This companion piece to Uncommon Causes profiles several survivors who experienced strokes due to less common causes.
Sarah Teague of Churubusco, Indiana was 29 when she had an arterial dissection in 2008 as the result of a chiropractic adjustment. Married 10 years, she was the mother of then 6-year-old twin sons. Her stroke left her with vision problems, left-side numbness and central pain. The dizziness and vision problems made it impossible for her to play with her sons, and the nerve pain took a daily toll.
When we talked with her recently, she was still dealing with those issues, taking a daily aspirin and checking in with her neurologist once a year. Although she takes pain medication, she says the best solution to the pain is to stay busy and distracted. “Being young (she is 35) and looking fine on the outside, people tend to forget what you’ve been through and what you’re going through,” she said. “But we’ve all adjusted. This is the new normal.”
Elizabeth Ludwick of Valencia, Cal. was a 36-year-old wife and new mother when she started having dizzy spells and vision problems. At first she thought they were related to having a new baby and not getting enough sleep. “But the dizzy spells and vision problems persisted after I got enough sleep,” she said. She went to several doctors, who all pronounced her healthy. “One doctor told me it was all in my head, and he was right, sort of,” she wrote in our January/February 2012 issue.
An MRI six months after giving birth revealed a 2 centimeter cavernous angioma deep in the right side of her brain. “They said I better never need surgery because the CA was very difficult to reach,” she wrote. “They also said watching and waiting was the only thing we could do, since surgery was the only treatment for CA.” She watched and waited for 18 months, during which the CA doubled in size. She decided watching and waiting was a bad gamble and opted for surgery. During surgery, she had a stroke and was paralyzed on her left side. “My family was devastated, but I felt it was only temporary, and it was for the most part,” she wrote. She met and exceeded her therapy goals and started a blog (thankfulforeveryday.blogspot.com) to help others dealing with this situation.
When we contacted her for an update, she had big news: “I was medically cleared for another pregnancy and am due to have our second baby any day, almost exactly three years from my surgery/stroke. Although I am not 100 percent recovered, I am thankful for how much I have improved. Surgery still is the only treatment for CA, although there are plans to begin clinical trials for possible medications that could prevent bleeds.”
Gary Drach of San Carlos, Cal. knew from age 13 that he had an AVM but didn’t tell even his closest friends for fear of how they might respond. “My logic was that I was living on borrowed time,” he said in a May/June 2010 article. “After all, I was only 13. I planned to live into my 30s.”
Then in 2000, at age 47, he woke up with a terrible headache. “I knew I was in trouble when my speech slurred and my right arm went numb.” At the ER, he heard his wife Peggy, a nurse, tell the staff that he was having a stroke. That night the doctors told her to prepare for the worst. Over the next few months, he had two surgeries to cauterize the AVM and a third to remove it, followed by two months in the hospital and five years of rehab. “I had a three-word vocabulary — yes, no and ‘peekles.’” Over 18 months, he learned to walk again with an AFO, regained his driver’s license and got some speech back. In August 2009, he got a service dog named Donald, and his self-confidence improved to the point that he began volunteering in the rehab unit at the hospital where he had once been a patient.
When we contacted him in December for an update, he and Peggy had recently spent three weeks in Paris: “A flat city, my walking paradise, and the people are very courteous, or do you think the cane had something to do with it? I left Donald at home, but I will take him when I return. We’ve made several road trips and flew with Donald to Seattle — he’s a natural! Unfortunately, the rehab hospital where I volunteered has closed. In the past 13 years I have learned to cook. Peggy is thrilled to come home from work and find the wash is handled, the dogs are brushed and walked, grocery shopping is done, and dinner is ready.”
This information is provided as a resource to our readers. These tips, products or resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.