NEVER TAKE IT OFF

You could put on a whole body brace and it wouldn't help. It might make it worse.

You live til you die, folks.
posted by angerbot at 6:09 PM on February 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

My stroke affected my left side, and it was the most terrifying thing that's ever happened to me. For a while I couldn't walk, and I couldn't lift my left hand above my head. If my left hand was palm-down on a table I couldn't lift my ring finger at all.

I went through a lot of rehab, and I got back my left hand. I can type again, just as good as I always could. But I walk with a cane now, and even with it I can't walk very well or very far. And I'm gradually losing control over my left leg. At the rate things are going I'll have to use a wheelchair in another year.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:13 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry, Chocolate Pickle. What a terrifying thing to happen to anyone.
posted by xingcat at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I hope you don't mind if I say that I am sorry to hear that, CP.

I had always thought that for mild or moderate cases of stroke, "neuroplasticity" (combined with rehabilitation), allows one to recover to some degree.

If you don't mind me asking, are there any insights as to why you are losing control over your left leg?

My MIL had a stroke at around age 65. She wasn't discovered for about 12 hours (she lived alone) and also did not have the will to commit to rehabilitation - she was depressed about the situation.

So unfortunately she has lost a good deal of her right side. On the other hand, she is otherwise healthy and happy, and is emotionally resilient.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:22 PM on February 4, 2014

I hope I never have a stroke.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:33 PM on February 4, 2014

Wow, read her "unedited draft" of the post. Scary.
posted by KathrynT at 6:36 PM on February 4, 2014

You live til you die, folks.

My mom had a stroke four years ago. She remains unable to speak intelligibly, read, write, walk without assistance, or work anything as complicated as a TV remote or a microwave oven. In the space of one day, she went from being one of those people who still ride bicycles in their 60s, to being unable to do anything she used to enjoy, anything that might occupy her mind, pretty much anything at all besides sit on her bed and go to the bathroom. And she might live another twenty years.

You live until you die. But even once you've made your peace with that idea, strokes are terrifying.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:09 PM on February 4, 2014 [16 favorites]

I had always thought that for mild or moderate cases of stroke, "neuroplasticity" (combined with rehabilitation), allows one to recover to some degree.

So they told me, later. No one gave me even a slight ray of hope at the time, and later I figured out that the reason is: no one knows!

One patient may improve massively, another may not improve in the slightest, or even get worse. They don't want to make any promises because they can't guarantee any result at all.

The low point for me, the point where I was worst off and had the least control, was about five days after the stroke, just before I entered rehab. After that, it began to get better, and after two weeks I could type again and I could walk with a cane. It still hurt to lift my left hand to the top of my head, but that kept improving over the next few months.

It was strange. During the two weeks of rehab, I kept being delighted by small things I got back. One morning I realized I could fully open my left hand. You wouldn't think such a small thing would be worthy of note, but it gave me a great deal of pleasure. I lay there opening and closing my hand, with a big grin on my face. Another day I suddenly realized I could move the fingers of my left hand well enough again to be able to type. (My brother loaned me a laptop and the rehab hospital had wifi for the patients, so I was able to start posting to my blog again.)

It was also a moment of great triumph when I graduated from using a walker to using just a cane.

It could have been worse. It didn't have any effect on my sensory nerves, so no numb spots. It didn't affect my intellect. It didn't affect my hearing or sight. All it did was severely attenuate my ability to move everything on my left side.

Which was bad enough. The doctors classified it as a "minor stroke", and I guess I can see why. But I'd just as soon never have another. So I'm very careful about taking my medications.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:17 PM on February 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

Holy cow you guys. I couldn't even finish reading the comments because I started to feel panicky. I mean, wow. So terrible that anyone has to suffer that. To think it could happen to anyone.
posted by Glinn at 7:22 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the link:

"But did you know you can tear an artery doing almost anything? From sports, to yoga, to cracking your neck, to putting your head back at the hair salon… even from throwing back a shot. So, ya know — be careful!"

