Something I never expected would happen, actually happened. I had a STROKE. I have none of the expected “signs” of a stroke – no high blood pressure, no A-Fib or other heart problems, out of control cholesterol, diabetes, blood clots, etc. As a matter of fact, I had no idea I even had a stroke during the night. I did not have a drooping face, I was not paralyzed but I could not open a water bottle, I took a shower, washed my hair and was going about my day like nothing happened. Then, I tried to speak to my daughter and I could not speak. I immediately realized that I must have had a stroke but I could not tell her. I could not speak, write, and the mayhem began. More on that in a later post.
“They” (my team of doctors) think it may have been stress. We may simply never know what caused my stroke. Obviously, if we had an answer, it would be better for me so we can avoid the “triggers” but, quite frankly, it is what it is. Sometimes I feel like “stress” is the easy answer to explain the unexplainable – but maybe stress truly is a cause of some physical ailments.
No question that I was absolutely under a lot of stress but I had been for decades, but why now? I have a very stressful job – legal secretary/paralegal and worked long hours, including traveling for trial, ever-changing demands, etc. but I love my job. I feel very fortunate to have a great job that I actually enjoy because I was not able to go to college for financial reasons, which by the way, I always wanted to get a college education but life got in the way. I have been taking care of my precious daughters and all that entails with little help from their father. I was able to send my daughters to college and invest in their future (and, yes, I will be paying those college loans until I die). I have also been taking care of my elderly mom for the past 11 years and who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013. When I say taking care of her, I literally mean she lived with me and my daughters for the past 11 years. That has not been an easy undertaking for sure – on any of us – my mom or on me and my daughters. But as hard as it is on all of us, it is even harder on my mom who realized she was losing her mind, who lost her independence, and I am sure the confusion that Alzheimer’s brings brought her much anxiety. I had converted my garage into living space for her so she can be as independent as she wanted to be, which was a life-saver for all, especially mentally, for all of us. In August 2016, she fell and broke her hip, was in the hospital for hip replacement surgery, then skilled nursing for weeks, and then I made the difficult decision to put her in a nursing home. I felt she needed the 24/7 care that we could not provide. I was working. I had surveillance cameras and a nanny-cam which would alert me when she was on the move but it was not enough to keep her safe. I still feel guilty because I know that no one will take care of our loved one like we would. Just a fact. We will all deal with helping our aging parents in some capacity.
On top of that, I was so busy at work (a 40 hour week was uncommon for me – way more hours); I returned recently from Delaware for trial (I love trial); I was dealing with my daughter’s DWI (which costs a fortune, btw); I was listed as a witness in a lawsuit and there was a possibility I was going to be scheduled for a deposition the following week (no good deed goes unpunished); a drunk illegal hit my daughter’s parked car (thank God she had just walked away however, my insurance paid $15,000 in damages and rent car … and dealing with the DA); still trying to pursue the San Luis Resort whose golf cart driver hit my youngest daughter car and refuses to pay the claim (another $12,000 which my insurance had to pay), my house flooded in 2015 and the expenses and fall out from that ($400 premium to $2,000 this year) along with other usual “life” stress triggers. I was in the process of all of that stress when the stroke happened.
We all live with stress. Life can be stressful and life is very expensive which is stressful just by itself. I have always used “humor” to ease the pain of whatever is happening in my life. I joke a lot about my situation and have always made fun of life hurdles. I could have crawled up in a ball and cried but what good what that do? Not that I did not have my days in my dark closet having a pity party but you pull yourself and get on with it – one day at a time … sometimes one moment at a time …
I know that having a stroke is serious but humor helps. You never know what could happen that could potentially change your life. It could have been so much worse for me so I am very grateful. My family and friends have been invaluable in my recovery and I have a wonderful speech therapist and my team of doctors. The outpouring of support is amazing. I am not paralyzed but I have speech (Aphasia) and some serious cognitive issues/executive function issues but I am getting better every day. I talk like I am very slow and very “challenged,” I struggle with writing and spelling (still googling for words), grammar, and don’t get me started on math – I cannot do simple math. Period. But I’m here. I’m inside my brain but cannot easily communicate. Retraining my brain, working on speech, and not know what caused the stroke – it is incredibly frustrating. It this is as good as it gets, so be it. I’m not working and it could be months before I return to work, only getting a fraction of your paycheck – facing financial hurdles and hardship is enough to give you another stroke! It is all very stressful – but “don’t get stressed because that could be the reason for your stroke” – OMG. UGH.
But here is the lesson: don’t take things for granted, be grateful, live life – you don’t know what is going to happen and get more disability insurance (not kidding). In an instant, your life and your family’s life can change dramatically. Be prepared. Save your money – pay yourself first. Thank goodness, I had an IRA, 401K of which I am depleting at record speed.
Thank goodness, I also put together what I call the “death binder” a long time ago in the event that something happens to me which contains my legal documents, my assets/liabilities, my life insurance, beneficiaries even down to my obituary (not complete). I am now working on my song selection and picture slide show. 🙂 The point is that I want my children to have everything they need in case of my death. My death binder is very comforting to me. I highly recommend a binder for everyone. Nothing is worse than your loved ones having to search for information in their time of grief. I am assuming that they would be grieving. Ha.
Below is a picture of me when I was released from the hospital (less than 24 hours in the hospital) that I found out later that one of my daughters took of me. And, the sweet note my daughters wrote for the GoFundMe page. I am grateful.
We all know that my mother, Brenda, is a hardworking single mother who has been the sole support of my sister and I for years. She has also been supervising the care of my grandmother. Now she needs our help.
Just when you think her life could not get any more stressful, she has a stroke. She is only 54 years old and we currently do not know the cause of this stroke. We have good and bad days, but most of her days consist of how we will pay for everything. With this stroke, she is now facing medical costs as well as living expenses. We have not received her medical bills to date, but her medical needs include increased prescriptions as well as visits to Neurology, Cardiology, and Speech Therapy for an unknown period of time. She had an MRI, CAT Scan, EEG, and Ultrasound while in the hospital. With insurance’s high deductibles and only covering a percentage of these costs, we know there will be a large balance leftover. She cannot write, type, or talk efficiently, and cannot get better at these basic skills without the Therapy and help from many doctors. They anticipate several months to recovery.
Though she will receive disability until she is able to return to work, it will be at just a percentage of her salary. Living expenses and taking care of my grandmother were already difficult enough to meet with her full salary.
Please consider helping her alleviate these stressors by donating and helping her build a medical fund and living.
I do not know how much this is going to cost us and I can only do so much by myself, especially from a financial standpoint. She has always done everything for us and I want to help de-stress her life as much as possible. Any extra stress can cause another stroke, especially in these first 90 days – I am trying to keep this from happening… Her number one worry is paying these medical bills, as well as living expenses. Anything helps. I am so worried for the future in how we will get these bills paid. Thank you so much.
– Lexi and Sara Winfree