How Does Stroke Feel?
One day during therapy, a student therapist asked me “Do you remember how it felt?” She was asking me about my stroke. I realized that I had not really told anyone (other than my husband), what I felt, how it felt, and what I was aware of/not aware of during the period I was actually having my stroke. Although everyone “feels” it differently, I think it’s important that the “outside world” know (especially the medical staff), what the patient is going through.
Please note: I tell you I waited to go to ER. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t! Know the symptoms of stroke and ACT FAST!
I woke up the morning of March 16, 2012 planning on getting ready to go to work. Three months earlier, I had returned to work taking a part-time job as a cashier at Goodwill. My boys were pretty much self-sufficient, and I wanted to “do something”. I was enjoying my work and had heard that I was possibly going to be offered the job of head cashier.
On that morning, I just “didn’t feel right”. That’s the only way I can explain it. I had, as my husband reminded me, told him for about a week now, that I felt “weird”. Nothing I could pinpoint, no fever, no pain, just odd. As I sat on the couch that morning drinking my coffee, I realized that my chest felt slightly sore and tight, like I had a loose band around it. I went upstairs and immediately took an aspirin and called my husband at work. He & I went back/forth about him coming home to take me to the ER. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to get there and find it was nothing, and have a huge medical bill!
I told my husband I would give it 10 minutes and if it didn’t go away, I’d call him back. Even though the chest pressure started to subside, I noticed a different symptom starting: my right arm started aching. Now I knew that “most” times, heart attack symptoms occur on the left side, but I also knew that women had different symptoms of heart attack than men. I phoned my husband and told him to come get me!
When he got home 15 minutes later, the symptoms hadn’t gone away. They weren’t worse, but they were still there. Our local hospital is only 10 minutes up the road, so off we went.
Remember it only took us 10 minutes to get to the ER parking lot. As we pulled into the lot, things started changing, FAST! I told my husband in a panicked voice, (he later said that my speech had just started to slur) that the right side of my head & neck were tingling and felt like they were going numb. I was getting seriously scared at this point. By the time we walked (don’t remember that) into the lobby of ER, all I recall is the attendant asking “why are we seeing you today?”. As my husband says, it went downhill fast after that. They couldn’t understand me because my speech became slurred. I couldn’t stand. I honestly do not remember a solid sequence of events in the ER. I remember bits & pieces of those moments that come back. My husband says that they got me back to the exam room real fast. I don’t remember how, when or even moving.
What I do remember is important though, as I think all stroke patients must go thru this in some way or another? I remember laying on the gurney, lots of lights, and having a lot of people talking, moving equipment, and most of all, my husband standing next to me, holding my hand looking scared. I remember people asking me questions. The crappy part is that I do remember “wanting” to answer, but not being able to. I remember a doctor (I assumed) telling my husband he needed to step out of the room so they could examine me, and that they thought I was having a stroke. I remember hearing my husband crying, leaning over me and telling me he loved me and then he stepped out.
My memory is fuzzy at this point, but as I said, bits & pieces are there. People asking me my name, asking me to lift my arms, my legs, move my toes, etc. I remember hearing two guys talking about what they were gonna do that weekend (I had my stroke on a Friday morning), and thinking “Shut the hell up! Don’t you know I’m scared to death that I won’t be alive tonight, and you’re talking about weekend plans!” I couldn’t vocalize or move correctly, and I was pissed!
I also remember that my entire right side felt gone, just gone! My head on the right side felt tingly like when your leg falls asleep. I knew my mouth drooped because when I went to lick my dry lips, they wouldn’t move (like having Novocaine at the dentist), and my tongue wouldn’t cooperate. I had a battery of tests; MRI, CT scan, etc.. I only remember the MRI because that’s when I realized I had just then, become EXTREMELY claustrophobic! I had never had a problem before, but I did now. And there was no way I was gonna get in that damn tube! After ordering some meds to relax me, I was able to get thru it.
I can tell you this now because for a long time I couldn’t say it: Having a stroke for me, was like being locked in a coffin with my mouth taped shut, and not being able to scream for help! My brain seemed to be working during the stroke, or trying to, but I couldn’t get my body, my mouth, or my voice to tell people what I needed! It was the scariest, most horrific episode of my life.
Over the next several days, although my memory was fuzzy (hell, it still is), I do remember being in the hospital room with my husband. I remember people coming and going, therapists assessing my abilities, doctors talking about therapy, and at-home care, etc…
I remember coming home (too soon in my opinion) and trying to “suck it up” and say to myself “everything will be fine”. I couldn’t speak correctly, my memory was shot. Hell, I couldn’t remember my own kids names or birth dates! My right arm & leg didn’t work and we live in a two-story house with the bedrooms on the upper floor!
But, as time went by, as it always does, me and my family have learned to adapt to the changes needed to live our lives. I have come to realize that everyone, whether they have had a stroke or not, must know that life is just a series of events that have us re-learning and re-adapting every day.
I am here. I have my family & friends. And I love them and they love me! That is what life is.