Indeed - "Strokes From Neck Injury: Excerpted from HOW TO PREVENT YOUR STROKE by J. David Spence, MD.":

"A special cause of stroke, that is more common in young people, is called dissection of the arteries. The inner lining of the artery peels off and rolls up, and can block the artery, or can be a place where clots form and then break off and embolize downstream.

Dissection of an artery may be spontaneous, or may be related to injury. The vertebral arteries, so called because they run up through channels in the bones of the neck, are particularly susceptible to injury at the top of the neck, where they make a sharp turn and go up through the hole at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord connects to the brainstem (the "foramen magnum"). At that point they are susceptible to injury in car crashes or chiropractic manipulation."

I always keep in mind that while such dissections can be spontaneous, they can also definitely come from yoga - Don’t mess with your neck doing yoga either, and the article referenced in that link is this:

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

She did do yoga shortly before the stroke. It might, or might not be connected. But it's worth keeping in mind, as you do your yoga.
posted by VikingSword at 7:28 PM on February 4, 2014

I have had a series of very small and transient attacks, with no specific cause (I understand why the writer's family pushed for the final test, because an answer now could mean discovery of a treatment later on and at least terminates the wondering) and so I putter on with the awareness that at any moment, I may have another attack or a full on stroke. I am extremely fortunate that my attacks so far have resolved within 24 hours, although I feel pretty shook up and exhausted for a week each time.

It's different for every stroke survivor because the brain is so complex. My TIAs have been different -sometimes one-sided loss of sensation, and once very clearly a Broca's aphasia (we caught it on tape and it is very weird to watch myself in the middle of an attack) where I lost language for a few hours.

I was out with my family shopping and tried to tell my husband that it had happened again, but couldn't communicate it. I knew the concept of what I had to say to him, that we needed to go home immediately. In hindsight, we should have gone to the A&E, but I was sick of being stuck in a hospital at that point. But just standing there, looking at him and trying to make concepts turn into discrete words and then sounds was - it was about as likely as growing wings and flying. There just wasn't a connection. I could understand what he was saying and with some difficulty read and write, but speech was entirely gone. It wasn't like losing access to my voice, it was that my voice did not exist. Later it came back, and it was the very simplest and most concrete things - objects and pronouns. The video is me trying to explain that it was worse earlier in the taxi. I had the object - taxi, that I could say, and better broke through, but I couldn't say worse because the W sound, shaping it with my mouth, just wasn't there. And it didn't occur to me to say opposite of better because that was too complex.

I don't felt panicked during my attacks and rarely in pain. It was frustrating at times and worrying when I could again grasp what had happened, but during the attack and aftermath, which for me is a very very mild version of an actual stroke, like BBQ sauce vs eating an actual hot chili, it is not actually awful. I know from my family that it looks awful on the outside for me to be unable to move or hold things or communicate, but it doesn't feel awful. Sometimes I'm still alert inside and sometimes, I'm drifting and thinking very slowly (I spent several hours during an attack under observation at an A&E staring at a pair of brown roller chairs that I called Llama and Camel in my head, which I thought was the funniest thing ever because Llama kept bumping into Camel.)

I don't aim to be a vegetable post-stroke, but on the other hand, I've come to realise that I could be just as happy and fulfilled with brain damage as I am now, if I had family and friends and something interesting of my ability to do. I would still be me even if me could only sit and snap peas in a bowl.

And yoga is a known stroke risk. One good thing is being able to firmly decline yoga from all my well-intentioned and superfit yoga friends!

Chocolate Pickle, your story has really cheered me up, thank you.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:42 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

But did you know you can tear an artery doing almost anything? From sports, to yoga, to cracking your neck, to putting your head back at the hair salon… even from throwing back a shot. So, ya know — be careful!


