We’ve all had unexpected, sudden, and sometimes freak moments that completely change our lives. Sometimes these moments may change our lives for the better and others for the worst. Unlucky for me, on February 9th, I had one of the moments that changed my life for the worst.
Now, to give you some background; on that day, I was otherwise a healthy 25-year-old. Ok.. Enough background for now.
What’s Going On?
First, let’s set the scene; it was around 1:00 am on Thursday, February 9th, 2017. My fiance, Kalynn and I had been living together for about a year by then. Kalynn was working the night shift at a conference center. Most nights, I’m able to sleep through her coming home and getting into bed.
She did as she usually does and took our puppy Yuka out to do her business. This time I didn’t sleep through the noise. I laid in bed with my eyes closed waiting for her to walk out so I could get up to use the restroom. I heard the door close behind Kalynn and Yuka as I sat up on the bed. Before I could stretch I knew something was wrong.
I felt the room spin so hard, my brain could fly out of my head. I instantly buried my head into my pillow to give myself a second to recover. I tried to get up again, this time because I knew I couldn’t go much longer without spewing my dinner. I had to get to the bathroom! With my eyes shut, I somehow crawled to the bathroom, the whole time feeling as though I would be flung across the apartment and through a wall. I got to the toilet in time to not make a mess on the floor. During a break between puking and dry heaving, Kalynn and Yuka walked in. I watched a blurry Kalynn hurry to put Yuka back in her pen while she asked me what was wrong. I wanted to explain what was going on but all I could say was “help”.
I had convinced myself that I was having a migraine and it was going to go away with some rest. “I just have to sleep this off”, I kept telling myself. Well, at around 6:00 am, we concluded that I wasn’t going to be able to shake this one off.
My First Emergency Room Visit
We rushed to the ER in Auburn, WA. Still unable to walk, Kalynn had to carry most of my weight until she found a wheelchair for me to ride in. In the very few moments I could look up as I rolled through the hospital, I could tell that I was getting some disapproving looks from nurses and other patients. Thinking about it now, it’s kind of funny because I probably just looked like I had had too much to drink. After the nurse came in to check my vitals and what seemed like hours, I was finally talking to the doctor. I explained what happened and he confidently diagnosed me. He didn’t think twice about it and said, “you’re having a vertigo episode”. That made sense! He was going to get me some vertigo medication and a one-time pill which would stop my nausea until the vertigo stopped.
I stopped throwing up; the spinning, however didn’t budge. “Ok, I’ll give you a higher dose on the vertigo medicine. But keep in mind that it may still take hours to kick in. It’s best to go home and get some rest in the mean time”, I was told.
This is Definitely Not Vertigo
Fast-forward to February 10, around 6:00 pm: the nausea medicine had by then worn off (meaning I was uncontrollably dry heaving again), I was still spinning, and Kalynn and I were on our way back to the ER. This time, things got a little more serious. We were sent to a dark room, where we waited for a couple hours until I was told I was going to have a CT scan done on my head. Finally, a lady came and took me away, leaving a very confused Kalynn behind. After the scan, I was wheeled back into the cold, dark room to wait for the results with Kalynn.
Brain Tumor? Stroke?
We waited for hours, until a doctor came in to give us a very brief, blunt update. She walked in, introduced herself, skipped small talk, and explained “looking at your brain in the scan we can see something major happened. One of two things happened to you: you either had a stroke, or you have a brain tumor.” She then said goodbye and walked out. Kalynn and I sat in that small dark room for hours. Staring at each other, not able to say a thing. Stroke? Brain tumor? Two horrifying scenarios. Was there a better option? What am I going to do? How am I going to tell my mom, who doesn’t even know I’m in the hospital yet? So many different questions were going through my head. I don’t know how long we sat in that room, but it felt like days.
A different doctor came in some time later and I snapped out of it. She explained that I had had a cerebellar stroke and I was to be transferred to Harborview Medical Center, In Seattle. Before I was put in the ambulance, I got a shot of Valium, which completely stopped all the spinning, and nausea. I should have had this a day and a half ago!
What’s Wrong With Me?
It was now around 1 am, on February 11th. I had dodged many bullets in the past couple of days. All completely unexpected, life changing bullets that I hadn’t thought about even once while being in the hospital. When I arrived in Harborview, doctors were looking at me with amazed expressions on their faces. I went through their ‘look at my finger’ type of tests dozens of times. Doctors would come in groups to make sure I was doing fine. I still didn’t really understand what was wrong… The spinning stopped, can I just go home now? I didn’t realize what had happened to me, until I got up to use the restroom.
What I didn’t understand yet was that I was now laying there with less than half of a functioning cerebellum. The cerebellum controls posture, balance, coordination, and speech. A cerebral stroke causes a person to lose some or all functions. The nausea was a direct effect from the spinning feeling I was going through, caused by the stroke. When the doctors were performing their “touch your nose” tests on me, they were looking for deficits or loss in functions requiring the cerebellum. Before I knew all of this, I told Kalynn I didn’t need any help and made my way to the bathroom. Needless to say, I used the wall all the way there and back. I was later told that it was incredible that I was able to make the trip.
I spent the next couple of days in Harborview where I was evaluated by a lot of different doctors. I want to thank Harborview staff! Everybody was so kind and helpful, literally EVERYBODY made Kalynn and me feel welcome.
It has now been about 3 months since my stroke, and I feel I have made a great recovery so far. I’m still a Project Engineer at a marine contractor in Tacoma, Washington and am able to do most of the things I enjoyed before. However, before the stroke I loved being active and worked out regularly. Since I left the hospital I was warned to stay away from lifting weights. This put a halt to a lot of goals I had set out, and has definitely been the hardest part of my stroke.
Luckily, I have an appointment with my neurologist on June 1st, where I will be reevaluated and hopefully be able to workout again. Make sure you’re subscribed to my email list to get notified when I post a blog!
I would love to become a source for anybody who is recovering from a stroke, or any sort of neck and/or head injury. I am here to share my experience and recovery with y’all, and hope that you will share yours with me.