Tag Archives: stroke

What Becomes of a Broken Heart?

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What Becomes of a Broken Heart?

 

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When I had a stroke I often wondered if others would understand more clearly what the aftermath of a silent killer was like if stroke or heart attack survivors had a visible affliction like a broken leg.  I have been the recipient of both a stroke and a heart attack, and through nothing but sheer luck, their powerful silence did not kill me.

Strokes and heart attacks don’t run in my family–cancer does–and for the last 20 years I have been the last family member standing. It wasn’t the load that broke down this time–it was how I carried it. Inner stress runs through my veins every single day, and I was born a worrier, come from a lineage of worriers, and will sadly leave a legacy of more worriers. I was raised to believe that it’s our family’s duty to worry about everyone else and I proudly carry on the tradition. Each day I try to make a difference, but am in no way an overachiever or I would have been one of the folks putting in my artery stents Wednesday night.

I think most of us know what heart attack symptoms are backwards and forwards, but I mistook the first signs Sunday night as indigestion. I knew what was happening wasn’t normal, and  I had a good idea of what was going on- but I was too busy drowning in the river of denial to see what was hitting me in the face–or to my heart. That’s right, I sat there trying to concentrate on the The Hand Maiden’s Tale ignoring the first heart attack. Yes, the first heart attack.

Wednesday night the pain in my chest, the nausea, and the shortness of breath returned again with a vengeance, and this time it did not go away. Again I balked going to the hospital for the sole reason that my British family raised me to ” have a stiff upper lip, chin up and never be a bother”. Seeing I don’t recall any of them ever experiencing heart attacks I sensed that none of then had ever felt jolts of electricity hitting them on the 4 block ride to the Carleton Place Hospital when they were trying to instill those family values in me.

About 7 minutes later I heard the words “cardio” and “call the ambulance” as my local hospital did everything they could to get me out of pain and rushed off to the Ottawa Heart Institute. This isn’t the first time that the Carleton Place Hospital has gone above and beyond for my family and I wish I could do more than just say “thank you”.

It wasn’t an easy ride for me in that ambulance as memories began flooding through my mind. Three years ago I had made the same journey, only to the Ottawa General Hospital with my late husband and they had asked him the same departure question as they asked me Wednesday night. In the space of 15 seconds you have to answer if you want to be resuscitated if something terminal happens, and let’s face it, even Google can’t answer that question. Steve knew exactly what answer he was going to hear– but it still hit him like a ton of bricks. Do not resuscitate!

In what seemed no time I was ushered into a cold looking room at the Ottawa Heart Institute that reminded me of an examining room from an alien B movie. Suddenly the whole space became a movie theatre with black and white shadowy images of my veins as the feature of the hour. I lay there and shook my head. I knew how I got there, but how do you shake the emotional sticky monkeys off your back. In what seemed no time, but I knew it wasn’t– I felt a rush of warmth fill my body from head to toe and knew that my veins were now flowing again. Trying to make light of a bad situation I silently wondered if this is how Vampires feel after a “satisfying bite”.

I’m honest, my health stats are not the best, but I was told if I don’t get rid of the stress it is going to end up killing me. I know a lot of of the load I carry is not mine to carry and I need to stop worrying about what I can’t control. But, that’s easier said than done, and I have to sit down and realize I can do anything, BUT not everything.

At 5:48 the next morning my machine began to beep from a small panic attack and I’m sure imaginary quotation marks were quickly rising from my body. A nurse popped her head in, looked at me and said in a thick Jamaican accent,

“Linda, let it go!”

With that she sat down beside me and reasoned that my greatest weapon is to be able to choose my own thoughts, and it’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.

Now I know I’ve got to find 
Some kind of peace of mind

I’ll be searching everywhere

Thank you to the Carleton Place Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute for their amazing care and letting me be here a little while longer. Please donate!

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Common heart attack signs and symptoms include:
  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cold sweat.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.
  •  

 

 

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Survivor’s Guilt —Set Adrift on a Memory Bliss

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina– Heart Disease, Anger and Gnomes

I Had a Stroke – I Didn’t Break My Leg!

 

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Was it a Stroke of Bad Luck or a Challenge?

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Three years ago I had a stroke. I couldn’t say my name, and typing with my right hand was almost impossible. It took me a few weeks to get some of my fingers on my right hand to learn how to type again. It took close to 6 months to stop stuttering. As a writer, if I had lost my ability to write and speak I have no idea what I would have done

If I had broken my leg people would understand, but when something is invisible people don’t get it- or understand your inner frustrations. They say after a stroke you turn into a different person–behaviours and emotions change because our brains have been injured. Some days I get angry because I don’t remember people’s name or faces that I have known for years. Then there are days I don’t even remember where my car is parked after I walk out of the RBC. And– I will never play the piano again as I can’t seem to focus on the notes. But that might have been a blessing to listening ears.

