Carotid Artery Dissection - Helen's Story

This is the second in my carotid artery dissection guest posts and this time I'm very grateful to hear Helen's story. When I embarked upon trying to share the stories to create greater awareness, I don't think I fully understood the emotional toll it would take to revisit the experiences.

Even for me, reading the stories brought back so many horrible memories and a sense of that original fear again. So for the writers, I am doubly appreciative that you have put this effort in and I know that it will help others who have gone through this feel less alone. 

Helen's Story:

I’m Helen and I’m 52 years old , I live in Essex in the UK. I had an CAD/stroke 2 1/2 years ago in May 2018, I’d recently turned 50. During a yoga class I got a really nasty headache and as I thought at the time pulled something in my neck.  
Fast forward 5 days of headache and neck pain and on the Friday I suddenly lost vision in my right eye and felt a huge sense of impending doom, luckily my husband was at home with me having taken the day of because he didn’t feel well! He said he’d go and pick out daughter up from school as it was the end of the day and I should stay at home and relax but I didn’t want to be alone - I knew something wasn’t right.
Whilst in the car I started crying, couldn’t speak and felt really weird, my husband kept asking me what was wrong and I couldn’t answer, I have never been so scared in my whole life by the time we got home (with my poor daughter in the car - which to this day I feel so terrible about), my left side wouldn’t move and my right eye had dropped.
The next thing I remember is being in the ambulance - I could now speak and my arm and leg were working again.  I spent 6 hours in hospital, I had a head scan -all clear and was discharged with an appointment to attend the tia clinic 4 days later.
I spent the next few days feeling really rough and weird and absolutely exhausted but not for one minute thinking I had had a stroke, which now I think why didn’t I realise??

At my hospital app I had a carotid artery Doppler, which came back clear, heart tests all fine, blood tests, cholesterol test all excellent, and then a MRI which came back positive for a stroke!! 
I was devastated- i was admitted overnight so that I could have a MRI of my carotid arteries the next day- which obviously came back with a tear - and then my fantastic stroke dr said -you don’t do yoga do you?? And it went from there.
I was discharged on aspirin and clopidogrel for a month, and then just clopidogrel, I went back for my follow up 6 months later and found out that my carotid artery was completely occluded and will remain so forever- that was really tough hearing that, it never crossed my mind that it would block completely and the anxiety that came with that diagnosis was and still is overwhelming at times.

But I know how lucky I am - it could have been so much worse, I suffer with almost daily headaches of some degree and a sore, dry droopy eye but I’m here, physically I’m as I was.

The hardest thing for me is the anxiety that I’m left with and I struggle with that a lot, lockdown made me go backwards with the worry, I was back to waking up scared and going to bed scared but I’m slowly coming out of that, I’ve accepted that the anxiety will always be with me and I’m never going to completely get rid of it but counselling has been a godsend to me.  I’ll never lift anything heavy again and I know I’ll always be overly cautious but I’m here, and that’s what’s important. 
I’m discharged from hospital now- I was 18 months ago, so I guess that must mean I’m well and doing ok.
I don’t think I’m really in a position to offer advice to anyone, but all I will say is stay as positive as you can (not always easy) and don’t beat yourself up when you have a bad day - be kind to yourself, always.
It’s a horrendous thing that’s happened to all us and we have to come to terms with it somehow and live our best lives. 

Helen xx

Check out also: Linz's Story
                              Cliona's Story

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