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Thread: My stroke story

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    Default My stroke story

    So January Friday the 13th I had a stroke. Not my first one as it turns out. This was a pretty big surprise to me as I suppose it is to all stroke victims. I'm 33 years old, am damn near a vegetarian as far as red meat and pork are concerned, and I don't smoke or drink and am pretty physically fit. For those of you who don't know me (and didn't connect the dots as to why my sig line is all whored out) I am the owner at Panama City Dive Charters, the hands down the coolest dive shop in Panama City and probably the panhandle (this is a scientific result of a survey comprising only myself ). I'm also a 100 ton boat Capt and a PADI instructor and have acquired over 2000 dives in the 20 years I've been certified.
    So while my girlfriend and I were on our way to Key West on vacation last month we stopped in Orlando for a day to go to Sea World (she had never been) and to break up the drive. The morning after playing tourist (Friday the 13th for those of you who are superstitious)I woke up with a pretty crazy visual disturbance just left of the center of my field of vision. Kinda like looking through a kaleidoscope. Being an idiot, I was puzzled by this, but since my eyes had been acting weird in general for the past year I thought not too much of it and figured it would go away. Besides breakfast had just been delivered and we had scheduled a couples massage before we checked out of the hotel. Why stress about it?
    During the massage I developed a headache that became quite severe. Near the end of the massage it hit the edge of what I could humanly tolerate and became the most painful experience I have ever had for about 45minutes, on a scale of 1-10 it was a true 10. I threw up breakfast and had a very hard time doing anything. Light and noise were excruciating. This was the second time I had thrown up in a month, and the only two time I've puked in a decade (more on that later). I had the overwhelming feeling like I was going to die and needed to be in the ER stat! I decided it was an anxiety attack brought on by....... the stress of being on vacation and having a massage? Denial is not just a river in Eqypt! Back in the hotel room I manage to convince myself and Andrea, my girlfriend if 9 years, that I had a migraine with an Aura, and it was shitty but nothing we needed to miss out on Key West for as long as she was cool with driving this leg. So we pushed on to Key West.
    Of course our smart phones took us through Miami instead of around it, and I was not really feeling great enough to notice signs and such. The pain subsided to the level of a bad CO2 headache ( 5 or 6 on that 1-10 scale) but the nausea and visual disturbances continued. I feel like my peripheral vision on the left side slowly started to decrease at this point. We arrived in Key West around 8:00pm. We check in and my girlfriend goes to see about dinner since I haven't had anything stay in me since the night before and was becoming quite grouchy from the continued pain, nagging doubts I was probably seriously in need of medical attention, and gnawing hunger and nausea.
    In reality she was asking for directions to the nearest hospital and rallying the staff to help get me in the truck again since I was oddly weak and had trouble climbing the stairs to our room. Things get blurry from here and I'll try to stop short of turning this into a novel.
    At the ER at Lower Keys Memorial Hospital we get fairly condescended to by a Dr for not being married before the results of my CT scan show that I have alot of blood on the right occipidal lobe (controlling vision) of my brain. He tells my girlfriend to "prepare herself" and continues to generally ignore her and her fairly reasonable questions beyond that. I will not ever forget the "oh shit" tone in the voice of the tech who did my CT scan as he saw the results. That was when I knew I was in serious trouble and started some pretty deep soul searching and thinking in a very rational way that it was a real possibility that I would not make it or would be in some way diminished if I made it. The Dive trip I made with my friends the week before seemed like it might have been my last trip for a long while in even my best case scenario. A helicopter is called and I am to be flown to Miami since they don't have a neurological team for this type of emergency in Key West. They let Andrea ride too, and I am really happy to have her going with me and not left in Key West. I can't say enough good things about the crew of the helicopter, the were true pros and a credit to humanity for their deamnor to me, to her, and for giving me Dilaudid, a potent Michael Jackson level pain killer, Oxycontin is for children in comparison. I throw up as soon as he injects it to my veins and I don't care.
    Scuba or freediving classes in Panama City Scuba certification and Freediving Classes
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    An hour later around midnight we land in Miami and I am loaded into an ambulance for the 150 yard trip from the helo pad to the ER door. Some family I have only met a few times at Holidays and Funerals meets us there. My mom somehow wrangled a ride on a private jet and is there around 2am. A barrage of MRIs or MRAs, CT scans, and EKGs ensues. It is determined that I am stable, no longer bleeding, and we wait for a room in the step down unit for 18 hours before one becomes available. It seems Miami is a busy place on the weekends and Friday the 13th in particular. Somewhere in here my family arrives en masse. This is both comforting and terribly scary. I perceive that they think its worse than I have been told (that I can remember).
    In "step down" a step down from ICU, I take tock of myself physically, I have lost around 35-40% of my field of vision, mostly the left side and everything is pretty hard to focus on. Reading is impossible. Its hard to recognize faces of loved ones. I am essentially chained to my bed. I have 3 IVs, a blood pressure cuff, and calf massagers to prevent blood clots in my legs plus an EKG monitor with 5 or 6 leads coming off of my chest. The effect is to trap me in the bed. I haven't had a meal that stayed down since Thursday but I have been drinking and they are pumping fluid into me so peeing is now done into a container. I need help for this since I can't really see very well what I'm doing.
    Fortunately the Dilaudid continues and helps chase away the lingering pain until I decide I want to be clear headed... this is sometime Monday morning after meeting with the surgical teams that will be fixing what can be fixed. Essentially I have an AVM, a tangle of blood vessels that serve no purpose and seem to be abit "leaky." The plan is to go in via MY GROIN to perform an embolisation..... inject "surgical glue" and clog the tangle. Evaluate how effective the glue was, and then "cut out" the tangle two days later.
    Cutting out the tangle will involve "removing" a chunk of my skull and cutting out the AVM. The skull will be reattached with a titanium plate, and then we see how I am. Sounds simple until you think about what some of these words mean and the consequences of a whoopsie. My whole family goes into over drive on google and calling everyone they know in the medical profession to find out anything about the Doc doing this procedure and if we need to be anywhere else. Turns out the guys at Baptist (where we are) are the best or certainly among them in the nation. My team has a vida that includes Harvard and Johns Hopkins. I decide to stay and to go for it. This is on Monday 16th. The emoblization is Wed and the surgery is Friday.
    I have not really slept since Thursday night at this point. All night long the alarms decide that my heart rate is too low and my rate of breathing is to low. Every time I slip into REM I let out a deep breath and pause before breathing in just long enough for the machine to decides I am in apnea and the nurses and my poor traumatized girlfriend think I am dead. It takes until Tuesday to convince them to turn off the alarms in my room. I do not sleep more than 30 minutes at a stretch until then. Maybe 3-5 hours in total. My dear friends that live in the area help my family find food and take turns spending time with me so everyone can sleep in shifts but still have someone with me. An extended family member and a good friend retrieve our stuff from KW and bring my truck to Miami and then back to PC for us. My visual field seems to be healing during this time. I think its around 75-80% but I still can't read well but am better at recognizing people. When I close my eyes there are crazy cartoon and random images that play across parts of my field, including the missing parts. I get to leave the bed occasionally to pee in a bathroom and am even given a portable EKG monitor.

