it was the year my life was saved
September 22, 2014 6:40 AM   Subscribe

I had a stroke at 33—On New Year’s Eve 2007, a clot blocked one half of my brain from the other. My reality would never be the same again.

see also the author's blog on her stroke
posted by and they trembled before her fury (23 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Reminds me of Jill Bolte Taylor's story.
posted by dfriedman at 6:45 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

That was beautifully-written and utterly terrifying.
posted by xingcat at 7:08 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's a horrific story - this is my worst fear, of ending up in a Memento-like place where you have to journal things to remember them. I have to say the illustrations are just lovely.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:10 AM on September 22, 2014

This is an interesting detail about how her stroke changed her taste habits:
I’ve been back to 99% with a few palpable differences for about a year now. A couple differences: I now like beer (I used to hate it), I have huge empathy with people who have learning disabilities, especially those who don’t have very visible/obvious disabilities.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:13 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Amazing retelling. I know people with short term memory problems and still undiagnosed learning disabilities that they were born with and are trying to figure out how to retrain to work with instead of around, I wonder if something similar to the moleskin 15/min log might help them.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:14 AM on September 22, 2014

Because my thalamus was damaged, I could not control my crying.

I'm so glad to have a mostly intact thalamus right now. Thanks for posting this - I had no idea stroke can go unnoticed by distracted others, even in such an outgoing person.
posted by hat_eater at 7:15 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, I'm pretty much hyperventilating from terror rn; strokes are pretty much the only thing that really fucking scare me, medically.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

If you like this: Kate Davies (previously) was an academic before she had a stroke at 36. She's posted a lot of good writing about it on her blog in the past four years.
posted by clavicle at 7:29 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend's father is 6 weeks into his recovery from a stroke that left him with significant aphasia, dyspraxia, and still no acknowledgment that he has a right arm. Brains are complicated. Strokes are scary. I don't think this will be the year that saves his life. I am glad Kate Davies is better.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:32 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a massive stroke when I was 28, more than 30 years ago. Because I was young, otherwise healthy, and lucky, I recuperated almost 100%.
posted by mareli at 7:33 AM on September 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

How long did it take, mareli?
posted by maryr at 7:39 AM on September 22, 2014

Similar story previously
posted by bdz at 8:06 AM on September 22, 2014

(Favourited in empathy, PB. This story is popping up in all my feeds, and it's caused a solid day or two now of triggered anxiety. I have to go look at kittens now. The one on the left is Phillip.)
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:15 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated. This: “I think in hindsight, it was your stroke that changed everything for me,” he said really made me think that a person who didn't realise their life-partner was seriously ill for three days wasn't in the habit of paying her much attention.

My father had a stroke at the age of 94 which wiped out a lot of his cognition. He was so old his mental processes were a bit fragile anyway, grounded more in habit and location than active memory. He hasn't recovered fully but it has been pretty amazing to see him rebuilding some of those neural pathways, personality intact: coming down to breakfast unable to recognise the place setting in front of him but by touching things, picking them up, feeling their weight, deducing and asking questions, figuring out what the crockery, the cutlery, the fruit etc all are. An irrepressibly curious (though cautious) methodical, analytical man.
posted by glasseyes at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm reading her stroke blog, and it might just be because I went in knowing she got divorced within a few years of the stroke, but anyway as it progresses you can see all the points where her husband was getting overwhelmed and impatient and it's just depressing I guess.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:36 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

when i was young, we had bands. dave was this short little bass player i hung with, about 10 years younger than me. it was like he came out of the womb playing bass, he just did it intuitively, he was that good. later on, dave had a nice career, touring with count basie's band, playing in the pit orchestra at disneyworld, doing cruise ship gigs and finally settling into a regular schedule playing jazz clubs in new orleans. then one day he had this massive stroke. no more talking. no more playing music. no more friends, because dave has steadfastly refused to see anybody but his wife, brother and mother. i've stopped by from time to time, only to be turned away by his wife. "he really doesn't want anybody to see him this way, i'm sorry." it's just fucked.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

That first link is amazing (and, yes, terrifying); thanks for posting it. Least surprising sentence ever: "My husband and I decided to get a divorce." I try not to be judgmental when reading about people's lives, but if your husband doesn't notice for days that you need medical attention and gets fed up with you because you had a stroke, well, I can't help being judgmental about it. And her "friends" were no bargain either!
posted by languagehat at 10:38 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

