In other words, I had a stroke. Shocking but true. I am only 38 years old, but a little bit of my brain burst, so to speak. It's a long story how it all got here, but it's a miracle from the beginning to the end, notwithstanding all that I went through.
The biggest reason I set up this appointment is that I wanted to deal with the blood pressure issues which had plagued me in the past. My last physical was in 2008, and even then my blood pressure was unusually high.
My physical was pretty routine, a few of the tests were taken care of in a timely fashion. Then came the blood-pressure test.
My first reading? 193/143.
It was really bad. The doctor was shocked, and he admitted to me that he had never seen a blood pressure reading that high. Ever.
EEK. That's not good to hear, when even the doctor is shocked by the numbers your displaying!
The nurse on staff then provided me a pill to help calm me down, to help get the numbers down.
Thirty minutes later, I had my second blood pressure reading, and the numbers skyrocketed even higher: 216/167.
The doctor was really alarmed. He even urged me to go the Emergency Room right away. At first, I was more upset than fearful. After all, the team of medical professionals had given me a lot to be upset over with the first reading, and then the second reading. Why not just calm down and let the rest of the day take its course?
He gave me one medication, and I made a decision then and there to stay away from soda and to start focusing on weight loss.
The next day, Friday, May 31, 2019, I started out my work day with some projects from MassResistance. My employer and a few of my friends were worried about my high blood pressure, which was in fact really high blood pressure. They urged me to reconsider my refusal to go to the doctor.
I went to a usual local fastfood place to read and study. By then, I still had a severe headache. Whether the headache was become of my blood pressure or the nagging from others about my blood pressure, I do not know. However, instead of resisting these concerns, , I submitted to my friends' advice and went into the emergency room.
My blood pressure was pretty high that morning. It was about 10:30am when I went down to Kaiser South Bay (nearest Torrance). My pressure was reading 180/120. OUCH! Still not good. The bottom number, diastolic, should never be above 100. In fact, it should never get above 79 as the most healthy range. The doctor on duty assigned me another medication, and she then shared how happy she was that my blood pressure was already going down even more. This was great news.
I had to stay there for four hours, just so that they could monitor me. That was fine, since this procedure would enable me to continue properly in self-care. She also gave me some basic guidelines on what a stroke would feel like. She told me to be careful if one side of my body started feeling numb, for example. She also wanted to make sure that I didn't have any blurry vision or anything else like that.
From Thurday, May 30, 2019, and with help on May 31, 2019 going forward, I made a simple set of decisions:
1. I wanted to drink water only from now on, instead of the heavily sugared or caffeinated sodas. No more Diet Soda, either. That decision was going to be harder, I feared, since I had been drinking sodas directly and daily for years, if not decades.
2. I was going to limit my intake until I was no longer hungry. I would eat when I was hungry, not necessarily based on prescribed times. Pretty simple decisions, sure, but would be a big shift as far as daily activities are concerned.
I ran the numbers on the amount of Diet Coke I used to consume: I took in an average of 27 8 oz cans a day. Yes--and that was due to the fact that I used to set up my office so to speak in local fast-food restaurants and get the free refills. Considering these numbers, I was taking in 1100 mg of caffeine a day! That's the average, of course, so that pretty much sums it up.
I also needed to lose weight. That Thursday morning, I had weighed 228 lbs.
Within five days, I was down to 222lbs. The goal is 200 lbs for a person of my frame (6 feet, 3 inches). I had also forsworn the diet coke. No longer interested. I was really pleased that I didn't have a caffeine headache after that one day in the emergency room. It's been pretty good from this day forward.
Then came June 6, 2019. D-Day of a different sort, for me.
I was getting healthier, avoiding the heavy foods, not eating the fast-food anymore. I did not have any more caffeinated drinks. I found myself a little tired from doing some reading, and I also found that I was still getting set off, upset by an internal dialogue over issues I was thinking about.
