“Just a typical Sunday” – You’re never too young for a stroke


Daphne Ewing-Chow

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday October 28, 2015 – It was just a typical Sunday. I was on whatsapp with a friend. The kids were scurrying around me. My husband was asleep.

“Bahahahaha,” I typed in response to something my friend said.

And then it began.

My head felt like someone had stuck a hose in my ear and was spraying water at full throttle into my brain. I felt like every gap, every micro-molecule within my skull was being compressed. It was like a migraine— cubed.

I was 38-years old. I had been married for 15 years. I had three beautiful little girls, ages, 11, 8 and 7. I had a fulfilling job. I was a consistent runner. Up until that point I had a very normal, healthy life.

Just a typical Sunday.

I desperately made my way towards my bed as my oblivious children ran around me. I threw myself onto its edge knowing something was horribly wrong, cutting off my whatsapp chat, mid-sentence.

“brb,” I feverishly typed.

I pulled a pillow over my head with my nearly lifeless arms. Everything was starting to go numb.

“Michael!” I yelled at the inert mass by my side. He was not taking me on.

By the third time I tried to get his attention, my lips and my tongue were lifeless.

“Mchbbl,” was what it must have sounded like to my baffled family, as I continued to try to get my husband’s attention.

Well, that certainly did the trick.

Michael hit the proverbial roof. “Everyone in the car!” He screamed. And so it began.

It was no longer a typical Sunday.

In the days and weeks that followed, I relearned to walk, to write, to use my arms for simple tasks. The sensation in my mouth returned almost immediately.

Thankfully it was not a serious stroke.

Others are not so lucky.

Never think that it cannot happen to you.

You are never too young for a stroke.

Chief executive officer of the Barbados Heart and Stroke Foundation, Gina Pitts, has said that under-40s should be very concerned about the prospect of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Nearly one fourth of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States have reported a steep increase in strokes among people in their thirties and forties. A rise in risk factors — obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, diabetes— and improved diagnosis account for this trend.

That said, I did not suffer from any of the risk factors for a stroke. I was perfectly healthy.

During a business trip that I took a few days prior, while lifting a heavy bag, I over-extended myself and tore an artery in my neck. I suffered a vertebral artery dissection.

I had been suffering from neck pain but did not realize that it had become a case of what my doctor would later describe as a “ticking time bomb”.

I was not aware of the distinguishing characteristics of stroke symptoms.

If the following symptoms are reported and acted upon within four hours, the possibility of permanent brain damage can be eliminated:

– Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
– Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
– Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
– Difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination.
– Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
(Source: New York Times)

World Stroke Day takes place on October 29th, almost three months to the day since that “typical Sunday”.

I am lucky to be alive.

For more information or to donate, visit the website of the Barbados Heart and Stroke Foundation at www.hsfbarbados.org.

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