Hospital again! (carotid artery dissection) and some garden therapy.

Little did I expect that I'd be writing another hospital related post so soon and couldn't face another gloomy spell so I'm doing my best to be positive and plan to use my garden as therapy.

I was struck by an absolutely horrendous headache last Friday, beginning in the morning and continuing non-stop all day, culminating in awful pain Friday evening. I really thought it was just a result of an sinus infection I'd had. However, Mark noticed on Saturday that one pupil was smaller than the other and my left eyelid was slightly droopy. I was a little bit concerned but not in a panic particularly. (Subsequently I discovered that this was Horner's Syndrome which is one sign of carotid artery dissection).

I did decide, however, to go to my GP on Monday.  This I did and she referred me straight into A&E. Off I went - I drove myself, expecting that I'd be let out but it wasn't to be. I remained on a trolley in A&E on Monday night and then was moved to a temporary room for Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn't have any idea what was going on and still wasn't particularly panicking although I should have copped that it was serious when I wasn't waiting so long in the waiting room at the start.
There were lots of tests, blood tests, blood pressure, a CT scan and MRI and waiting waiting....

Here I am in the hospital, still a little bit of a droopy eye!

Cliona Kelliher hospital stay

At first I was told that the MRI and scans were clear which was a relief but made the symptoms a bit of a puzzle. On my final day though, I saw the specialist who had seen me on admission and he explained that I had a tear in my carotid artery, also known as a carotid artery dissection.

It was this that had caused the headache and he explained that it can happen due to trauma or exercise or can also happen spontaneously, as seemed to be the case with me because I couldn't remember straining it at all.  It is an unusual condition - 'The annual incidence of symptomatic spontaneous internal carotid artery dissection is 2.5-3 per 100,000'. (See Medscape Article).

I had to see the stroke nurse as the risk of stroke is high and was prescribed aspirin for the next 6 months.  I will also have to be monitored and have periodic scans to see how it's healing.
The thing I found most hard was that I'm prohibited from running/zumba/swimming, basically the things I love to do which de-stress me.  It's hard not to feel down and discouraged, especially as being in the hospital brought me right back to my Dad's illness and passing, so I was emotional in the hospital quite aside from worrying about what was wrong.

Although I guess I have to allow myself a little bit of wallowing, I've decided I'll walk instead of running and I'll just have to be patient and listen to my body. I feel tired after very little exertion and if I overdo it, the headache gets worse and I'm living with a constant bad taste in my mouth which makes eating and drinking unpleasant.

 I don't like to feel negative for too long though and I bought myself some plants yesterday in Aldi to cheer myself up. It was such a beautiful morning I took some photos in the garden and enjoyed the sun and I reckon planting is pretty ok as long as I'm not digging strenuously so at least gardening is still an option :)

I scattered some wildflower seeds last year in my flower bed and I'm not entirely sure what a lot of them are but I have such a pretty mix of colour this year, really love it.

Pink Flower

Bright Pink Flower

Ladybird Feverfew

Feverfew flower plant

And here's a bigger picture of the flower bed, small but so lovely!

Wildflower Bed Garden

My purchases, including chilli plants which I try to buy every year because we get so many chillis from them:


Chilli Flower

And finally my chive flowers which I've been using as cut flowers in the kitchen, insects and bees love them and they look so good in a vase.

Chive flowers

Chive Flower Bee

One Chive Flower Purple

Hard not to cheer up with such prettiness!

That's all for now and if you or anyone you know has suffered from a carotid artery dissection, do comment and let me know so I can compare experiences.


Editing now just to add some helpful links, if you have any of your own, feel free to let me know!

Two groups on Facebook I have found enormously helpful in the last while:

Some general information :

Some personal stories:

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  • Downland Crafts
    Downland Crafts 20 June 2015 at 18:52

    Oh no, sorry to hear you've been through the wars. I don't have your condition but know how it feels to not be able to do the things you love. The garden looks beautiful and I wish mine did :) Feel better soon x

    • Cliona Kelliher
      Cliona Kelliher 20 June 2015 at 19:00

      Thanks Trish, it's frustrating but I'll make the best of it. Hope you're well and enjoying the good weather :)

  • Sian ryan
    Sian ryan 27 August 2015 at 08:38

    So sorry to hear about your hospital visit!! I hate when I have been in hospital and you have no clue whats going on till the last minute! The garden looks absolutely lovely though, maybe spend some time focusing on some self care, pampering, adult colouring ect, its all good for stress!

