My husband and I have been living in denial for years. We’re both pretty healthy, exercise regularly, don’t have extra and unnecessary padding on our bodies, do stuff that exercises our brains, and indulge in magical thinking, i.e., “we’ll never die because we take care of ourselves.”
Well, Mother Nature recently decided she’d had enough of our foolishness and bitch-slapped us with some reality. First, my knees started giving me even more trouble than they had been, so I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. Good news is that I’m not yet in need of knee replacements; bad news is, if I don’t get hit by a beer truck first, I will need them in a few years. He gave me a steroid shot in each knee—now that was fun!—and wrote me a prescription for physical therapy, which I start this week.
But that was only a hint of things to come. A few days after my appointment, my husband had a TIA. For those of you not familiar with medical abbreviations, that stands for transient ischemic attack, or in the vernacular, a mini-stroke. Fortunately, it was very mini. It did a minute amount of damage in the occipital lobe, which is at the back of the brain and controls vision. When it happened, he got very dizzy and his vision went blurry. The vision cleared up in just a few hours, and it seems the only lingering damage is some slight loss of peripheral vision in the upper left quadrant. It could have been so much worse, but thankfully, it wasn’t.
We went to the emergency room when it happened. They kept him in the hospital a little over 24 hours, did tests, and gave him heparin to counteract any other clots that might be lurking. The most dangerous period is 24 to 48 hours after a TIA, so please, people, if you or someone you know experiences anything unusual involving the head, senses, or limbs, run to an emergency room. When you look up TIA symptoms, the list includes my husband’s two symptoms, but it also includes things like a sudden and severe headache, difficulty speaking or raising your arms, tingling, facial drooping, etc. Often the symptoms are not severe and it’s easy to dismiss them if they clear up within a short time. And you don’t have to have them all to be having a TIA. The symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain is the locus of the stroke.
Don’t ignore any of these symptoms. Go to the nearest emergency room as soon as you can, and whatever you do, don’t drive yourself if you’re the one having the symptoms. Call an ambulance. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
And remember, just because you’re in good shape doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. My husband was skiing in Colorado in March and played racquetball the week before this happened. He isn’t overweight, doesn't have high blood pressure, and he is active. Yes, he’s male, and, yes, he’s old, so he’s got those two risk factors, but he doesn’t have any others. A story I saw on NBC News shortly after this happened said strokes are decreasing among the elderly, but increasing among the young. They interviewed a 28-year old woman who’d had a serious one. So even if you’re barely dry behind the ears, if you experience any sudden symptom that could be indicative of a stroke, get it checked!
And now I’d better get my butt out from behind the computer, grab the old man and the dogs, and go for a walk! Stay healthy, my friends!