National Stroke Awareness Month: My Stroke – the Beginning

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and as part of the effort to make people aware of stroke, I’m going to share my own experience.

Many people think it’s something that happens to old people, and the occurrence rate is certainly higher among the elderly. However, stroke (a “brain attack”) can happen at any age. There are risk factors for stroke, but I had a stroke at age 45 without any risk factors. My stroke was caused by a chiropractic manipulation – either the chiropractor twisted my neck too far and cut off the blood supply to the brain or he twisted too hard and tore the vertebral artery. The treatment was the same, and determining exactly what happened could have caused another stroke, so we’ll never know exactly what happened.

I was sitting on a stool, and the chiropractor was standing over me. I remember him twisting my neck, then I became dizzy and had the sensation that I was hanging upside down from the ceiling. I felt hot and cold at the same time. He told me to lay on the table, just a step away.

He helped me up, but I fell onto the table, face-down. I kept saying my body was heavy and I couldn’t turn over. Of course, I’ve always been overweight, so my body was always heavy, but this felt different. I didn’t understand what had happened, but I knew something was terribly wrong.

The chiropractor started massaging the back of my neck with an electric instrument. I started throwing up over and over and over again. I begged him for help, but he ignored me.

After an eternity, he excused himself, and I heard him in the other room calling my husband. He told Jack I had a bad case of the flu that had affected the balance in my ear, and he didn’t think it was safe for me to drive myself home. I screamed, “I can’t drive myself home. I can’t even move!” But he continued to ignore me.

When my husband arrived, the chiropractor got on my right side and my husband got on my left side, and they carried me to the car. The chiropractor handed me a towel because I was still vomiting. All the way home, I kept telling my husband I thought I was dying. But he ignored me.

When we got home, Jack came to the passenger side of the car to help me out. That’s when he discovered I couldn’t move. He managed to get me into the house in a fireman’s carry and called the doctor. The doctor said to call EMS and get to the emergency room immediately.

The ambulance ride was terrifying. I couldn’t move. My head was spinning. I was throwing up. I could understand everything that the technicians said, but they also ignored me when I answered their questions or said anything. I heard the sirens and saw lights zooming by – actually the ambulance was moving and the lights were stationary, but they seemed to zoom.

In the emergency room, I was wheeled into a cubicle and hooked up to machines. People swarmed around my bed, doing mysterious things to my body and the equipment attached to it. I couldn’t see what was happening around me. Being flat on my back and unable to raise up had something to do with the problem, but what I could see above me was distorted and unfocused. The jerky images seemed to be repeated four or five times. I couldn’t feel anything.

A machine monitored my blood pressure. Suddenly I heard a voice say, “We need the blood pressure machine for the heart attack in bed 3.” Another voice answered, “No, we need to keep it here for the stroke in bed 1.” This conversation went back and forth for what seemed like forever but was probably only seconds. I remember thinking one of us was going to die because they didn’t have another machine.

They compromised and each used the machine for a few minutes. While the machine was hooked up to “the heart attack in bed 3,” a nurse stood and manually monitored the blood pressure of “the stroke in bed 1” – me – and then she would get the machine and “the heart attack’s nurse monitored him (or her, I have no idea).

I screamed, “I’m not a stroke. I’m a person. I’m Lillie.” But again I was ignored.

I couldn’t understand everything that was said in the blur of motion and sounds going on around me, but finally I made out a few things: stroke, can’t talk, don’t know how severe the brain damage is …

I realized that all the words I thought I had spoken – begging the chiropractor for help, telling my husband I thought I was dying, answering the medical personnel’s questions – had never come out of my mouth. They were clear in my mind, but nothing but moans to everyone else.

After hours of machines and tests and fear and confusion, I was finally put in a room late at night. The next morning, I woke up to find a neurologist standing at the foot of my bed.

“You do know that chiropractor did this to you, don’t you?” he asked. He then explained that I was dizzy and throwing up and couldn’t raise my head off the pillow because the balance center in my brain stem had been destroyed. I couldn’t move my right side because it was completely paralyzed. I had lost all sensation on my left side. I couldn’t speak, and my vision was distorted and multiple because of damage to the optic nerve. “You’ve had a rare Wallenberg syndrome stroke that affects every part of your body. If we don’t see significant improvement in the next three days, you could be like this for the rest of your life.”

At that moment, I vowed we would see significant improvement in three days.

Continued in My Stroke: The Next Three Days.

See Series and Related Posts under the heading of Stroke for the rest of the posts in the series.

[tags]stroke, National Stroke Awareness Month[/tags]

Share this!