Do you ever sit and wonder what you would do if something ever happened to your spouse? Something serious? Something sudden and life threatening? I’m sure most of you have casually thought about it. But have you ever had to seriously think about it? About how you would cope, or what you would tell your kids?
Probably not. And that’s a good thing. We’re young. We’re young parents of small, energetic children and we shouldn’t HAVE to think about those things. We shouldn’t NEED to think about those things. Those are the types of things older people think about, right? Not people like us.
Well, all that changed for me on Monday, October 3rd, 2016. Four days before my husband and I were to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, he had a stroke. He’s 36.
He had been feeling unwell over the last few months and was recently put on blood pressure pills. He’s had high blood pressure for years and it’s never seemed to bother him and it never seemed to concern doctors. So why would we be concerned? But since it started to become an issue over the previous months, he was put on medication to bring it down. And they worked. They worked well. He was feeling better. He had lost some weight. We’d been eating better and exercising more. He had more energy for our two young boys. Everything was good. Everything was good that day.
It was a typical, normal day.
Then, around 6pm, we were playing with our boys and he seemed a little distracted. I asked if he was okay, and he said his head hurt a bit and was tired. He seemed a bit spaced out. Then around 6:30, one of the most frightening nights of my life started. He began saying things that didn’t make sense. Random words and sentences. He couldn’t give coherent answers for the questions I was asking. I asked him repeatedly if he was messing around – he can be quite the jokester – but he just stared at me, shrugging. Physically he was fine. He was walking around, he was calm. I kept talking to him, trying to make sense of what he was saying. I couldn’t. He said he was fine. He wasn’t. I called my parents to come watch the kids, and then I called 911. The entire time I was on the phone, he stood there staring at me and shaking his head. He thought he was talking normally. He couldn’t understand why I was so upset.
When the paramedics got to our house, one side of his face had a slight droop. I noticed it. Both my parents noticed it. The paramedics noticed it. The doctor at the hospital noticed it. But when I left the ICU that night, I was told his symptoms were not consistent with a stroke and his CT scan was clear. A part of me felt relieved, but also confused. If not a stroke…then what?
They kept him overnight and released him the next day with an MRI scheduled for a couple of days later. During those days, he was better. But he was still mixing up words here and there. He was still confused at times. And exhausted. Completely exhausted. All of these things were definitely consistent with someone who had just had a stroke.
He went for his MRI on the Thursday and that’s when we were told…it was a stroke. Apparently, strokes don’t always show up on CT scans during the first 24-48 hours.
But he’s 36. He has never smoked, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t have diabetes, his cholesterol is normal, we eat a balanced diet, and our kids keep him pretty active. Could he benefit from a little more exercise? Sure. Does he stress about things? Yeah, who doesn’t?! But he has high blood pressure. He has ONE of the main stroke risk factors. One. One that we had recently thought we were getting under control.
I guess the reason I felt compelled to share this story is because a stroke can happen to anyone, at any age. And it can happen suddenly – out of nowhere. We were lucky. Lucky that I noticed the signs that night, and lucky that he’ll likely have a full recovery because after all, he is only 36. But we don’t know that for sure. That’s something only time will tell.
But when something like this happens, it put things in perspective. It’s a wake-up call and makes you really think about what’s important in life. It makes you want to better yourself and make sure you’re doing everything you can to be healthy and there for your kids. So are we making lifestyle changes like eating better and exercising more? You bet we are! Those things are incredibly important for stroke survivors and their recovery. But you know what else is important? And I mean this for not only stroke survivors and their families, but for everyone…
Stress less. Laugh more.
I’m serious. If I can offer any advice after an experience like this, it’s to do what makes you happy. Spend more time with your family and friends. Make memories with your children. Life is way too short and could be taken from us at any moment. Take care of yourself – both physically and mentally.
Stress less. Laugh more. That’s our family’s new motto. And I think it should be everyone’s.