The Story of my Stroke

I had a stroke, and that has been of interest to a wide variety of parties, so I am recording the essential facts behind that ordeal here in the purely selfish hope of not having to repeat the story a dozen times or more.

Around the end of May, I began to have a persistent, low-grade fever.  It had no other accompanying symptoms other than the fever itself: sweats, chills, loss of energy, but no coughing or congestion. Since I had endured a similar ailment a few months earlier, and beat it after 5-6 days, I soldiered through it for two weeks, hoping I could once again beat it on my own.  I have long been concerned about the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, which has been attributed to overuse of antibiotics, and I did not wish to be part of that dynamic if I didn’t have ro.

That approach was in error, as shall be detailed shortly.

By week three I had had enough, but I could not arrange an appointment with my primary care physician for yet another week. This is mostly due to not having a primary care physician, and new patients go` to the back of the line.

My wife, meanwhile called my cardiologist (I have a congenital heart murmur – so I have  cardiologist), and they told her I should go to the ER or urgent care and get checked out in case this infection was in my heart.  So off we went to urgent care. This would be Tuesday, June 16. When we get there, however, I was not running a fever. (It has always been intermittent.) So the PA just shrugged, wrote a report that read essentially “could not duplicate problem”, took my $75, and sent us on our way. Immediately after my wife called her primary care doctor to get an appointment for me, but none could be had until June 24.

We bought a thermometer. Every once in a while I’d take my temp. Half the time it would be normal and half the time it would be around a hundred or so. Meanwhile, with work slow for the first time since January, I laid low.

On Tuesday the 23rd I woke up with back pain. This is not unusual, I have had intermittent back problems for years. We now know it’s arthritis. On that day it did not keep me from doing anything, I just walked slowly and carefully. I only mention it because it informs later events.

Wednesday, June 24 I finally make I to Dr. Hawks (the primary care doc), who takes me at my word about my phasing fever, and summarily prescribes a round of  Azithromycin. I did not mention my back, because on that morning it seemed improved over the day before.

Driving home that morning, almost certainly running a fever, I noticed a lack of responsiveness in my left hand. I assumed it was related to my back problem (fever), and was cursing myself for not bringing up my back to Doc Hawks.

We now know this was the stroke. The most common type of stroke, and the one that will dominate your typical stroke web page is a ischemic stroke, the result of plaque build-up in the brain’s blood vessels. That is not the sort of stroke I suffered.

I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, where a blood vessel in the brain leaks for reasons. In my case the culprit was rogue bacteria having misadventures in my bloodstream. The result was some bleeding in the upper right quadrant of my brain which controls specifically operations of my left hand, and the ability to inventory theatrical equipment in hostile environments (seriously, they showed me on a chart).

I didn’t know any of this at the time, of course. I knew something was weird with my hand, and that I probably should not be driving the car I was driving anyway. I made it home anyway, parking the car in the driveway at a 30 degree angle. My son came home a few hours later and informed me that I was done driving for the day.

Stroke, as a causal agent, had yet to occur to any of us yet.

That afternoon my back seized up to the point where I could barely walk. My wife got us a hotel room with a Jacuzzi, which I never used because I was unable at that point to make the journey on foot.  After a painful night, we went to a nearby FastMed, where:

·        They noticed I was running a fever, but backed off of that when I told them my primary had already put me on antibiotics.

·        Thought it strange that my left hand was unresponsive, and did not think it was related to my back at all.

·        Gave me an injection of muscle relaxants.

·        Then my wife noticed my eye was drooping, and the PA put all the pieces together.

An hour later I was admitted to Banner Desert (the closest ER) as a stroke victim.

The underlying condition turned out to be endocarditis, a bacterial infection in my heart. Some part of this had broken off, found its way up into my brain, and caused some bleeding.  This, in turn, degraded the functionality of my left hand, and permanently damaged my ability to do inventory in warehouses that lack temperature control.  I haven’t tested the latter, but I’m pretty confident that this is totally true.

It is Thursday, July 2nd, and I was discharged a few hours ago. I won’t detail my eight days as a guest of Banner Mesa. The highlights include: A full MRI of my head, and a full MRI of my waist and pelvis; regular infusions of antibiotics via IV; 2-3 blood draws per day; a transesophageal echo-cardiogram – which is not as  much fun as it sounds; and yesterday afternoon,  a PICC  line which is a long-term IV inserted into a large artery in my arm, with a tube running nearly to my heart. That’s not as fun as it sounds either.

I learned a few things worth mentioning:

·        If they put the word “stroke” on your chart, you fly through admissions like a carnival ride.

·        My back problems are actually arthritis. It’s that simple.

·        I really do have an anxiety issue with needle sticks that is disproportionate to the actual physical discomfort.

·        Percocet gives me apnea, but the arthritis just melts away.

·        Eight days in a hospital gown will really make you appreciate clothes.

·        Banner’s wifi is an unfunny joke.

·        There exists a DVD of tropical fish antics set to classical music. Banner’s in-house cable dedicates a channel to repeating this DVD, and it will put you right out, no matter how anxious you think you are. Every hotel should have this. (My wife later bought this DVD.)

·        My wife is relentlessly awesome, and was literally by my side for 90% of the ordeal.

The PICC line is so I can continue the IV antibiotic regime at home (which I am doing literally as I write this). I get to do this twice a day at 12 hour intervals [ 8am and 8pm]. It is expected that this will continue for at least six weeks. Assuming nothing else becomes infected.

This means that I am on limited duty as long as this thing is in my arm. It also means I have an appointment with my antibiotics every 12 hours that I absolutely have to keep.

It also means that I am not realistically going on any significant vacation this summer.  So it goes. The blood has largely dissipated from my brain, and I have full function of my left hand again. The thought of counting rigging hardware still makes me dizzy and nauseous, however.

As these things go, I have been very fortunate, not only from the good progress of my recovery, but also, and more importantly, from the unquestioning support of my friends, family and employers. Deep gratitude to one and all.

That’s what happened with my stroke.

Now you know.


2 thoughts on “The Story of my Stroke

  1. “It also means that I am not realistically going on any significant vacation this summer.”

    8 days on your back while Penny and the kids do all the work – sounds like this was your planned vacation all along.

    Glad to see you are doing better and such. Keep it up – I expect you at chins so that I can make you tell your story to groups of strangers over and over again.

  2. Pingback: Winning for Losing | What Have We Learned?

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