'My Subconscious Said Stroke, My Brain Said Couldn't Be': Stroke Victim's Wife Shares Story

| by Jonathan Constante
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An Australian woman took to Facebook to share the story of her husband’s stroke in an effort to help raise awareness about the tell-tale symptoms and potentially save lives.

Jodie Niven admits that you would have to hit her over the head and knock her unconscious to get her into an ambulance. But when she noticed some unusual behavior from her husband, she knew there was something very wrong.

Niven’s husband was losing coordination of his fingers and kept stumbling when there was nothing to stumble on. He planned to sleep it off but when Niven asked him to hold both his arms above his head and his left arm began to pull down slightly, she realized that he might be having a stroke and called emergency services.

The quick-thinking wife may have very well saved her husband’s life and now she is looking to help save others. She shared a detailed Facebook post of her husband’s experience, explaining what to look out for when someone appears to be having a stroke.

Niven wrote:

In a few weeks it will be 1 year since my 41 yr old husband, and our 4 and 6yr old's Dad had a stroke. While we generally made the choice to deal with this privately, today I have noticed a number of people sharing an article on a 'new sign of stroke'. It is, sadly, very indicative of the lack of public knowledge about strokes that this information is being shared as a 'new' sign. I have done a quick search and noted internet reports of this particular story as far back as 2004. That's 11 years ago! So I feel it's time to put some first hand knowledge out there......

(please feel free to share)

When my hard working, frequent traveling husband arrived home from work one Friday evening:

He didn't mentioned that he was home later than expected because his pinky and ring finger on his left hand just kept hitting the wrong damn keys, and he had to keep re-typing his emails.

He didn't mention that he'd stumbled for no apparent reason when walking to the bus stop from work.

He didn't mention that the reason he knocked on the door at home to get in was that he had fumbled and dropped the keys a number of times while trying to open the door.

He did mention that he felt like he was getting the flu.

He did mention that he felt like he was having a hyper sensory experience when walking down the dark nature reserve pathway on his way home from the bus stop, with feelings of a heightened sense of hearing.

He didn't have a headache.

He initially seemed, to me, to be getting the 'man flu', and nothing more.

He almost made the worst decision possible, in suggesting he would go to bed early and sleep, after we had gotten the kids to bed, but thankfully (!) is such a workaholic he decided to send one more email.

About 2 hrs after arriving home from work (still *not* having mentioned the weird, mis-typing fingers, stumbling on the way to the bus stop, or dropping the keys at the door), he stood up from the dining table where he was working, to go upstairs to bed. His foot turned in an ever so slightly strange way, and he did the slightest stumble, but I saw it out of the corner of my eye. Thankfully:

I did stop and ask him 'what was that about, are you ok?' He told me his foot had just gone to sleep.

I did stop him and tell him 'wait a minute, that was unusual', and get him to walk across the lounge room. Everything seemed fine. But he had stumbled, when there was nothing to stumble on.

I did make him walk over and sit on the lounge. He walked normally. He looked normal. He was speaking normally.

I did get him to put both his arms straight out in front of him. He held them perfectly level, and then, ever so slightly, the left hand dropped down lower, only a few centimetres. My subconscious said 'stroke'. My brain said 'couldn't be'. I told him to put his arms down, then lift them and do it again. Again, he initially held his arms level, then the left hand dropped and curled ever so slightly.

I did get him to hold his arms up straight above his head. Initially both arms stayed up, then his left arm pulled slightly down, and his hand turned slightly.

I did stop him from going to bed. I made him stay put, sitting down.

I did fight every part of my no nonsense 'it's nothing, just get on with life' upbringing and attitude and I did call an ambulance. As disbelieving as I was, I realised that it might be (probably was) a stroke, and every second mattered.

By the time I had given our details to 000, and was speaking to the operator while waiting for an ambulance, my husband had gone from looking and speaking fine, to not being able to control his fine arm movements very well, or speak as clearly as he normally would. It was only as the ambulance arrived that he started to show the 'classic' signs of a stroke. The drooping face (but nowhere near as pronounced as the stroke awareness literature at this stage), trouble speaking, and significant loss of limb movement.

You may have heard that doctors can 'reverse' stroke damage if patients get to hospital soon enough to clear the clot within a few hours. This refers to an Ischaemic stroke, where a blood clot has blocked an artery and cut off blood flow, and can be true, but this comment discounts the extraordinary rehabilitation and effort that can still be required by patients to get back to a 'normal' physical existence.

In this instance, my husband had an Intracerebral haemorrhage, which occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts, allowing blood to flow into the brain. The only thing that could be done in this instance was to do everything possible to reduce his blood pressure, wait, and hope.

Due to the very early intervention, and the extensive knowledge and understanding of neuroplasticity at St Vincent's hospital Sydney (surprisingly, something which has only gained significant and broad medical acceptance within the last 5-10 years), my husband, and we his family, have been some of the 'lucky' ones. After being in Intensive Care, and then the Stroke Ward, my husband worked hard with his amazing rehabilitation team, and he was able to build new neural pathways to compensate for damaged areas of brain. He learnt to walk again. He learnt to use his arm again. He learnt to speak clearly again. He is back at work. Many stroke patients will never live any semblance of the life they led before the stroke.

Children, teenagers, and people in their twenties and thirties can also be, and have been, changed forever by stroke. If you notice the slightest 'strange' incident, or physical behaviour in yourself, or in others, including an unusual trip, or slight change in coordination of fingers, stop. Stop for a minute and ask them to smile, to poke their tongue out, to hold their arms out in front of them, and above their head. Ask them to repeat a sentence. Name five things and ask them to repeat them back to you. If everything seems ok DON'T let them go to bed, keep an eye out for small changes. If there are signs of stroke, no matter how minor, CALL AN AMBULANCE. There is a joke in my family that you would literally have to hit me over the head and knock me unconscious to get me into an ambulance, let alone call one, and I realise now that had it been me experiencing the symptoms, I would have ignored them. I would have gone to bed. I would be dead. Be self aware, as well as caring for others. Recognise early signs and save your life or someone else's.

My husband has been very, very lucky. But he is still changed forever to those who know and love him.

Niven’s post has garnered more than 200,000 shares so far. She thanked Facebook users for sharing her post and shared some more eye-opening statistics.

“Hopefully our story will help someone, somewhere, recognise what can be early signs of stroke, they will act FAST, and another life will be saved,” Niven wrote. “In Australia, 1 in 6 people will have a stroke. Stroke is Australia’s second single greatest killer after coronary heart disease and a leading cause of disability.

“One in five people having a first-ever stroke die within one month and one in three die within a year," she added.

Sources: Metro UK, Facebook, National Stroke Foundation

Photo Credit: Metro UK