What You Don’t Know Can Kill You
Steve Frost • ThinkStock)
I’m a big believer in keeping my radio life and my personal life separate. For the most part I’m a very private person and so is my wife. But not in this case.
Sometimes things occur in your private life that — while you would prefer they remain private — revealing the information publicly might have a positive effect on others in similar situations.
Non-Stop Medical Issues
It’s been a rough five years for my wife. Five years ago, she broke her hip and was forced to retire from work.
Then a series of unexplained falls and blackouts. She had no memory of Christmas 2015.
She broke her back, her leg, and after almost 18 months later, and test after test, we found she was suffering from a problem processing liquid that affected her sodium levels and her balance.
We were excited to finally have an answer and to go through a full year with no falls.
Then Cancer Came Calling
While at the hospital for an unrelated matter a small mass was accidentally discovered in her lung that concerned her doctor. There was a lot of discussion about taking part of the lung of a 68-year-old, 5’1” 105-pound woman with COPD.
But the procedure was successful and one third of her lung was removed and while needing oxygen now and then she is able to thankfully go through physical therapy and daily life without it.
And recent checkups thankfully show no cancer re-occurrence.
Strokes Come Next
Most of us are familiar with the more conventional stroke where the symptoms are more dramatic. Slurring of speech, loss of motion or paralysis on one side of the body, loss of the ability to smile, loss of balance, blurred or double vision.
Many people never recover their normal way of life after a stroke. However, this is not the only kind of stroke.
I’m talking about my wife’s experience with mini-strokes and the dangers of not recognizing the less obvious signs.
What Is A Mini-Stroke?
One Monday morning my wife is walking to the couch carrying a small plate with a sandwich. The plate is tipped toward the floor and the sandwich is ready to fall.
She didn’t even notice it. In hindsight she realized her left leg was not moving as well as her right leg.
The next day she was fine. No problem. But again, in hindsight, how could we have been so blind to these obvious signs?
At physical therapy four days later upon hearing her description of the previous Monday the staff rushed her to emergency where is was discovered she’d had a mini-stroke four days earlier.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini-stroke) is a short-lived stroke that gets better and resolves spontaneously.
It is a short-lived episode (less than 24 hours) of temporary impairment of brain function that is caused by a loss of blood supply.
A TIA causes a loss of function in the area of the body that is controlled by the portion of the brain affected.
The loss of blood supply to the brain is most often caused by a clot that spontaneously forms in a blood vessel within the brain (thrombosis) and usually dissolves quickly.
However, it can also result from a clot that forms elsewhere in the body, dislodges from that location, and travels to lodge in an artery of the brain (emboli).
Arterial spasm and, rarely, a bleed into brain tissue are other causes of a TIA. Many people refer to a TIA as a "mini-stroke."
So Now That We Know — Everything’s OK? — Wrong.
I get up one morning a few weeks later to get my morning coffee and my wife has two black eyes, a sore nose, and a scrape on the chin.
Our first thought was I rolled over in the night and smacked her. Or, our medium sized dog might have hit her jumping into bed.
Once again, a hospital visit confirmed she had had another mini-stroke and fallen face first, got up, went to bed, and had no memory at all of what happened.
Even when she looked in the mirror the next morning she was shocked she had no memory of what happened or where.
This is when I really got scared. There’s no way I could help her if I’m asleep or not at home. Mini-strokes don’t always happen when or if you think you’re prepared to deal with them.
Some Final Thoughts
Where we go from here is uncertain. Mini-strokes often turn into full blown strokes within a year unless some action is taken.
Obviously, we’re both working to do all we can to keep that from happening.
I’m very proud of my wife. She’s a fighter. Most people faced with this much adversity would have thrown in the towel and given up — Not her.
The point of this lengthy piece is to alert people to the dangers of mini-strokes. They’re hard to spot but can be extremely dangerous.
There are a lot of people in cemeteries that shouldn’t be there. They missed some sign or ignored some pain.
If you don’t feel right about something — don’t ignore it. We’ve learned the hard way that chalking it up to age or some other pie-in-the-sky explanation could result in a very tragic irreversible event.
Now we’re on guard.
If this journey helps just one person, it’s well worth pulling back our curtain.