Where do I begin on this one? Many people have been concerned for me and my personal safety over the last couple years. I used to always laugh their concerns off by saying ”when your time is up, your time is up”.
Gladly, my time isn’t up.
It might be a long story, but if I can get anyone else to avoid a couple of stupid mistakes I made, it’s worth it.
Tuesday night I attended the Democratic debates at the Hartford Library. During the debates I noticed the peripheral vision in my right eye was just a blank white color. I could see straight ahead, but nothing to my right side, I thought I was just tired and kind of passed it off. The debate finished off and a few others were headed out to the Nutshell café and invited me along, but I decided to head home.
Outside the Library I spoke with Stan McCauley for a minute and he asked me several times if I was alright. I assured him I was and asked why? He must have seen something because he said I wasn’t myself and I was acting differently. He offered to drive me home and I said I was fine.
Warning signs , I now know, of an impending stroke. It gets better, or worse, depending how you look at it.
I decided I knew myself better and I could drive myself home. I started to head home and decided to call a friend of mine, Len Besthoff. He was out having ice cream with his wife and daughters and answered his new i-phone , I was all set to tell him the news of the debate and how things turned out. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words just wouldn’t come out. As I moved my mouth to talk, all that game out were unidentifiable sounds.
As hard as I tried to from words, nothing made sense. At that time, I don’t know why, I figured hanging up and calling him again would clear up the problem. He answered the second call and the jumbled words poured out again as I tried to speak. I heard his wife Lindsey say “Len, I think he’s having a stroke”. Not me, it couldn’t be , that happens to old people.
Len realized I couldn’t answer him, so he just told me “call 911, you need to get to the hospital”. He had to be wrong, I was actually driving fine, I just couldn’t speak. I’m tough, I’ll go home, take a couple Advil. Besides, people having strokes go limp and they go paralyzed I reasoned. A good nights sleep would correct it, I was just tired and the heat was killing me.
I was only a minute from my house, so I’d feel a lot better when I got home and had a nice cold ice tea. I grabbed the ice-tea and sat at my desk trying to talk to myself. Still, the words just wouldn’t form and the more I tried to enunciate the more frustrated I got. At this point a bulb finally went off in my head, “you are in trouble stupid, you need help quick”. But even though I was in trouble, how do you get help when you can’t speak? I knew I could call “911” and say nothing, but that didn’t guarantee an emergency response. The 911 Dispatch Center handles calls like that as what they call a “10-90”, eventually an officer would be dispatched to check on a 911 hangup, but it wouldn’t be immediately.
I came up with a brainstorm. I would text my sister Sheryl and ask her to call me. I texted her a message I thought was “CALL ME”. She later showed me the text at the ER and what I had typed wasn’t even close. The words were spelled correctly, but made no sense to her. It was just a few random words that made no sentence. Luckily she had her phone on and promptly replied “WHAT?”. Again I answered her back with what I thought was a coherent phrase, but it turned out to be more gibberish.
Luckily she realized something was wrong and called me on the phone. I tried to speak, only to flood the phone with more slurred unintelligible words. Luckily my sister is brighter than me and she promptly informed me she was calling 911 and hung up. As soon as she hung up, Lindsey Besthoff called to make sure I was on the way to the hospital or she was calling 911. I guess mothers may reason these things out better than us tough guys. So much for the Advil and my comfortable bed.
Since I could walk alright, in my stupor, I decided to go outside to meet Fire and EMS in my driveway. As Engine 5 arrived, they are actually my neighbors across the street, they asked if I had called and when I tried to answer yes, a muffled slur of words came out. Hopefully they noticed me shaking my head yes, They asked what the problem was and more muffled words. The obligatory question of “have you been drinking, do you do drugs?” would have been comical if the gravity of my situation hadn’t started sinking in now.
I was put into the back of an ambulance and the poking and prodding began, heart monitor hooked up and the short trip to Hartford Hospital began. Shortly into that trip and the words I didn’t want to hear, but I had a pretty good idea were inevitable were uttered, “sir, I don’t want to alarm you, but I think you might be having a stroke”.
I knew Advil would have cleared it up and now look what my sister and the Besthoff’s had gotten me into.
Into triage, the quick wristband put on me and the wide double doors to the inner sanctum of the bustling ER swing open electronically. Then just a few feet into the ER and the booming voice comes over the intercom system ”activated trauma in Red Pod, stroke victim coming in”. The same EMT who didn’t want to alarm me on the ride in looks at me and with a reassuring smile says “that’s you, you’re the stroke victim”
I knew he was wrong, I only needed Advil and some rest.