I decided to take a walk that Thursday afternoon. The area where I frequent to get some exercises is a pretty, quiet, decent area. It's fine, simple, nothing dangerous or untoward. After an hour, I returned to a local restaurant, but I found myself immediately feeling very, very tired. Then the left side of my body, specifically my hands and feet, began feeling really numb. I was tingling up and down my left side, that same feeling that a person gets when they have sat on their foot, and the foot gets "asleep." I started feeling sick to my stomach, and I couldn't see clearly.
"Oh my God, am I having a stroke?" I wondered.
I couldn't believe this was happening! I had switched my behavior, my food regimen. I was not drinking the sodas anymore! How could this be happening?!
I was really tired, feeling sick, and a strong sense of tingling numbness ran up and down my left side. It was shocking for me when I looked at my phone to try and make phone calls. The numbers on the key pad seemed to skip around a great deal. The numbers which were normally toward the top of the phone suddenly ended down at the bottom, for example.
Then I panicked whether I had collected all of my belongings from the restaurant. I drove south from Hawthorne, CA to get home, thinking the whole time that I was not sure what else I could do. I admit it now that I really thought that I could drive to the hospital, or that I could drive home, or that I could figure out what I needed to do while keeping track of everything around me.
I refused to let this take me down. I refused to die. I would live and declare the works of the Lord, as Psalm 118 declares!
I meditated on that verse out loud, but I also cried out to God while I was driving: "Daddy, I don't want to die. I am not ready to go home yet!"
As I kept driving south on Inglewood Ave, which can be some of the worst traffic in the South Bay during the early and mid afternoons, I just could not ignore the fact that this was really serious. I was numb all over my left side, with the feeling in my left foot going in and out. I could not see well, and I was still feeling so sick. I pulled over on Inglewood Ave going southbound through Redondo Beach, CA. I stopped the car and I dialed 9-1-1. The operator answered right away and said "What is your emergency?" I listed for her everything that I was going through: "I feel number on my left side. I can't see well. I am feeling really sick. I need help."
She then asked me about other issues, and I told her that I had hyper-tension. I had gone into the doctor the previous week to get help, etc. She then told me to stop the car, tell her where I was parked, and then to set up the emergency lights on my vehicle. Praise God! The paramedics arrived within two minutes. A team of them arrived shortly afterwards. They stabilized me as best as they could, they asked the same questions a few times--understandable, considering that they wanted to make sure that the scene and myself were stable.
I recall at least seven men around me working to help me out. I was more than compliant, having no interest in fighting with any of them. I wanted to make sure that I got where I needed to go. The hospital I was supposed to go to was about five miles away, and the traffic throughout the South Bay was really bad at that point. The paramedics told me that I was going to a more local hospital, since my needs were much more acute.
I ended up at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, the same hospital where I was born!
And the same hospital, I often joked, where I would die. But don't worry -- I did not die!
The whole time, I was meditating on verses, stating verses out loud: "I will not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord." (Psalm 118:17)
I also began seeing the chorus from "Don't Blame Me" by Matt and Kim --"Can you blame me for just being alive?" That song has been stuck in my head the last few weeks, but the lyrics were quite a propos, I felt.
The doctors rushed me in quickly to the Little Company emergency room. One doctor greeted me along with a team of nurses. A neurologist was also on site to help me. They asked me basic details about myself, and I kept yelling back "What the hell is going on? What's going on?!"
At one point, they placed me under a scanner, and they also injected a liquid into me that felt quite warm--iodine. "It's going to feel really warm," one of the nurses told me.
Later, after the medical team brought me into an emergency room section, the neurologist brought me some cards with pictures on them.
"Can you tell me what these are?" He asked me.
I recognized the catcher's mitt, but I called it a "hand" at first, then a glove. I then saw the other items and I could identify them. The neurologist than showed me five sentences and asked me to read them. I was able to read them all, but I found my speech was a little slow. It was difficult for me to articulate!
Another doctor came in and tested my reflexes, my ability to move my arms, legs, etc. I found that when he put pressure on my left leg, then told me to raise my leg, it was a little weak at first.
Later on, though, I could move all my extremities without weakness or resistance.
