When the sun came up on that cold, blustery Saturday, I knew that the second stroke had happened and that I needed to accept it. But I did not accept it at first. In fact, it took me about over a week to slowly acknowledge that I was going to live with the consequences of the strokes. Now I was obsessed with finding out why I had these strokes after all.
First of all, I had two ischemic strokes. That meant that a blood clot forms in another part of the body and breaks off a piece of the clot. The blood flows as long as the clot is less than the size of the artery. Eventually, the clot gets lodged in the artery, shoved along by the pressure that normally pushes blood. When the clot stops and dams up, the tissues that are “downstream” are waiting for the oxygenated blood. When the tissues can not get the new blood, it slowly suffocates and begins to die. When the neural tissue is involved, the part of the body that is controlled by the nerves loses its direction. Unlike other tissue that can repair itself, nerves do not regenerate new nerves. In the future, the research hopes to help repair damaged neural tissues.
Back in 2010, there were not any tried and true treatments for the long-term damage a stroke caused. Treatment for ischemic strokes depended on how much time elapsed from the signs start until the patient arrives at the hospital. For eligible patients (approximately 3 hours in 2010), a medication called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) may be given. This medication works to dissolve the clot and help restore blood flow. In other patients, a stroke specialist may recommend a mechanical thrombectomy. This is where a specialized doctor threads a catheter through an artery in the groin up through the body to the brain and uses a clot retrieval device to grab the clot and pull it out. When people had received these treatments, they would recover quickly and sometimes totally. That did not apply to me, especially since the second stroke that happened over the second night I was in the hospital. Too much time had passed for me.
I had been in the hospital for 36 hours and I had two strokes. The medical doctors were treating me as I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol (I will dive into that issue in a later blog). I never had high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but the doctors did not have a reason for the clots in my case. They fell back on treating me like the majority of stroke patients with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They felt they had to do something! I remained frustrated because I could not find the reason for the strokes yet.
To be continued in a later blog. Please leave your comments!