Me and my husband at my art show on 5/15/09
On the morning of May 9th 2009, I woke up to a crashing sound. I was notorious for leaving my shoes in inappropriate places and they were notorious for trying to murder people, so when I jumped up and found my husband on the floor at the end of the bed where I had left my shoes, I immediately began apologizing for being a total butthole and helped him up. When he took a few more steps into the bathroom and fell down again, I started to realize that the problem clearly wasn't me and my homicidal shoes. I asked him what was wrong, he said he was fine. I asked him if it concerned him that he was falling down repeatedly, he replied, "Not really." And even though he doesn't drink, I asked him if he was drunk, just in case. He wasn't.
On his way back from the bathroom, he looked like someone walking on a moving bus. I was terrified and told him I wanted to call an ambulance and he told me he was fine, this had happened before and had resolved itself and he just needed to lie down and rest. He was sure it was just an inner ear infection and he would be fine. I immediately turned on my computer and googled strokes. I roused him and made him go through the steps to tell if someone was having a stroke. F.A.S.T. -He could smile just fine. His arms stayed up perfectly. His speech wasn't slurred or strange, he didn't even have a headache, so I didn't force him to go to the ER and I just stayed beside him, checking on him as he slept to make sure he was still breathing. When he woke up, he complained that the room was too bright. He was having double vision and sitting up made him so dizzy he threw up. When he went to reach for things, he would miss them, grabbing a few inches in front of where they were. I kept having to ask him to loosen his grip because he was crushing my hand without realizing it, as I lay next to him in the dark holding his hand.
I should have forced him to go to the emergency room, but I didn't. I'm used to people wanting me to go the ER when I know I don't need to, so I stupidly listened to him and didn't force him to go, and thankfully he didn't die.
My husband had in fact had a stroke. The doctor called it a TIA (transient ischemic attack ), which is the technical name for a mini-stroke, which means a stroke that resolves itself and doesn't show changes to the brain on an MRI.
Unfortunately, F.A.S.T. doesn't cover every kind of stroke. He was having a Cerebellar Stroke, which means that there was a bleed or clot somewhere in his cerebellum. That is the part of the brain that controls walking, and fear, and sensory input, and coordination.
For a Cerebellar Stroke/ TIA the test you need to do is “W.T.F? :P”
W- Walking -Is the person falling down repeatedly or unable to walk?
T- Touching- Are they able to reach out and touch something easily- is their grip too tight?
F- Focusing- Are they having trouble focusing their vision, or having other visual disturbances?
P- Puking- Does moving make them throw up?
If I had had this list of tests, I would have immediately dragged his ass to the nearest doctor. Like I said, thankfully, he lived.
He is mostly recovered now. It took quite some time and a lot of walking with a cane to get his coordination back. For some time, I couldn't get him to go places with me because he was afraid people would think he was drunk. His gait is still a little off, but I doubt other people notice much. His vision is permanently damaged, it seems, as he has to wear sunglasses inside if there is a lot of light, which makes him seem like a cool guy, or a Corey Hart impersonator.
I've asked him about it since. It was, in fact, the stroke that made him think he was fine. His fear reaction was broken and he just felt happy and at peace. It was up to me to take care of him and I didn't have enough information to do so, which is a big reason why I want to share our story. Now he knows that he needs to go to the doctor if I say so, though he is probably pretty tired of me neurotically assuming he has had a stroke again. He broke his toe last week jumping up to turn off the fire alarm at 4 am and I keep forgetting and spaz out when I notice his limp has worsened. But he has since been heavily medicated with 2 types of cholesterol pills and as many blood pressure meds, and he has regular checkups, so his chance of having another stroke is greatly diminished.
On a walk to take photos 5/23/09
So I ask you, in honor of his birthday, please share our story with someone to let them know that thinking "W.T.F? :P" could well save a loved one's life when someone is acting like they're drunk when they've not had a thing to drink. It is not what we usually are warned about but it could be a stroke.
"WTF? :P" FTW!
Disclaimer-- I am not a doctor, clearly, I am a humor writer, and while I have spent a lot of time researching cerebellar strokes since my husband had his, I am not an expert. My initialism (WTF? :P) is meant to help but if you think someone needs a doctor, please, call 911 or your local medical expert and stop reading a humor blarg.