    I go in on Wednesday and am given an "arterial line" (this truly sucks on an epic level) to directly monitor blood pressure and put under for the embolisation. I wake up, yeah!, and immediately notice the harsh taste of volatile chemical fumes and that I have a foley catheter. (This truly sucks on an epic level). At least I was under when it happened. I am in ICU now. I am not allowed to bent my leg for 6 hours since they went into the artery and it needs to properly heal. The chemical taste and smell is actually the vapor from the glue offgassing in my lungs from my blood! I persists all day.There is more blood taken for lab work very regularly. I am not allowed to walk at all and I am now trapped to the bed again unable to turn from side to side, so much for my one day of relative freedom. I am peeing in a container again, with some help. I have not pooped since Monday.... I really want to get out of bed and move. It really hits home that I am about to have brain surgery. I get good cop bad cop acts out of the various doctors about what I ca expect. 10% chance of "complications" scares the shit out of me. I have had one night of sleep and very little food in a week. Wednesday night is no different. Thursday morning I convince the nurse to remove my foley catheter and let me walk to the bathroom. An hour later the surgical team comes in to ask if I feel up to going in for surgery now, since there is an opening in the schedule. Probably better I don't have a whole day to dwell on it is what I figure and soon enough, off we go. First I get a foley catheter put back in, then I am wheeled out for prep and put under again.
    Surgery was supposed to take 4-5 hours and start at 9am. We get delayed and it starts at 11am. I wake up in recovery at 8-9pm. It takes alittle bit to get my family to me but they come in an hour later or so. There was some serious emergency that prevented my surgeon from telling them I was doing well but it had been a more elaborate procedure than planned for. I make a few jokes about them needing to find a larger ice cream scoop to to "surgically" fix the problem. No one laughs. I try to order the Doc give my family Dilaudid so my family and friends will think I'm funny, that gets a laugh. Oh yeah, my head HURTS. One of the down side of brain surgery is that they don't give you any pain meds since you need to report any change in cognition immediately. I miss medical narcotics. I am swollen with IV Fluids. My friends estimate that I have gained 20lbs of fluid, I am given powerful steroids to fight the swelling which is extreme in my hands and feet and face. I don't sleep Thursday night in the ICU. Too many beeps, alarms, and blood pressure checks. Friday Jan 20th (one week after admission) they do my 3rd angiogram and declare the operation a success. My head hurts. This is the pic of me that day.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails -pat-head-jpg  
    Last edited by PatMyGreen; 02-19-2012 at 10:45 AM.
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    My recovery officially starts on Friday Jan 2t0h after that pronouncement. My visual field is prob 80% of what it was and still hazy but perceptibly better in clarity. I begin insisting they remove as many tubes from me as possible. To begin with I have 3 port in my right arm and 2 in my left plus the foley and calf pressure cuffs to prevent clots plus the EKG leads. These wires and tubes trap mt on my back but the surgery site pretty much precludes me from laying my head flat back. I want to sleep more than I can explain and that means being on my side. I am down to just 3 tubes that night. The high dose of Decadrone (steroid) still keeps me from sleeping. It make my heart race my mind cazy(ier). Also it completely constipates me and the Asian stir fry and cabbage I have been eating does awful things leading to my stomach becoming distended and painful. Enemas are ordered. The idea of privacy is completely gone from my mind.
    Saturday I take my first shower and shave in a week. My vision is good enough for me to shave myself although standing and walking after this long in a bed with little food are more than trying. I pull my calf muscle walking the 100 yard circuit of my ward that afternoon. I finally poop enough to satisfy the doctors and am discharged Sunday. I sleep more on the plane than I have in a week. I cried like a baby went I finally got home to my couch, my bed and my cats. Sunday night 10 days after my stroke, despite the steroids, I get 4 hours of sleep that night in my own bed.
    I have lost almost every ounce of strength and flexibility in my legs, my vision is 85% of what is was and I am so constipated it hurts but I am ALIVE! I am no allowed pain meds or blood thinners, can't drive or dive, no caffeine or excersize for two weeks. I have thrombosis in both arms from all the IVs. Monday night I sleep for another 4hours. Tuesday I begin tapering off my steroid and I sleep the whole night through. I awake feeling like a human for the first time in days. My favorite part of being alive is walking to pee in the middle of the night and having fresh cool water out of a glass. I am eating soft liquid foods or pasta.
    Thursday is my first official out of the house day, 2 weeks after my stroke. I go to my favorite restaurant and have my favorite lunch special with 11 friends (J Michael's Jambalaya). Life is a blessing.
    Feb 1st I have my follow up with my surgeon in Miami. My recovery is official, he says i can drive again, resume exercising, coffee and I should be able to dive whenever the incision is healed so my infection risk is nil. My vision is 87% of where it was. At this point I can now walk around the block, climb the stairs in my house effortlessly. and my flexibility has gotten back to where I can put my hands on my knees without feeling anything pull tight.
    Today I am working in the dive shop alone (which is why there are long gaps in my posts) my vision is officially mapped as a 10% total visual field loss in 4 dots. 2 in each eye. My peripheral vision is all the way back. I sleep, pee and poop normally (you have no idea how big a deal this is until you need help for all of it). My Thrombosis is gone and I expect to reclaim the lead in my shop's quarterly tournament this week before it wraps up at the end of the month. I have more gratitude for life than I ever had.
    Oh yeah, my bill so far is just under $400,000! So if you don't have health insurance, you might want to think about making that investment. I have more gratitude for Blue Cross Blue Shield than I have ever had!
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    Pat, Glad you are on the mend, and plan on getting back in the water soon.