I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is: I am sure some days some of you wonder how you are going to get over the hurdles. Having a business or issues can be frustrating some days. But like me you need to take each day as it comes and never ever look back. It’s so easy to give in to feelings of self-doubt and back down from challenges. Each and every day I go through this on a personal level, and question why. But I believe that Maya Angelou had it right-

You’ve got to grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass. Or, give it the very best shot you have.

See you June 6 at Ladies Who Lunch in Carleton Place. I am looking forward to meeting you.

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I Had a Stroke – I Didn’t Break My Leg!

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This past May Milwaukee resident Marion Warbleton had a mild stroke and her ten-minute bus ride turned into hours because she couldn’t remember where she was. Not one single person noticed and it wasn’t until a replacement bus driver boarded the bus that someone finally got help for Warbleton.

“After I got on the bus, I couldn’t remember what happened after that,” Marion told the local NBC news.

According to MCTS transportation spokeswoman Jacqueline Janz, Ms. Warbleton didn’t show any visible signs of distress on the busy bus route that would have alerted the driver, or the many other passengers, to request assistance. If she had a heart attack someone would have immediately called 911 but a stroke is silent – it’s a heart attack on your brain.

In August I wrote about having a TIA and how I chose to deal with the aftermath by myself. I do not suggest anyone handle things the way I did but today I realized why some do not believe I had a stroke. Standing in line for an estate sale I told the woman next to me that I had to sit down as I recently had a stroke. She looked at me curiously and said that I didn’t look like I had a stroke and that just ticked me off.

If I had broken my leg no one would have questioned why I needed to sit but because they can’t visually see my medical condition they just don’t understand. Since my stroke I can’t be trusted to use public transportation as everything is now in 3D and I have to think carefully about things I used to do at the drop of a hat. Loud noises frighten me to a panic level and frustration is at an all time high. I understand why Canada suspends your drivers license after a stroke, because if I have trouble getting from Point A to Point B I am a danger to anyone on the road.
I saw my friend Kevin Army (whose family has a history of strokes) two days ago and he said after 15 minutes he noticed me struggle to form sentences and there was slurring on certain letters.

I have the type of personality that should never have a stroke as I worry about everything. For someone to say I should change my 61 year behaviour is nuts because that is easier said than done. Most of the time when I am out in the world now it feels like everyone is on the other side of a clear plexiglass and I am looking in. I keep changing my avatar on Facebook just to make sure I am still here and reassure myself I don’t look any differently. Every few hours I say my full name over and over as I know if my tongue feels thick and I can’t pronounce my name I have had another TIA.

 

When I had the stroke I didn’t have a headache or any other documented stroke warnings; but I couldn’t say my name and typing with my right hand was out of the question. It took me 4 days to get my right hand to learn how to type again, my outgoing emails to friends were a mess and I posted old blogs for a few days. If I had lost my ability to speak and write I have no idea what I would have done, cursive writing is still a chore but that doesn’t bother me.

Last week at Fort Mason in San Francisco I watched two swimmers swim from the Aquatic Park to Crissy Field. They stopped at the pier and talked to me for 15 minutes about the joy of swimming in such a great body of water. One of the swimmers laughed and told me how free he felt and the coldness of the water made all his senses feel alive again. I stood there with tears in my eyes and wished I too could be in the bay swimming along with them. It’s one thing to have complete fear of water like I do, but some how it all outweighs the feeling I crave to feel alive again.

 

So each day I now look at their photos and dream of swimming in the San Francisco Bay. My mind keeps telling me that once I complete that swim, my fears and mental disablements will completely disappear. After a stroke you turn into a different person and behaviours and emotions change because the brain has been injured. Some days I am depressed, very angry and get frustrated attempting to blog as it’s more difficult. Each day feels like I am being sucked into a strong current much like I would encounter if I made that swim in the bay. Swimmers have to think their way out of turbulent waters and I do too with each word I type and say.

 

(Linda swimming in the bay by Sheila Smigel)

San Francisco swimmer Jeff Gunderson was quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle that when he gets into the water it’s a challenge, but he makes that swim mornings, evenings and sometime during his lunch break. Gunderson’s best advice are the words of San Francisco icon Walt Stack:

“Start slow, taper off.”

 

Those are hard words for someone like me to understand but I’m going to have to attempt that life skill if I’m going to get out of this never-ending current and feel alive again. After all you only live once, and some days I feel like I’m drowning.

 

Dedicated to Lisa Crandall who encouraged me to write this for everyone who had a stroke and those that just don’t get it.

Photo of TIA- Google
All other photos- Linda Seccaspina
EmileeeeeeMcPheeeeee- Diana Ani Stokley of Grafix to Go