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Facing Stroke in Your 30s...A Personal Account

Posted Friday, October 23, 2009, at 12:06 PM



I'm not quite "over-the-hill," yet I am facing my mortality as though I were over 60. At the insistence and encouragement of one of my faithful blog readers, I have decided to talk about my recent health issues.

On the eve of Thursday, October 8th I began experiencing an excruciating headache, ringing in my ears, and blurred vision. Later that night I fell in front of my family...because both my legs simply quit working. You would think that would be enough to send me running for the nearest ER, but despite my husband's insistence that I see a doctor (after he gets back from the soccer game and can drive me, lol), I declined ( I didn't want to pay the $100 ER deductible our health insurance requires...how sad is that).

That night I suffered severe vertigo...I nearly cried from the pain and nausea caused from the "merry-go-round" effect when I'd lay down. My head and body had such a strange and adverse sensation that I swear I could literally feel myself "dying." By the next morning my face was tingling from numbness and the vertigo was worse...I knew something was dangerously wrong. Again I didn't rush to the ER, but called for an appointment to see my neurologist immediately.

After an extensive exam, which also showed I had lost sensation in my feet and hands, I was sent to Heritage Medical Center for an MRI and subsequently admitted to CCU; where I was strapped to a cardio monitor; hooked to an IV drip containing a blood thinner and later injected twice daily in the abdomen; and had so much blood drawn I was beginning to feel like a snack-pack from the movie "Twilight."

The diagnoses: the blood vessels in my neck were spasming, causing them to narrow and constrict blood flow to the brain (thus, cutting off oxygen to the brain). I was having a stroke, and was just minutes...even seconds...from suffering a potentially life-threatening [massive] stroke.

I've been home just under two weeks, during which time I've had to undergo many life-altering changes. The most important--stress reduction and diet. Stress reduction because I juggle way too much on way too little sleep. Diet because I was just told I am diabetic, and I have a tendency to skip meals and eat a lot of fast food with my kids...and I could use a 15 pound drop.

It's only been a short time, and I know I have a long road ahead, but I have changed my eating habits dramatically--and I've lost 6 pounds in doing so. I now eat 3-4 small meals consisting of one lean meat (usually baked/grilled fish or chicken), and 2-3 small portions of vegetables. I allow myself a sensible snack in the morning and one at night (unless I choose to eat the 4 meals instead). This has helped bring my blood sugar down to within high-end normal range (most days). It's a start.

Cutting out the stress has been a little tougher. Business has been slow thanks to the poor economy, so money is tight. This means working even harder to bring sales up, thus cutting into sleep time. I juggle charity/volunteer work, home schooling, and daily household "chores," which is even more difficult given my many heath woes. Anyone who parents children can relate, I'm sure. I'm still working on fixing this area of my life.

I've chosen to look at this whole ordeal as a "wake-up call" from God. It's time to get in shape and cut out the excess "waste" in my life before it's too late. Sometimes it feels like I'm being punished for something from a past life--I've been afflicted with FMS, CFS, Myasthenia Gravis, degenerative disk disease, type II diabetes, and stroke...keep in mind I'm under 40 and only slightly overweight. But my rational side knows that it's just the luck of the [health] draw.

My advice to anyone reading this is simple--poor health can come on fast and with no warning. There are many "Silent Killers," and no one is invincible. Eat right, get plenty of exercise AND rest. It's important to see your doctor regularly, and for goodness sake, don't wait as long as I did when symptoms start. Minutes can make the difference between life and death.

For more information on stroke prevention, you may visit http://www.stroke.org/


t-g commenter "gottago" just brought up a good question/statement regarding exercise amounts. Because my doctor told me to take it easy for two weeks, today is actually be my first day of exercise since the last TIA stroke. My aunt, who also lives with diabetes (as do my mother, uncle...and both grandmothers who have now passed away from stroke/heart attack) gave me a low-impact exercise video called "Keep Moving!...Keep Healthy with Diabetes". It's a work-out video designed by Joslin Diabetes Center specifically for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes and features low-impact exercises designed for people who have physical limitations or are new to exercise programs. I tried it today for the 1-mile course (it has varying levels per mile, and you can increase as you get accustomed to the daily strain). It's a great video and I will use it when I'm not dealing with an FMS "flare-up."

