Stroke: A Tale of Affirmation
It began with the headaches that initially felt like the flutter of butterfly wings on the left side of my temple, gradually escalating to what I suspect it must feel like to have that little penguin from the movie, Happy Feet tap dancing in my head. Self-diagnosing, I attributed them to problems with my sinuses, or to the barometric pressure due to the highs and lows of Atlanta’s fickle winter temperatures.
A rushing sound, much like running water followed, resulting in a frantic search throughout my house to see if faucets were running somewhere. Lying in bed later that night the mystery was solved. The sound was coming from my head or rather my left ear. I self-medicated for a couple days by taking Tylenol. I also threw in a few M&Ms – well for good measure. When nothing worked, I made an appointment with my doctor.
Nothing prepared me for the diagnosis: Stroke! Rather a mini-stroke or a (TIA) transient ischemic attack. A TIA occurs when a blood clot temporarily clogs an artery, and part of the brain doesn’t get the blood it needs. The symptoms occur rapidly, and most last less than five minutes. The average is about a minute. Unlike a stroke, when a TIA is over, there’s no injury to the brain. Of the individuals whom have had one or more TIAs, more than a third will have a major stroke. Because you can experience a TIA and not know it; failure to receive immediate medical treatment makes it all the more frightening.
Of all the “conditions” what my late father used to call his ‘age-onset’ illnesses that I knew that I was susceptible to, a stroke wasn’t something I ever considered. Sure, somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that I was a candidate. After all, African Americans are more prone to strokes than other races. I suffer from hypertension where my blood pressure fluctuates from day to day. But I faithfully take my medication.
Initially, suffering a TIA left me overwhelmed with a tsunami of emotions. Strokes aren’t supposed to happen to someone whom folks say look much younger than she actually is, I think. Despite that one chin hair that continues to return, even after repeated plucking with industrial strength tweezers that a few months ago started to play hard ball by growing back gray. Strokes aren’t supposed to happen to someone who has finally realized a life-long dream of becoming a published author.
Having survived a TIA has made me realize that strokes don’t discriminate between age, gender or class. Strokes don’t care whether you are politically aware or even politically correct. If anything good has come out of this health scare, it has renewed my zeal for living my truth/my purpose. Thus, I feel more self-protective of my dreams.
In truth, having suffered a TIA has reminded me of what my mother always believed: that what does not kill you; indeed makes you stronger.