In the summer of 2003 I suffered two severe strokes within a week of each other, completely crippling me. Prior to this incident I was in extremely good health; 31 years old, 5′ 8″, 145lbs, athletic/muscular build, with regular exercise in my day to day regimen. The Wallenberg strokes I suffered are rare and were considered “freak occurrences” by my Neurologist, and to this day I don’t know exactly why they occurred.
The first stroke was actually misdiagnosed, after experiencing extreme vertigo and loss of balance I was taken to the doctor who diagnosed me with “Labrynthitis”, an inner ear disorder that would explain my balance issues, unfortunately he didn’t test me to see if I had a stroke. A week later the second one hit me, it was a time bomb waiting to go off, and it did some serious damage. Early in the morning, while engaged in physical activity, it struck hard. I immediately collapsed to the floor, unable to walk,….or talk. A laundry list of neurological damage was inflicted on my body; loss of sensation on the entire right median of my body below the neck and on the left side of my face, complete loss of balance, loss of control to my vocal chords and pharyngeal muscles, facial droop, and much more.
After a night at the hospital I was immediately sent to a Neurology Center in North Carolina, where I would spend the next month in rehabilitation. The first week was tough, I thought I would be living the rest of my life as a cripple in a wheelchair, my job, my lifestyle, and my sense of hope was currently all gone. After the first few days I was soon making some progress, my speech had returned, allowing me to talk to concerned family members and communicate more readily with my doctors.
I was rendered to my hospital bed, unable to walk, and heavily fatigued, with one other symptom that really did continual damage, an eating disorder. Basically, the sensation that you are “full” from eating that is sent to the brain was blocked, leaving me constantly hungry. I still remember asking my night nurses at 2am to give me any food off their carts that they could, usually a fine staple of crackers or jello. This, combined with my lethargy, ended up transforming me over the next two months.
After spending a month in rehab I had finally “learned” how to walk again, although I was still dependent on a walker to get around, this was a key event to allow me to go home. I was on a cocktail of pain meds and blood thinners, and was able to undergo regular rehab sessions at a local hospital. I was slowly making good progress, my balance was improving, and I was regaining sensation and muscle control more and more. Unfortunately, over the span of three months, I ballooned from 145lbs to 225lbs, this only added to my depression.
I was finally able to progress to a cane to get myself around, this allowed me to return to work and instill some “normalcy” back into my my life. My rehab was working, and I was making gains as far as balance and muscle control, my doctors were very impressed. My outlook for the future was looking good, and soon quit taking all of my pain medications.
Within 6 months I was free of my cane and I attempted to start running to get myself back into shape. I looked like a drunken baby giraffe going down the street, it wasn’t working out too well, but I kept at it. I soon realized that this would be the hardest challenge yet, and I soon found other damaging symptoms, temperature regulation and Central Post Stroke Pain (CPSP). Any physical exercise would cause my body to rapidly heat up to dangerous levels; I would be sweating profusely after mere minutes of exertion. The CPSP was an unstoppable shooting pain that occurred along the left side of my face, attacks lasted seconds to minutes, I averaged about 50-75 attacks a day for the first two years. Sometimes it was so severe it would bring me to tears.
My doctors have labeled me as a “poster-child” for stroke rehabilitation, over the years I made great progress; however, getting rid of the subsequent weight gain was always difficult for me. Five months ago, my wife put me on an Isagenix diet and basic workout plan. Over the course of three months I was able to lose 40lbs, dropping my weight from 215 to 175lbs. I look good, feel good, have more energy and no longer snore at night. She tries to congratulate me, but it is her direction and discipline that changed me. I still tackle minor hurdles regarding my strokes, just the other day I realized I was able to ride my bicycle with no hands. I consider myself free of their damage, and try not to dwell on those sorrowing years. I choose not to tell people about them because I do not want them to treat me differently, and if anything, I am stronger because of them.