    Love Sian | The Tattooed Princess

  • Carsonsmummy
    Carsonsmummy 27 August 2015 at 09:19

    Oh my goodness how terrifying. I've not even heard of it to tell you the truth. Had i have had a droopy eye and a headache i'd have thought nothing of it so you've really raised awareness here. Sorry you're having to limit yourself now but I'm pleased you're ok. Love that pic of the ladybird by the way! X

  • Carsonsmummy
    Carsonsmummy 27 August 2015 at 09:19

    Oh my goodness how terrifying. I've not even heard of it to tell you the truth. Had i have had a droopy eye and a headache i'd have thought nothing of it so you've really raised awareness here. Sorry you're having to limit yourself now but I'm pleased you're ok xx

  • Gaby {}
    Gaby {} 27 August 2015 at 09:40

    That must have been an scary situation to go through. You are doing the right thing in putting your mind and energy doing nice things like gardening. It really is therapeutic! Xx

  • Unknown
    Unknown 27 August 2015 at 10:11

    I think people definitely underestimate the benefits of being outdoors and gardening on your mental health! It's great to have little tools like that around you to help pick you up :)

  • Louise
    Louise 27 August 2015 at 17:31

    Your hospital visit sounds really unnerving. I had a similar check up leading to a week long stay at the end of my first pregnancy, unforseen admission SUCKS! But you will be the better of it. I'm sorry though they have prohibited your de-stress activities, hopefully in time you will be able to get back to what you enjoy. Gardening will get you out in the fresh air and do you a good service. Feel better soon.

  • Louise
    Louise 27 August 2015 at 18:50

    Aww, bless your heart. This sounds so awful. I'm sorry to hear about everything that has been going on recently. Here's hoping that things get better soon *virtual hugs*

    Louise x

  • Jade
    Jade 27 August 2015 at 20:49

    What an incredibly frightening experience, glad to see that you are doing better and able to maintain your garden :-) x

  • Unknown
    Unknown 27 August 2015 at 22:22

    What an awful experience you've been through. I've never heard of the condition and I hope to not hear of it again any time soon. I love the end of this post. You finished on a positive with such lovely photographs. Your photos really are stunning xx

  • Unknown
    Unknown 28 August 2015 at 11:12

    oh im sorry to hear you have been though that, i have never heard of it, you were lucky you went to a&e and glad to hear your home and your pics are lovely

  • Lifewithmunchers
    Lifewithmunchers 28 August 2015 at 14:20

    Oh gosh, I'm so sorry to hear about your hospital stay. I hope you're on the mend and enjoying that lovely garden.

  • Rachel @ Parenthood Highs and Lows
    Rachel @ Parenthood Highs and Lows 29 August 2015 at 07:18

    I've never heard of this condition and it sounds absolutely terrifying! I'm glad yiou went the doctors and had it checked. The photos of your garden are beautiful!

  • The Mini Mes and Me
    The Mini Mes and Me 29 August 2015 at 14:32

    Sorry to hear of your experience. It's good that you focus on the positive however and on moving forward xx

  • Anosa
    Anosa 29 August 2015 at 21:30

    Cant even imagine what it must be like but glad you went to the doctors they know what's wrong and hopefully your artery can help soon

  • Nuq
    Nuq 19 September 2022 at 04:50

    Thank you for your article. I really enjoyed reading your post, and hope to read more. Vapeciga

    • Cliona Kelliher
      Cliona Kelliher 5 March 2023 at 20:23

      Thank you!

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous 11 December 2022 at 07:48

    Hey there, I see that this happened to you a long time ago, I hope you are doing well now!! I was just diagnosed a month ago with a carotid dissection and Horners. I was also dealing with sinus issues prior to the dissection. Unfortunately when I presented to my family physician the day after the initial dissection and droopy Horners eye, he misdiagnosed me with a sinus infection. I went to the hospital a week later still feeling uneasy, thank goodness I didn’t have a stroke in those days! I was literally just stretching my neck when it happened, my vision went dark and the room spun for a split second. I simply thought it was strange, yikes!

    • Cliona Kelliher
      Cliona Kelliher 5 March 2023 at 20:25

      I'm so sorry you have been through this also - I also thought that it was a sinus infection coming back when I had my dissection. I'm very glad you knew that something was wrong and that you went to hospital. I really hope you are doing ok, and that you are able to look after yourself.

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