Tuesday, August 02, 2011

And then there is this

Let's start with a disclaimer. I am fine. I will be fine. Things are a bit upside down right now, but I'm fine.

Last Monday I freaked myself, and everyone around me, out by taking a little ride to the hospital in an ambulance after suffering what the doctors referred to as a thunderclap headache while exercising. If you click on that link and visit Wikipedia there is some scary stuff there. So, I did NOT have a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Just to clarify.

The doctor immediately hooked me up to an IV, started some drugs to help with the headache, and ordered some blood work and a CT scan. I've never had a CT scan that fast in my life, even when my back did its thing.

The CT scan was normal. So the next step was a lumbar puncture. Don't click on that link if you don't like needles. There are some very vivid descriptions and images.

The lumbar puncture was normal. The blood work? Yup, you guessed it. Normal.

That's when, six hours after arriving, I was sent home, given some painkillers, told that I might want to stay home the next day because one of the side effects of the lumbar puncture was a rebound headache, but that I could go right back to my normal life, exercise and all. At that point I asked when I should follow up with my family doctor. Apparently since everything was normal, I didn't have to. Ummm...this headache? NOT normal. I didn't worry too much about it, I just wanted to get home, profusely thank my sister and get into my own bed. Besides, I had to go in to see my doctor this week anyway, so I'd bring it up then.

Tuesday I was groggy. Alex was home because of his craptastic hours, so we took J to daycare and I spent a toddler-free day on the couch and Alex tried to catch up on some sleep. Wednesday I was back at work. Not particularly productive, but back at work. Thursday I went out with my trainer again. I wasn't feeling entirely myself so we decided to go a bit more gentle and less strenuous. We did a 10 minute warm up walk and then 3 [very slow] step-ups into the first side of the first set of step-ups, it happened again.

And the ambulance came to the seawall again.

And I went to the Emergency Room again.

And ugh.

Once again I was hooked up to an IV. A well meaning nurse suggested I might want to eat before I work out (I had) and keep myself hydrated (I was). Eventually I was given some more headache drugs and a second CT was ordered. This time I had a contrast CT done.

Lots of nothing happened for a long time. The people by my bed changed a few times. My mom arrived and made a big long list of questions for me to ask the doctor. My amazing sister picked J up from daycare. My mom headed over to our place to look after J so my sister could go to work. Alex and I twiddled our thumbs. A lot.

Before my mom left, we sent Alex off to eat something because we had no idea how long we'd be in the hospital. After talking to the doctor, who was very vague, we overheard her talking at the nurses station. I heard words I recognized because I had looked up subarachnoid hemorrhage. Scary words.

Then a neurologist came and did a full neurology exam. I remembered which was left and which was right (yay me!), I touched my finger to my nose a million times, I correctly identified that we were in the hospital and it was likely close to four o'clock in the afternoon.

And then I was visited by a team of neurologists. I think there were four of them.

Basically one of my CT scans showed a spot that concerned them. Likely an old bleed. Likely an old stroke. They don't know how old. My blood work and lumbar puncture weren't 100% okay, but high enough not to worry. Except for this spot. Because of the spot the not quite 100% normal was not normal enough. Only 100 would do in that. Oh, and my blood pressure is elevated. And it shouldn't be because I'm not old enough.


After nine hours in the Emergency Room, I was assigned to the stroke team at the hospital and will be attending the stroke prevention clinic. I don't really know what that means. I've been put on high blood pressure medication. Possibly for the rest of my life. Possibly not. It depends on what's causing it. I've been in for a bunch of outpatient tests and have more coming up. They don't know how old the [possible] stroke is. That's why there's more tests. They don't know why it happened. They don't know why I've had two of these headaches. I can safely return to my "old" life and continue to do any and all activities I was doing before. I can even conceive a baby (why they would think this was a smart idea is beyond me...). Don't worry. I'm not going to. That's insanity. Oh, and I was to take three or four days off from exercising but I can safely go back to that now and I can continue to train with my trainer.

What we do know:

  • *if* it was a stroke, it was a while ago
  • *if* I had a stroke, no one, including me, was aware that I had one
  • two weeks of tests is a lot
  • I was fine up until a week ago. There is no reason why I'm not still fine (except for the weird headache thing)
  • I know Alex's cell and work numbers, both my sisters' numbers, my aunt and uncle's number and Fiona's number off by heart. Just in case.
  • there are a lot of ifs and unknowns

And because you probably have some questions, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions people have had for me...so far. (feel free to ask away in the comments)

Are you scared?
For sure. But I'm only scared because I have no idea what's going on. I'm not scared that something horrible is going to happen in the next little while [I might be scared that my life insurance premiums are going to be disgusting after this though]

How do you feel?
I feel drained and tired. My body has been through a lot with the headaches and the headache drugs. I'm getting myself to bed earlier and that's helping.

Why did this happen to someone as young as you?
No idea.

How are J and Alex?
They're good. J is a bit confused and knows something is up. We've told her Mommy is a little bit sick but getting better. She isn't so sure about all the doctors visits. We've kept her routine as close to normal as possible. Alex is good too...he's had a few moments where his imagination has gotten ahead of reality and that was scary for him, but he's good.

What are you going to do now?
Live life. Until Monday there was nothing wrong with me. My body is in a bit of shock from the two headaches and I think there's a bit of shell shock there too, but apart from that, there's nothing more wrong with me today than there was eight days ago. So I'm making a concentrated effort to stay hydrated, have at least one cup of coffee (doctor recommended so I don't go into caffeine withdrawal), eat well and rest. I'm going to work. I'm driving. I'm keeping up with my other plans.

I have had about half the tests they've ordered and I'm hoping they'll schedule the last ones for this week so I can go away with J as planned on the weekend. But if not, we'll reschedule our trip. I see my family doctor, who happens to have an interest in hypertension and cardiovascular health, on Thursday, so I might have some more answers by then.

Right now I feel like I belong in an episode of House. If Gregory House was my doctor, I might possibly have some answers (although, his team might have tried to kill me first, so maybe I'm okay with him being imaginary).

But really, I'm okay!


  1. Shannon! Sending love and hugs xx Stop having these adventures, if you want a fun adventure, come visit me, I can even get you a ride in an ambulance if you really want xx

  2. @Sarah - Dublin sounds like WAY more fun right now! But I think I'm about done with ambulance rides...for any reason...forever!

  3. I hope you get some sort of answer soon. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way.

  4. @AndreaClaire - thanks! I have my first doctor's appointment tomorrow, so maybe he'll have some answers?!

  5. Maybe my headache is a sympathy headache! Wow Shannon...crazy stuff.

    I'm not too sure if I told you this, but I almost had an aneurysm about 10 years ago...by "almost" I mean we caught it before it went crazy. I was feeling dizzy and went to a million doctors who told me that there was nothing wrong and that I was being "sensitive". After they finally believed me something was done....I still have an abnormal vein and it can happen again at any time.

    I'm EXTREMELY happy to hear that they ordered these tests for you and are monitoring you. Head things are scary...

    On that note...you have to live your life. You can't live in fear or you wont live at all. It's sometimes hard to remember, but think of all the loverly things in your life and take one day at a time.

    Keep us posted!

  6. oh and....remember all the headaches you had a BarHELL? I wonder if that had anything to do with it??

  7. @Heddy - I remember talking about that when we were at BarHELL (awesome name by the way!)...scary stuff...I'm glad they ordered tests too and while it freaks me out that they're so gungho with the tests, hopefully we'll learn something...anything! And as for life? You're right, we just have to keep living...things are feeling a little more special these days though..