So I'm 29, and I've Had a Stroke
In the past, I have written a lot of person hubs, but I think this one might take the cake. I don’t write it because I want sympathy, because I don’t. I write it because I want people who have gone through what I have to know that they are not alone.
About six weeks ago, I was having a very, very, bad migraine. I get them every once in a while, but this one was definitely in the top three. I closed my black-out curtains in my room, and tried to go to sleep. About after an hour, I got up and went to check some texts. I was a bit dizzy, but I hadn’t taken any meds, and I don’t drink. I looked at my phone screen, and I couldn’t read. I could see the letters, saw that they were in groups, but I literally forgot how to read. I have a master’s degree in health psychology, but I was gobsmacked about what was going on. Things are much different when you are the one with the problem. I called one of my girlfriends to take me to the local Veteran’s hospital.
My friend and I waited about an hour, I spoke to the nurse for a bit and told her the issue, then I saw and spoke to the doctor for less than a minute. He just told me to go home because I was just having a migraine. He asked if I wanted any pain meds, I declined, so I left.
On the way home, I felt like something was seriously wrong. Being a former Marine, I am not a hypochondriac. We Marines know when to just suck it up, but I was having issues with reading; that’s not normal. So, my friend took me to my local civilian hospital, one that just happens to be the premier stroke center. I went to check-in and told the nurse what was wrong, she immediately took me back, and I saw a neurologist right away. While he was about to order some tests, I went to stand up to walk to the bathroom, but I immediately passed-out and hit my head on the IV stand. I felt incredibly stupid.
So, the doctor then ordered a MRI, which I received, and was then sent back to my room. I had been admitted into the hospital due me hitting my head pretty hard. An intern doctor came in, and he and I were joking around, but then he asked if anyone told me the results of the MRI, and I said that no one had. You could see the poor guy frowning and trying to back out of the room slowly, but I told him not to leave me hanging. He said the neurologist would talk to me, but that there was a brain lesion and that it could be a tumor or I might have had a stroke.
It was over two hours before the neurologist came in. My friend had to leave to pick up her kids, and the room I was in had no reception, and I was tied up to an IV, so I couldn’t leave the hospital to make a call. There was only reality tv on. For two hours I was just thinking I might not ever see my daughter graduate college, get married, have children, and the only thing to distract me was Kim Kardashian, lol.
The doctor came in and told me that I had a stroke. This was probably the first time someone was happy that they had a stroke, because tumor v. stoke, I would take the stroke anyday. The weird thing he said was the stroke was not recent. He asked if I ever had any head trauma, and I said yes, when I was in Iraq after my truck hit an improvised explosive device. I told him that before I left for Iraq, I had been in a car accident, a drunk hit my Jeep. I was given an MRI at the hospital and given a clean bill of health. That means I had the stroke after the car accident, but not too far after that, which would be when I was in Iraq. When I was medivaced out of Iraq, I had internal bleeding, so no one really focused on my Traumatic Brain Injury which I was diagnosed with about two years post-Iraq. I just blamed all my migraines and other issues on that.
However, looking back, it was obvious I had a stroke. About three or four months after Iraq, I was talking to my Staff Sergeant. He asked me a question and I said “No, Staff Sergeant”. He told me to say “Sergeant” again, and I did. He kept telling to repeat the word. He then instructed me to ask my doctor if any of the meds I was taking would affect my speech because I was slurring my words, which in all honesty, I didn’t. Marines don’t like going back to the doctor, because then we are labeled “sick call commandos”. So that was my bust.
The last hint I had was my face. I had a few surgeries right after Iraq, with two being to my face. The right side of my face, specifically my right eye area, had some damage. I had plastic surgery to my eye lids, but the first one left really bad scars, so they repeated it about a year or so later. My doctor at the time mentioned that my right eyelid was drooping, but he said it could just be nerve damage from the IED, and that the surgery would fix it, which thankfully it did.
You can’t tell now that I had any damage, but I should have realized that once again it was symptomatic of the stroke. To be fair, at that time I did not have the education which I do now, I received my education post-Marine Corps. I have attached a picture below of me after the last surgery to my face. The surgeons had to do both eyes to ensure that they were even. The surgery wasn't because I wanted plastic surgery, but to fix the scarring form the IED, and to fix the droop.
The point of this hub is that if you think that you are having weird symptoms, to really study what the issue might be and to advocate for yourself. Seek second opinions if you think that you aren’t receiving adequate care, and to not dismiss conditions such as a stroke, even if you are young.
For me, my prognosis is great, and I haven’t had any more issues with not being able to read, and haven’t even had a headache since I was in the hospital. I just have to get another MRI every so often to make sure everything remains kosher. Other than that, I am back to my old self and getting read to run my 9th marathon.
The picture is me after my second surgery. You can see I am obviously very happy. In truth, the surgeons did a great job, and I am very thankful. This surgery was actually a long time ago.