In 2010, I ended an unhappy marriage in order to attend university, something I'd wanted to do for twenty years or more and never had the chance. I moved halfway across Canada with my teenaged daughter to start my new life, the first time I had ever lived alone without a partner. I was registered in a good school, to start classes in September. I arrived on July 1. On July 2, I collapsed on the floor after having a morning with a migraine that made thinking or planning next to impossible. Although I tried to crawl (yes, literally crawl) back to my bed, my daughter called an ambulance and saved my life. I was hospitalized for three days, and told I would need extensive rehab and probably not be able to attend university after all. I made an astonishing recovery, being called 'the miracle girl' by my neurologist and I did get to university in the Fall. Now, I looked normal, and I could hold a conversation, and I could attend metaphysics classes and pull down decent marks, but I knew I was still not right in myself. I had problems with impulse control, I was easily confused about finding my way around, I would drift in conversation, reading was harder than it used to be, and a bunch of other stuff, like music sounded different, I became repulsed by certain foods, and I lived in total fear that it would happen again. I had to go back to hospital this year, and it turned out that I have a rare clotting disorder that caused the initial stroke, and a subsequent blood clot on my rear brain. It's my personal fear not that one day I will drop dead, but that I will become disabled to such an extent that I won't be able to read or take care of myself. Fortunately, as long as I continue taking blood thinners, I probably won't have another clotting incident. I'm now off to my philosophy class, the last one of my degree, and I hope to be registered in an MA program by Spring.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:53 AM on September 22, 2014 [31 favorites]

This scares the crap out me, because I came so close to a stroke myself 8 years ago, at 28. I had multiple TIAs (aka mini-strokes, or strokes whose symptoms last less that 24 hours). Each knocked out functionality in the left side of my body to various degrees, and were caused by a giant blood clot in the left side of my brain. I lucked out, my brain healed itself and there are few daily reminders of what happened, but it could've easily gone the other way.

Thank you for the reminder about how lucky I was. Given this kinda craptascular monday I'm having, I needed that to put things back into perspective.
posted by cgg at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know whether this is a good story to read while having a migraine or a bad one. But it's a good story otherwise. I hope my more frequent migraines lately don't mean something terrible.

I once diagnosed a very young (in her twenties) coworker's stroke—I was one of the people who told her, when she was slurring and had a numb arm, that she really needed to go to the hospital now. She's doing great now.
posted by limeonaire at 3:54 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, all my past migraine history is now panic inducing and combined with the weird calf pain I've had since surgery in May has now left me a paranoid mess and tl;dr doctor appointment tomorrow, yay.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:15 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Migraine person, who occasionally has really WEIRD symptoms. Today one of my sinuses must have done something because I heard a pop, felt an immediate stabbing pain in my temple and then heard a sound in my head like a deflating balloon but LOUD. Every time something new like that happens it takes all my self-control to convince myself this isn't the big one, a la Sanford and Sons.
posted by at 8:15 PM on September 22, 2014

Oh, I should add that I had a long history of migraine with visual disturbances and light sensitivity, always within two days of the onset of my period.

And there are changes that happen to you when you have this kind of brain injury, a lot of them. I had changes in personality, likes and preferences, and the general character of my processing. I found I was more empathetic, even to those who were previously unsympathetic, but that I also had more irrational thoughts than before and a harder time assessing risk. I never lost my ability to read or write, but I'm less fluidly verbally articulate than I was before. I lost a bunch of weight, and my left hand, which has always been a rather stupid hand, is now a really stupid hand. It's okay for really deeply 'known' skills like typing or catching a ball, but it's not reliable for holding hot beverages or the dog's leash. I don't limp, but I know my right leg is doing more work than my left one. My already slight acrophobia is now much more intense, with vertigo that wasn't there before.

I guess my point is that stroke changes your brain, and while brains have an amazing plasticity, some changes appear to be permanent, at least in my own case. I don't think I'm much less intelligent than I was before, but I know I really have to work at some things that came far easier before my brain injury, and even at that, I feel really lucky. Before the advent of modern imaging technology, even 30 years ago, I would not even be here. If I'd lived in a country without access to health care, perhaps my daughter would not have called that ambulance. Having had a previous visit to the hospital in my early 30's, where despite stroke-like symptoms, I was sent home with just a Demerol shot for my pain, I'm really glad that there's an increased awareness of stroke and its symptoms, and better diagnostic accuracy in clinical settings. I'd like to know that there were far more successful outcomes like my own.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 9:51 PM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

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