But because of my difficulties with Fybromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), I prefer water aerobics...they are a great work-out/exercise with less strain/impact on your muscles and joints than traditional aerobics. This is my preferred method of exercise if I can get to a pool or even in our "over-sized" [whirlpool jets] bath. I try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day--that's not including chasing after my toddler or running errands--but actual "work-out" exercise.

Here is a great chart to use as a guideline if you are counting calories like I now do:

Calories Burned Per 30 Minutes*



Cross-country skiing




Golfing (walking with clubs)




Ice skating/roller skating












Volleyball (casual)


*Burn rates are for a person who weighs 150 pounds. Lighter people will burn fewer calories; heavier people will burn more.

From 759 Secrets for Beating Diabetes


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Thank you for sharing your story with the t-g readers. Your openness with this may just save a life someday.

I have followed your story with interest, as many of your health challenges run in my family also. I am continually glued to journals and scientific blogging sites that offer any new insights on autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, and others. Truthfully, the interest is more than personal as my academic background is in this area while my professional life focuses on increasing quality of life through exercise, diet, and healthy lifestyle.

You didn't mention how much exercise you are getting, but I would like to add that regular,moderate intensity (or even low intensity as days demand) improve so many symptoms and possibly even causes of the diseases and conditions that afflict us. Keep in mind that exercise need not be painful in order to be effective nor should it be expensive to obtain a full body workout. Whatever you have at home coupled with your own body weight is almost always enough to see health improvemnets.

-- Posted by gottago on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 1:04 PM

Thanks gottago, I've updated the blog to address your points. Eating a healthy diet, excercising regularly...and perhaps even more importantly, getting sufficient sleep...are key in maintaining one's health and overcoming genetic predisposed conditions like diabetes, stroke, heart disease, etc.

I wish you all the best, and thanks for being a loyal reader.

P.S. The aunt I mention in the blog who gave me the diabetics work-out video has now lost 59 pounds since first receiving her diagnoses of type II diabetes in January of this year! Her blood sugar levels are now within normal ranges and she does not require medication. She watched my grandmother die of stroke complications and it was enough to "scare her straight."

-- Posted by shawna.jones on Fri, Oct 23, 2009, at 1:59 PM

I'm glad you're doing better,shawna.

(Thanks,gottago & Shawna's family!)

I've always preferred water aerobics but I'm reluctant to swim,sauna or hot tub around here because of my skin lesions.

I'm even reluctant to take tub baths anywhere without a seat,grab bars and/or someone there for backup.

Showers are fine but I miss being able to immerse myself and doing my imitation of a tea bag.

Maybe,I'll get one of those walk-in tubs one day-especially if they ever make one that could be done up to fit vintage decor.

(Yes,I know I'm being shallow to think of appearance rather than function but I can fantasize about "accessible" design that looks as if it came from a coffee table book,right?)

I wish all new construction would think of "universal design" or accessibility.

Such measures wouldn't misput "normal" people but,as this blog proves,even young,vital people can have accidents,become ill or have visitors or loved ones with permanent or temporary impairments.

If every home had wide doorways,low thresholds,easy open knobs and easy to reach cabinents,life would be a lot easier.

If every public building had some of all its services on the ground floor,it would be a great convenience.

It couldn't be that much more difficult to design for us "irregulars" so we could age in place and function in a more normal manner.

If "accessible design" really were universal,that default setting would open things up so much to people who are now excluded that the increased use could more than compensate for any added trouble or expense.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Thu, Oct 29, 2009, at 12:42 PM

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A once self-proclaimed entrepreneur with a strong background in photography, computer assembly, and digital arts/graphic design, Shawna is a dual-major graduate who was forced to leave a middle-management position after a serious accident and illness left her unable to work. As a mother of six and former teacher, she is now homeschooling her two youngest children and volunteers her time as an educator for the Bedford County Enrichment Homeschool Program.