Then, like a scene from a TV show, I am wheeled into a large room with just about every stainless steel device you could think of. Then, like an automobile assembly line, every one of the 8 or 10 people in the room jumped into action. Someone , removing my shirt and tie, two others trying to get IV’s in, one in the right arm, one in the left, someone else taking vital signs, someone else hooking up leads for the heart monitor, a couple of doctors conducting the entire symphony. I was impressed.
Once that was all completed, it seemed like non-stop action, and immediately off to the CT scanner for a scan of my head and brain to see what was going and how severe it was. On the way to the CT scan a drug called “TPA” was explained to me. Apparently it is a super industrial strength “clot buster” that can be used in the first 3 hours of a stroke to help reduce the devastating effects of a stroke. It is not without its risk, including possible death, but they said it was very effective. Fortunately for me, they explained, it was available but most likely not necessary unless things intensified. I wanted to say thanks, but all I needed was an ADVIL and I’d be fine, this was all my sisters idea.
I think somewhere between the trauma room, the CT scan room and the TPA discussion, it started to sink in that I could potentially be in trouble. I’m really not sure what was going on inside my brain, but I realize now, not only could I not speak correctly, I wasn’t making the clearest decisions either. As soon as the CT scan was complete I was told that my mother and my sister had arrived.
My speech seemed to be getting back to normal, my vision was normal again and I expected to be released any time now. Obviously, there were people parked all over in the hallways on stretchers who seemed sicker than I was. Mt mother and sister seemed to be getting used to these late night reunions in the ER. It was about a month ago they sat with me until the wee hours of the morning on the e-coli episode,
They weren’t alone for long though and the word that “Kevin has had a stroke” spread quickly. The first to arrive was Stan McCauley who came in around midnight. A good blessing from a good friend could never hurt. The second to arrive was Alyssa Peterson, always out looking for votes. I felt sorry for her because she had heard I was in the hospital and she came immediately, only problem is she went to the wrong hospital. They pointed her to the correct hospital. Alyssa knew where I lived so she figured I would go the the hospital a mere few blocks from my house.
Did she really expect a guy who just wanted Advil for a stroke to make a lucid decision? I know I will aggravate the St’ Francis Medical Center people, but in my typical sarcastic manner I explained my decision to Alyssa. I told her “if you want to go to heaven you go to St. Francis, if you want to live you go to Hartford Hospital”. I apologize again to SFMC, I was in the middle of a stroke.
Eventually everything appeared to be stable, the neurologists were in and explained everything. It was time to send Mom and my guardian angel for the night, my sister, home while I was admitted to a regular room.
The scenarios and potential diagnosis were played out and hashed out as numerous tests were done. As I looked around at some of the other patients I passed on 9North, the “Stroke” floor, I began to realize my stupidity for treating this incident as lightly as I did.
Now that I had been stabilized, the testing was pretty much complete and now it was time for the HH people to show me the error of my ways. Fortunately, I had no visible remnants of a stroke. No paralysis, no speech difficulties, and anyone that would see me today would probably say “yeah, right, you just wanted a short vacation”.
If nothing else, it was a warning shot across my bow to catch my attention. A few changes such as diet and lifestyle and the addition of a baby aspirin a day should keep me off the stroke floor for a while.
I hope anyone else that experiences a similar situation will get to the closest hospital immediately, preferably by calling 911 and summoning EMS, but just get there. The drug TPA is very beneficial if needed , but only in the first 3 hours after the onset of a stroke.
I think the scariest thing to me though is that if I hadn’t been making a call or trying to talk to someone, I might never have known that a stroke was underway in my brain. I had no headache, no pain, no dizziness, nothing. If I had been alone and not talking on the phone I wouldn’t have noticed the slurred speech for the half hour or so it lasted . I shouldn’t have ignored the vision problem either, that should have been obvious to me as not normal.
And if you don’t recognize or want to acknowledge the warning signs, hopefully you will have someone like my sister Sheryl or Len and Lindsey Besthoff to force you to acknowledge the warning signs, it might save your life.
I guess why they call strokes the “silent killer”. Please look at the brochure below and remember the warning signs and act promptly if they occur to you or someone you are around. Stroke is the number 3 cause of death .