I stayed at Little Company of Mary Hospital for about three hours. I called my boss in Massachusetts as well as speaking to pro-family activists in other states.
Let's face it -- it was nothing short of a miracle that I am alive today. At first, I was inspired to get a physical, finally after all these years. If I had not gotten the physical, if I had not known how high my blood pressure had been, and I had not gone to the emergency room the first time--on May 31, 2019--I would not have been prepared to do what was needed when the stroke finally hit.
It is nothing short of a miracle that I am alive today. Thank you, Jesus!
For a long time, I did not deal with my eating or drinking habits, although I knew that I needed to start doing something. I have been overweight for a while, but now I am glad to start doing something about it. The Diet Coke thing was harder to give up. I remember how often people used to chide me about how much I was drinking.
Today, I am off the stuff. No headaches, no problems.
On June 6th, I went from Little Company to Kaiser a second time. That time, the staff did an MRI, and they found out that I did indeed have a stroke. A little bit of my brain died on June 6th, 2019.
Thankfully, because I had responded as swiftly as I had done on Thursday, little damage occurred, and for all intents and purposes, no one would ever know that I had had a stroke, except for looking at one of the brain scan images from the MRI.
I stayed one night at Kaiser, and the next day, my doctor came in and told me that things are going to go pretty well for me. It's a miracle that I am alive, my doctor said, and that even though I had suffered a stroke, I would be able to go home after one day!
And that's what happened. Friday evening, June 7th, a friend of mine picked me up and helped me get back to my car. I felt a lot better, a lot calmer on the inside. So far, so good.
Saturday, June 8th, 2019 went well. My head felt so much better, I started calming down more on the inside. The day seemed to proceed pretty well.
Sunday morning, I woke up with a sense of sickness at 12:30am. I felt a less intense numbness along the left side of my body. Oh brother, here we go again! I thought. I ended up at the Emergency Room again, going straight to Little Company of Mary (since it's close by).
I had to wait a long time, and I got hustled around more my the nurses on duty. It was busy, but not terrible, and that I wasn't in as much immediate need as I had been three days before. Still, I was really frustrated at that point. I did not want this "dartboard diagnosis" approach. The doctors needed to get me the proper meds needed to get my blood pressure under control. That morning, indeed my blood pressure was still pretty high.
The greater part of the day was up and gone, and once again I was in an emergency room. There were so many pressures going on in my mind, and I just didn't see, didn't know how any of this was going to end.
In spite of the hardships, the frustrations and the setbacks of that Sunday morning, a few friends of mine visited me:
This time was really important to me. It helps to know when you are not alone, and that there are others who are there for you, no matter what you are going through.
I ended up back at Kaiser again -- five emergency room visits in a little over a week! I was so over this. I just wanted to go home!
The doctors at Kaiser began talking to one another--the different MDs who had helped me throughout the last five days. They agreed to adjust my medications so that there would be fewer complications down the line. They also set up another appointment with my primary physician to ensure that the medicine regimen assigned to me would work.
The next day, at the doctor's office in Torrance, this was my new blood pressure:
This was the first good reading for my BP in more than a decade! I kid you not!
The doctor also informed me that two incidents had occurred in my brain:
1. I had a really, really small stroke.
2. I had a TIA--transient ischemic attack--a blockage in one of my brain's arteries, which later cleared up, though.
WOW! A Two-fer, and I still survived. "It's a miracle that you are alive," my doctor told me.
I thank God Almighty that everything turned out the way it did.
If I had not gotten the physical, I would have never realized the turmoil and BP trauma in my body. It was pretty scary going through what I went through.
Today, I feel stronger, healthier, much better than I did before.
I don't have this chronic, lingering fatigue the way that I had before. Over the course of the month of May, I just couldn't get enough energy to write, to read, to take care of other things.
A lot of bad habits have been sloughed out of my life over the last few months. A few more bad, unhealthful habits are gone, too.
I prayed this prayer, I made this claim, and I anticipate that I will see it come to pass!
I want to thank everyone of you who called, who prayed, who reached out to me when I was need. I cannot thank you enough!