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    Pat,
    I am SO glad to be reading about your first hand account instead of reading or hearing about losing you. I very happy you are still with us.
    Chris
    Chris Grauer- "To protect, promote, and grow the sport of spearfishing" www.spearfishingplanet.com

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    Wow glad to read your are ok..

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    Holy hell Pat. Sorry for what you went through but glad to hear you are getting back. Must have been a frightful two weeks.
    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

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    Pat,
    WOW !!!!! I am glad outcome was positive, and thank you for communicating your ordeal..

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    Holy shart thats scary. Glad your ok.
    Last edited by chawk; 02-19-2012 at 08:53 PM.

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    Very happy to have you back buddy!

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    Glad to hear you are back, Pat.

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    Glad to hear you made it through this Pat!
    The preceding post is simply one man's opinion, but since I am the one man in this case, it is absolutely correct.
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    Glad that your going to be ok. Congrats on making it through that and with your sense of humor as well!!
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    Very good to read a happy ending to your experience. Had a cathe after my surgery when I broke my femur and they took it out but had to put it back when I was awake..... Sucks !! Ready to come shoot a big cobia just let me know when.
    Warning: If it is not spearfishing related and positive in nature then keep your stupid ass away from my threads!

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    Thanks guys, its so good to be on this side of this thing and be looking back at it. The big lesson I hope we all get out of it is to not let our egos put us in denial about being hurt. If I had been bent on a boat I wonder how long I would have let my symptoms get worse and more obvious before I hit the O2, making a recovery less and less likely????????? Probably awhile.
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    I don't know you, but glad to hear you are doing well after reading your story. Wow is all I can say.

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    Wow O Wow. Reading your story did get me to pause and think about whats really important and what isnt. Damn Pat, welcome back to the world. Glad to hear you made it back in such good shape under the circumstances.

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    Wow, never take shit for granted.

    Glad your ok, and good luck.

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    Damn Pat.....that is one hell of an experience and story. Thanks for sharing as I'm sure many like myself have learned a few things from it. Wishing you the best and a speedy recovery......looking forward to your first post-op trip report!!!

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    Wow, you sound very lucky. I know from personal experience how critical you were. I am glad to see you back, lets do a trip
    Last edited by fiz; 02-20-2012 at 10:56 AM.
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