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Learn How to Act FAST This Month



May is Stroke Awareness Month

Flynn and mommy smiling together

May is Stroke Awareness Month.

Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, on average, someone dies of a stroke every 3.70 minutes. That’s over 389 deaths from stroke each day, based on 2016 data.

It is so important to know the and symptoms of a stroke and to act FAST (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9–1–1) if someone is having a stroke. [Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention]

In honor of this year’s Stroke Awareness Month coming to an end, I wanted to share my personal story.

After giving birth to our son in February 2017, I was discharged after a ten-day long hospital stay. I had been diagnosed with a severe and sudden onset of preeclampsia and once the baby was delivered via emergency c-section, I had been kept for an additional week for treatment and monitoring. Two days later, I developed a terrible, incessant headache under my right eye. It was like a stabbing pain behind my eyeball. I chalked it up to exhaustion – I had a baby in the NICU after all - took some medication, and tried to carry on with my day. I got a ride to the hospital in the afternoon to visit my son and that’s when, in retrospect, I should have known that it was more than being tired.

That day was supposed to be our hospital tour. We had scheduled to visit the same day as another one of our very good friends who was due around the same time as I was, so her and her husband were there that day. We shared pleasantries in the lobby upon seeing each other and they gave their congratulations on the birth of our baby, but the problem was that I didn’t know who they were. They walked away and I said to myself, “Who was that?

Proud of myself for faking it through a conversation with a “stranger,” I continued to the NICU. The nurse brought me to my son’s bedside and asked if I wanted to hold him. Of course I did, so she helped my remove his tiny, less-than-two-pound, body from the incubator and put him in my arms. While holding him, I had trouble holding my head up. His weight was pulling me down, but time like this was limited, so I soldiered through and kangarooed him far beyond the time my body told me to quit.

My husband came and visited our son for a bit and then we drove home together from the hospital. I closed my eyes in the car the whole ride because the medicine that I had taken earlier had provided me with no relief all day long and I hoped that maybe some rest would make the terrible pain stop. I got into bed as soon as we arrived home, drank some water, and watched some television. Even in a show that I had watched countless times before, I couldn’t recognize the characters. The storylines were confusing and their names escaped me. I turned off the TV, took some more medicine, and fell asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a headache that was so excruciating that it felt like my head actually exploded. The pain was far worse than any migraine that I had ever felt but, because I’m prone to them, I thought that maybe this was just the worst one I’ve ever had. I got in the shower, and that’s when everything went black. I called for my husband, and the next memory I have is from in an MRI machine. The technicians were discussing the scans and how the neurosurgeon was on his way.

I had a stroke – a rare simultaneous ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in my right temporal lobe. I was told that I would be lucky to live to see my son’s first birthday, and that it would be unlikely to see him go to school. But I am here.

RELATED: Do you know the symptoms of heart attacks in women?

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Underestimated Strength is a collection of posts all about our journey through life as we navigate preemie parenting after the NICU. You can read my posts here every Tuesday! Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram, where I speak freely about our story and advocacy.
Do you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions? Contact me via email: kristina.mulligan.blogs@gmail.com


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