Well That Was Unexpected

The Weekend started out normal

I spent Friday night at the gym doing a weight workout and then went to the grocery store to pick up some food for the weekend and following week. The workout consisted of a mix of upper and lower body sets, nothing too tough, but it was a challenging workout.

Which is why when I started to get a weak feeling in my left arm I didn’t think too much about it. Often after a weight workout my arms feel weak and fatigued for a little while. Though I thought it was a little weird that the weakness was just on my left side.

As I left the grocery store the left side of my face and tongue started to feel like they were coming off a shot of novacane. That is when I started to get a little worried. As I drove out of the grocery store parking lot I realized that some of the fingers on my left hand felt numb and I started to feel a little foggy.

At this point I was freaking out a little and decided to head to the hospital. Given that my family is 2,000 miles away, I was admittedly pretty nervous about being home if things kept moving the way the were. Thankfully the hospital is just a couple of miles away, and I remember as I explained to the recepeptionist why I was there, that I was having a hard time verbalizing what I was feeling.

Stroke Alert

I was shuffled into triage after which the true gravity of the situation set in when the doctor who examined me and asked a few questions said, “…We’re going to do a stroke alert…”. That sounded really bad to me.

For everyone else in the ER that statement triggered a very comprehensive set of events that filled up my room with more people than I can remember and led to lots poking, prodding, tests, and questions. All of this eventually led to being admitted to the hospital which entailed being woken up every few hours to check vital signs and an MRI of my neck and head at 6am the next morning (thankfully the MRI tech had a choice of music on the headphones and I was able to relax to some Dave Matthews).

The resulting diagnosis from all of this madness was a Transient Ischemic Attack possibly contributed to by a Patent Foramen Ovale. Or in plain English, stroke-like symptoms possibly caused by a small clot passing through a small flap in my heart that never properly closed at birth and going into my brain. YIKES!

By Saturday afternoon I was feeling good and was sent home with instructions to see a Neurologist in a week, take an aspirin every day, and call if there are any other symptoms. Unfortunately, I would be calling.

The Return

Saturday night was pretty typical outside of the challenging conversations with my wife and son who are 2,000 miles away. We obviously wanted to be together but flying on short notice is not cheap. On the one hand, I was feeling good and spending several hundred dollars wasn’t all that appealing. On the other hand, we learned that a TIA can be a pre-cursor to other TIA’s or something more serious in some cases.

Sunday morning came and soon after I got up the symptoms came back, though not as bad this time. I REALLY didn’t want to go back to the hospital. But, after calling the doctor he thought it would be best to move up the time table of seeing a Neurologist and also see a Cardiologist about the PFO. Not what I wanted to hear. So, I called my wife and headed back to the hospital.

The next two days consisted of two more days in the hospital in a department with people who probably averaged 2x my age (not very comforting!), meeting with a Neurologist and Cardiologist, my family flying to Colorado, getting my blood pressure taken every 3 hours and measuring my liquid input (and output via a plastic jug!)

The End Result

The resulting diagnosis is simlar to the first, except that technically a TIA doesn’t leave any damage, so because of the two small areas on my MRI indicating damage, the diagnosis is 2 small strokes, likely caused by the PFO. It was scary when they told me and it’s scary to write about now.

Now the decision is whether or not to close the PFO. Further heart tests will provide more information on how to proceed with that decision.

Some things I learned (which I already knew, but this situation highlighted) are I have an incredible network of family and friends, a very thoughful and understanding group of co-workers, great cholesterol levels, and a resting heart rate of about 50.

All in all, I’m a pretty lucky guy.

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