I Had A Stroke At 21 Years Old
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Health and Wellness

You Aren't Supposed To Have A Stroke As A Healthy 21 Year Old, But Here I Am

The story of my stroke, and what it taught me about God, love, and perspective.

You Aren't Supposed To Have A Stroke As A Healthy 21 Year Old, But Here I Am
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There was no warning. Most nights consist of tossing and turning. Some fits of movement wake me up no matter how deep the sleep. Wrestling the blankets, fidgeting until my boyfriend wakes up, and a handful of mornings I sincerely pray to God thanking Him for the rest provided, even though unruly. Until November 25.

November 25, I woke up to a seizure possessing my young and healthy body. To my knowledge, this didn't happen often. However, after spending a few days in the hospital I learned every other person I spoke with knew someone taking Keppra — the medication that was prescribed for my seizure, after the stroke.

Stroke. That's a word that sits on the tongue longer than others. A word my mother used to inform our family and friends of the situation. A word doctors and nurses spoke with ease. A word I've been repeating silently in my mind while lying in bed. But it could've been worse. Worse. Another word that lingers. I am the lucky one.

Then why does it still feel like I was dealt a terrible hand?

And then I remember that I'm allowed to feel this way. I am a healthy young adult. Twenty-one years old. I am allowed to feel the pain. I am allowed to feel grief. I am allowed to mourn my normal. I am allowed to feel. This is an event I never want to forget. Although painful, it has proven my strength. This experience has pushed me to acknowledge the blessings in life. My stroke has given me the power to overcome hardship I naively only thought happened to other people.

Some days are better than others. I have cried tears of frustration and pain until the throbbing in my head aligns with the beat of my heart. I have cried tears of joy with the people I love. I have caressed the face of my lover while we talk about how strong I will seem when we tell our grandchildren about my brain surgery. But there are still tough moments. Mountains that must be climbed both on the inside and out.

I am independent. This is something I showed my parents at a young age. My nickname is "Monkey" — no leap was too big. I climbed to the top of the playground and jumped off. I didn't wait for people to catch me.

We moved across town while I was in high school. I woke up an hour earlier to drive in traffic alone every morning. This was because I felt passionate about finishing my high school career with friends that would follow me for life. Softball was something that came naturally to me. However, when I discovered this sport wasn't bringing me the same joy it had while I was young, I put down my bat and mitt. Since that day I have not looked back. There wasn't a single doubt in mind when I walked into the preschool for my first job, rather than pursuing a softball scholarship. I accepted that job with honor and gratitude. The owners would not be sorry when they hired me. Although I lacked the experience, my strong will to do good overcame any obstacle that was thrown my way.

This is something I must continuously remind myself through this season of life. There are many deficits I need to accept. Not permanent physical deficits, which I am grateful for, but mentally. Independence is important. But my health is more important. So, what if I can't drive a car for months? At least I can feel kisses brush against my left cheek. My smile is still intact. I can see out of both eyes. So, what if I have to wake early to take seizure medication each day? Well, at least I woke up at all. So, what if the fear of another seizure, or worse, a stroke lingers? At least each good day will be rewarded with genuine gratitude.

When my boyfriend and I arrived at the emergency room the evening of my stroke, I was in complete denial anything could be wrong.

The entire duration of our waiting room stay, I insisted he overexaggerated. I was probably just having a nightmare which is what caused my tossing and turning. After all. I was healthy, and there couldn't be anything wrong with me. Right? Things like this happened to OTHER people.

This is the hospital my dad works at, but he wasn't on the schedule for that evening. Even more frustrating. The woman registering me at the ER asked basic questions, and we waited a brief ten minutes before getting called back. I was instructed to put a gown on, and several bodies entered my curtain room. My boyfriend went through the same events over, and over. I could tell he was nervous. There was a mix of fear and impatience. Some of the details were blurring together. We were both exhausted. After a handful of different tests, and casual banter with a nurse who knew my dad...a doctor entered. Until this moment exactly.I had thought we spent an early morning in the E.R. for nothing.

"There is blood in your brain."

Those six words did not feel real.

My surroundings were less gentle. The faces I saw were now irritating.

I wanted to shake the nurses who intruded our space.




Questions arose immediately from the two of us. Calls were made to family. More tests were lined up. We needed to rule out life-threatening issues like cancer and malignant tumors. We needed to get to the bottom of what was causing this seizure. I did not have any permanent paralysis, but in my CT scans I felt as if my entire body may as well have been paralyzed.

The neurosurgeon later discovered my issue was a cavernous angioma of the inferior right temporal lobe. Cavmal. Cavernous malformation. An isolated event. In summary, I had a benign growth in my brain. Which meant there was a cure. Hallelujah. These skilled doctors would soon remove the growth, and all of the sitting blood in my brain. After the recovery, there was an 85 percent chance of never again having another seizure or stroke caused by this monster.

Days were spent in a rotation of hospital beds. This was the case for doctors, and nurses also. Leaving the hospital was a new kind of triumph. After just a few days, we were driving home. Normal. To an extent.

Everything was fragile. My mood. My body. My brain. I did not know this person in the mirror. She stared back at me blankly. Hair greasy. Hadn't showered in days. Is this what life has come to?

Why me? God. Why?

Now, six weeks post-operation I understand. God, you were on my side. In hindsight, I can see it more clearly. You are always on my side. If it weren't for your plan, this may have never happened. A renowned and very skilled Neurosurgeon was able to see us almost immediately. He took out the Angioma beautifully. I say us, as in my boyfriend and I. It was never just me. It was us. It is us. This man stepped up in unimaginable ways. I will spend the rest of my life with him, and for that, I am so thankful.

He sat by my bed while I cried in pain. Waited for me after surgery. Kissed my antiseptic forehead after rolling into the ICU. Slept on the hospital couch. Sped home when my suppository kicked in (OK, TMI). Woke up every few hours to administer my medication. Fought for me when my nurses didn't know how to manage the pain. Held my hand as I cried in worship from a hospital bed. Loved me in a way I didn't know existed.

I thought I knew real love. Until this. This is real love.

It's amazing that after all of the pain, and immense heartache I have felt this year, I am stronger than ever. Although some days are harder than others, I am better because of these circumstances. God only asks us to fight battles he is confident we can win, and this was one of mine. And now instead of a trophy, there is a quarter-sized titanium plate in my head as proof of this triumph.

I may have felt this was a terrible hand, sure. But the perspective gained was worth every play. That girl with greasy hair, staring back in the mirror, would have never guessed she could win a battle this tough. But here we are, and the story must go on.

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