I was diagnosed with a stroke the day before April Fool’s Day. I was supposed to meet my friends the day after, but when I told them what happened to me, they all thought I was pulling a prank, at first. I don’t blame them though, it’s one of those things that you’d never expect would happen to you, but when it does, your life takes on a slightly different track.
The stroke came out of nowhere. In fact, I couldn’t even tell I was suffering from one when it first happened. It struck me when I was in a yoga class. I was easing myself into the sun salutation pose when I felt a strong prickling sensation wash over my body in waves – all over the left sides of my face, neck and limbs.
It was kind of like pins and needles, so I didn’t think much of it and did the pose a little more vigorously, thinking maybe my body cramped up from the air-conditioning. But the sensation didn’t go away, and it was odd that it was just on one side of my body. To add to that, a dull headache started to pound at my head, so I decided to go home.
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Rest at home didn’t help matters, so my parents brought me to an acupuncturist after I told them what happened. The acupuncturist was of no help. He took my blood pressure and performed acupuncture, but my body still felt unchanged and the same numbing sensations persisted.
I decided to sleep it out, but there was no change the next day either. It was very odd, and the more I thought about it, the more I started to suspect it was a stroke. Even though I didn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and I wasn’t in my fifties or sixties, the reality that I might have had a stroke was making me increasingly anxious.
So I decided to go to the hospital to have it checked out. Thankfully, they prioritise suspected stroke patients at A&E, and that helped quell my anxiety a little bit. After I had completed my scan, the doctor confirmed my suspicions – I did have a stroke. It was due to an arteriovenous malformation in my brain, which meant that I had a blood clot in my brain due to an unusual connection of blood vessels.
Having gone through a day knowing that I probably had a stroke, I was not depressed or shaken when I heard the news. I just wanted to know what I should do next. Sadly, a surgery would only increase the complications so it was better not to operate.
Needless to say, stroke was a life changer. At first, it put my life on hold, but then it started to put my life in perspective and made me realise that I was actually very fortunate. My stroke hadn’t affected my muscles and no one who looked at me could guess I suffered a stroke.
Also, if I had been paralysed by it, I wouldn’t know how to cope. But I can still move. So I’ve spent my time trying to be healthier so that if there’s another stroke, I can be strong enough to deal with it. I’ve stopped smoking, started sleeping earlier, and drink less often. When I swim, I make sure I swim by the sides of the pool just in case something happens. It’s good to take precautions.
Speaking of precautions, my boyfriend tracks my location at all times using the Find My Friends app. It might seem creepy, but I know he comes from a good place. He can’t bear the thought of losing me, and he feels secure knowing where I am, in case something happens to me and I need help. He was the one to suggest it, and I know he wouldn’t do that lightly. I have no sense of privacy now, but if it means I can give my boyfriend a peace of mind by staying safe, I’m all in.
I have to medicate myself to deal with the pain. The medicine is numbing and sometimes it makes me lose my sense of touch on the left side of my body. I remember I was once padding around the hospital with just one slipper on my foot as I didn't feel the other slipper fall off. I didn’t realise it till my boyfriend pointed it out.
I felt that medication might stop me from knowing if I’m better or not, so at times, I test the limits of how far I can go without meds. I would sometimes go a whole day without taking my meds. Though I would be ok in the morning when the medication from the previous day still hadn’t worn off, by evening, a soft touch would feel like someone seared my flesh on a hot pan, causing me to flinch, especially if I didn’t see anyone approaching me.
To this day, I haven’t told many of my friends about the stroke. I’d feel embarrassed to tell them, because it’s not like I have the worst of it – I see others with stroke and half of their faces are slack because they have no more control over their muscles. But I do have that ability.
But above all, I think it’s important that people are aware of what a stroke is, and how to identify one. It could happen as subtly as it did to me, without any pain or loss of muscle control, but as long as you know how to identify a stroke, you are already more prepared to deal with it, in case one happens.