…don’t continue with your grocery shopping, then drive yourself home, then take yourself to the emergency room. Call 911 immediately or have someone with you call them. Tell them you might be having a stroke.
A week ago now, I stopped off at the grocery store for three things – blueberries, bananas and a piece of salmon for dinner. Literally between one step and the next, I lost the vision in my right eye. There was no pain, no dizziness, no warning…just like someone had drawn a gray curtain in front of my eye. Vision in the left eye was still fine. It was nothing like the aura I sometimes get with migraines, which is a bunch of annoying squiggly little lines in the middle of my entire field of vision.
“That’s odd,” I said, as I kept walking toward the fish counter. I blinked hard, I tried rubbing my eye. No matter what I did, the vision remained gray in that eye. I got the fish, checked out, went to my car and drove home. My vision began to clear, slowly at first, then snapped back fine before I reached my condo. I’d been blind in one eye for fifteen to twenty minutes by then. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so calm. Or so dumb (driving with one eye not working???WTF?) I think the episode must have been affecting my thinking processes, or else I was in denial and/or shock. I also think that something that clears itself up and has no pain associated with it seems dangerously benign and safe to ignore.
Before I settled in to start some social media surfing, I did a little google searching on detached retina, because I have a friend who suffered one years ago. The medical advice websites did mention graying of vision as a symptom and said unequivocally to go to the nearest ER. Sort of grudgingly, I drove myself to the ER. YES, I have now been admonished over and over how not-sensible that was and I’ll never do it again. What if I’d had a stroke on the freeway? Or lost vision in both eyes? Never even occurred to me that afternoon. I’m invincible, right?
Whoosh, I was seen by the triage nurse, no wait. That was nice, but odd since the ER as extremely busy that day….Ensconced in a bed, I saw probably every neurologist in the hospital over the next three days. Curiously enough that first few hours they didn’t seem very interested in my eye. They did a lot of listening to my neck, to the carotid arteries. They tested my reflexes…after an hour or two on Thursday, one of the wonderful doctors could tell I wasn’t understanding what was going on – naive me, I stubbornly thought the temporary loss of vision was my biggest problem – and he explained I had most likely had amaurosis fugax - a piece of plaque in my neck had broken off and traveled to block my optic nerve. It’s evidently a classic symptom of carotid artery disease. VERY scary stuff. As I understand it with my layperson’s knowledge, I could have been having a stroke, or a stroke could have happened very shortly thereafter. I could still have a stroke, except hopefully the new medicines I’ve been on for the last week will lower those odds.
I had three cat scans, two ultrasounds, and a full MRI, not to mention other tests. I’m a pin cushion but not complaining.
I’ve been joking that it took me to the second day before I started telling people I was an author and handing out my bookmarks (which I always have in my purse). I had a wonderful night nurse who was a younger, hotter version of Joe Manganiello and we joked about me doing research for my romance novels and he made sure I wasn’t terrified for my midnight MRI. But even though I can find the humor in any situation because that’s just me and how I cope, it was scary and stressful and tense and and all kinds of other emotions. The fact that my most recent novel features a heroine who is blind seemed like an uncanny coincidence, let me tell you.
All the doctors, nurses and staff I came into contact with during my stay at the hospital were extremely professional, but also kind and caring. Kudos to Kaiser Permanente! I’m a huge fan…
My daughters rallied around and have been wonderful, my brother and my best friend as well…I’m back to work now, adjusting to the medicines and a lot of side effects. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms after a second trip to the ER on Sunday that I have to find a way to manage the side effects, short of bleeding, because my risk of stroke is so high right now. We won’t talk about the anxiety attacks and how I was afraid to even read for awhile because I was so terrified that gray curtain would drop over my vision again…as if the mere act of using my eyes was going to trigger it.
I did write a few hundred words on the ancient Egyptian WIP the other night, and it was lovely to feel the gears click and the writing happen, like it always does…but I’m taking it pretty easy on all the things right now.
The cats of course were highly disdainful when I returned home. How dare I abandon them for three days? (My daughters fed and petted them for me each day, no worries there.) Keanu gets over the snit in five minutes and Jake can sustain the hauteur for about half an hour before he MUST be petted.
So, public service announcement, know the symptoms of a stroke (from the National Stroke Association):
- SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
- SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision.
- SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.
Call 911 if you have even ONE of these symptoms. Better a false alarm than a stroke. OK?