Happy to Add Stroke Survivor to My Resumé

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, at 1:46pm, I suffered a stroke. I was rushed to the hospital and admitted a few hours later. But the doctors struggled to find the cause. Then on Wednesday, September 12, at around 3:00pm, I suffered another stroke. The doctors ran another barrage of MRIs, CT Scans, and ultrasounds and ultimately found a small tear in the vertebral artery wall on the right side of my brain. As the body does, it went into healing mode and a clot formed on the tear. That clot ultimately blocked the artery and caused the two strokes. Once they found this, the doctors quickly put me on proper medication to prevent further damage from taking place.

After exactly two months, I am doing quite well and will continue leading a normal life with very minimal short term medical monitoring. I have full range of motion in all parts of my body – my toes, fingers, mouth, all work fine and are balanced- my smile is still purdy and the only lasting effect is a small blind spot in my lower left field of vision. Thankfully it doesn’t affect my driving, so I’m free to sit in traffic on the LA freeways to and from work. Awesome.

The technical stuff: Both strokes I suffere were caused by a condition called Vertebral Artery Dissection. The second stroke I suffered was an asymptomatic stroke on my cerebellum. “Asymptomatic” is the best word in a description of a stroke. It means, as mentioned above, everything in my body is working fine. I show no typical signs of cerebellar stroke like paralysis or limited cognition. The first stroke was symptomatic in the form of my blind spot. This is typical with strokes on the occipital lobe and is typically permanent. The best news is the doctors – a neurologist and my primary care physician – found the VAD as quickly as they did (the afternoon of the 12th) after running many tests Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and started an aggressive treatment right away. As you all know, timing is everything with medical issues and I am extremely fortunate to have a crew of amazing doctors, nurses, technicians, transporters, housekeepers, billing reps, and other hospital staff at St. John’s who worked hard to get me the heck outta there in good shape.

Today, my brain is healing very well and my doctors are quite pleased with my progress. They hold the strong belief that I will fully recover except for the potential that the blind spot is permanent. When I asked my ophthalmologist if the blurry spot was permanent, she said, “Typically, yes.” My response was, “I’m not typical.” To which she replied, “That’s what I like to hear.”

My three-month follow up MRI is in one month and if the results show that the artery is fully healed, I will be taken off my blood thinners. That means I can begin exercising again, eating vitamin K (kale, spinach, broccoli, etc), and I won’t have to worry about bleeding to death from a rogue paper cut or spontaneous nose bleed.

(And no, the irony of having a health issue and not being able to eat “the good stuff” [i.e. – the foods mentioned above], yet being able to drink alcohol [in moderation, of course] is not lost on me. I miss spinach more than my 12-year-old self could ever imagine.)

I cannot overstate the gratitude I have for my co-worker Frank Ventura who found me in Palisades Park in Santa Monica minutes after my first stroke and had the presence of mind to lie me down and call my boss, Jeremy Stone, and co-worker, Angie Stone (who happens to moonlight as an X-ray technician at St. John’s), to pick me up and drive me to the ER. Thank you also to the stranger with the Phillies hat who let me hang on to his arm when the stroke first came on and walked me towards safety even though he must’ve thought I was on drugs when I clumsily stood up and asked for help stating that I couldn’t see. It is Santa Monica, after all. Without that quartet of heroes, who knows where I’d be.

I’d like to extend infinite gratitude to my friends and family who visited me in the hospital and home; drove me to doctor’s appointments before I was safely behind the wheel; sent me care packages, cards, books, links to inspiring videos; and for showing their care in emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and tweets. The biggest thanks go to my best friends, Adam and Catherine Kay, and my cousin, Tita Ferick, for physically being by my side in the hospital; my brother, Brian, for flying from Boston to LA to make sure I was in one piece; and to Kelly Pendergast for being my primary chauffeur to my semi-weekly doctor’s appointments. (One of those times, we almost got run over by Robert Downey, Jr. True story.) Lastly, you know parents always make the cuts in the Thanks Department: My mom and dad have been immensely supportive and caring even from 3000 miles away.

Even I, a non-stop talker, cannot find the proper words to express my thanks to all the amazing people who have supported me on my journey due to this event.

After two months of sharing my story with friends and strangers, I recognize what my purpose is in this world and am working diligently on realizing it. This will reveal itself in the coming months.

I feel wonderful today and my recovery will continue to progress well. I am full of joy, love, appreciation, and gratitude for this event and never once asked, “Why me?” Instead, I ask myself, “What more can I give?”

My deepest thanks for your continuous support and loving energy. It is why I am alive today.