So uh, how am i supposed to be careful if any random thing can cause this?

i'm going to go rock back and forth in a corner now.
posted by emptythought at 7:42 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

so, the physical therapist wasn't entirely correct when he said I could pop my neck all I wanted after I had that bulging/herniated disc?

fuck. because i have to do that like 5 times a day.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:47 PM on February 4, 2014

And yoga is a known stroke risk. One good thing is being able to firmly decline yoga from all my well-intentioned and superfit yoga friends!

Totally! Time to stay motionless until further notice. At least I've got Mefi.
posted by telstar at 8:55 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

A really fascinating and scary story, thanks for posting it.

Also, I realize there's a temptation to try to construct some kind of advice or larger narrative over a freak accident like this, and as she is right to point out, this is largely fruitless. But that said, I will never let a chiropractor touch my neck.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:21 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

That she's tall and thin:
I’m a 30-year-old woman. I’m taller than your average girl, probably thinner than your average girl, and more active than your average girl. Yeah I run an ice cream business for a living, but like to think I’m healthier than your average girl, too. No prior medical history. Nothing.
and does yoga (the pursuit of the flexible among us) had me thinking in terms of a disorder which causes too-flexible collagen, such as Marfan's.

And sure enough:
Observational studies and case reports published since the early 1980s show that patients with spontaneous internal carotid artery dissection may also have a history of stroke in their family and/or hereditary connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, pseudoxanthoma elasticum, fibromuscular dysplasia, and osteogenesis imperfecta type I.[6]
However, although an association with connective tissue disorders does exist, most people with spontaneous arterial dissections do not have associated connective tissue disorders. Also, the reports on the prevalence of hereditary connective tissue diseases in people with spontaneous dissections are highly variable, ranging from 0% to 0.6% in one study to 5% to 18% in another study.[6]
Also, she's young:
Among 1,049 patients diagnosed with aortic dissection in a multinational registry, patients with Marfan's syndrome were typically younger and had unique presentations. Despite their younger age at presentation, patients with Marfan's syndrome and aortic dissection had a high mortality rate, similar to patients without Marfan's syndrome, an older patient cohort. Our data support the importance of aneurysm surveillance and prophylactic surgical intervention for patients with Marfan's syndrome to potentially reduce the risk of mortality.
posted by jamjam at 11:37 PM on February 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

I had a friend die at 24 from colon cancer. She was the healthiest person I knew. Shit happens, and you can't prevent everything. I think the wrong takeaway from this is to panic. Don't take outrageous risks but you've still gotta live. Risk is a part of life as doing nothing is risky and so is doing everything.

My grandpa (who is now deceased) had a stroke that took away his ability to speak, to walk and left him with various health issues. That's sad but his story isn't. He learned to communicate differently. He got a cool modern wheelchair. He learned to adapt.

My point is, we never know. And if it does and we don't immediately die, we may find we're capable of more than we thought.
posted by Aranquis at 6:33 AM on February 5, 2014

I had a TIA last year that partially paralyzed my left side. Until I was moved out of the cardiac ward into recovery, that is, & my friends brought me my laptop. From the moment my fingers touched the keyboard I could practically feel my brain rewiring itself to repurpose the computer-using routines I've been burning in over the 30-odd years I've been using them, to pick up the slack & start managing general coordination in my left hand. Relearning how to walk took a bit longer & my left foot still drags just enough for me to notice if I'm trying to move too fast without paying attention to it. The human brain is an amazingly adaptable piece of wetware.
posted by scalefree at 7:29 AM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Strokes are terrible. I work in a neuro ICU and prior to that I worked in the stroke unit. Do not let chiropractors mess with your neck. Know the signs and symptoms of stroke and get to a hospital as soon as possible if you start having symptoms. I've seen tPA do some miraculous things, but the window of time when it can be used is only 4.5 hours from the last time the person was seen well.
posted by brevator at 4:30 PM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player Kris Letang will miss at least six weeks after having a stroke. He's 26. Apparently it's due to a small hole in his heart.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:01 AM on February 7, 2014

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