I came home from the hospital nine days ago and it’s amazing how quickly life can change. We’ve had so many people ask what happened, so I thought I would start writing down my story.
Three of the four main arteries in my neck have either partially or completely collapsed; both carotid arteries and one vertebral artery. These are the arteries which carry blood from your heart to your brain. Here’s how we got to that point.
On Wednesday, July 11th I kept seeing flashes and what looked like red lasers in my right eye during the day. Tired, maybe a passing car, but I thought it was no big deal. Then at 5pm, I started seeing double and had extreme pressure in my right eye along with a horrible headache on that side above my eye. I layed down, took some tylenol and relaxed. After 20 minutes, everything was back to normal and I was in my car driving to meet a friend. 39 years on this planet and I’ve had my share of headaches like most people. Why think anything different? The rest of Wednesday and all day Thursday were symptom free. I did have some jaw pain on my right side but that was it. Again, stress, lack of sleep, hungry? Plenty of things to write it off as.
Friday morning. I woke up at 4:30 am to go to the bathroom and when I sat up I realized I couldn’t see out of my right eye and had tremendous pain around it. I kept rubbing my eye thinking there was something in it, or I was tired or who knows what else, but I needed to rub it because that always works. Except this time it didnt, and I was really scared. I immediately picked up my phone and called Danny. He was in Grapevine for a conference, asleep, but had his phone on. I told him I had to go to the ER and he said he would be home in 30 minutes. However, I was in panic mode so I called several neighbors and finally, someone answered. PSA: Get to know your neighbors! My sweet neighbor very calmly came over, got my girls, took them to her house to stay and then drove me to the ER. Danny arrived about 20 minutes later.
They did several eye tests that didn’t show anything major, so they sent me for a CT Scan. We then waited a 30 long minutes for the results. When the results came back, they told us they didn’t see anything…no masses, no bleeding, nothing! I tried not to lose it! It was a blessing, but also immediate fear because those other conditions are treatable and have a good probability for vision to come back. More tests were run and everything kept coming back negative. At this point, the doctors were stumped, and that meant it was time for them to admit me into the hospital. Before I went up to my room though, they sent me to get two MRIs of most of my body, which meant I was stuck inside a tube for 1 hour!! I took the valium, didn’t help.
Once I arrived in my room, we had a long conversation with two doctors because my MRI came back with indications of something potentially serious. They asked me a ton of questions and finally I mentioned that sometimes three of my toes turn a little blue on my right foot. My neurologist decided I needed a CT Scan with contrast (aka Angiogram) based on that plus the MRI findings, so off I went for another scan.
When I got back, I started to get nervous because my neurologist came in and wouldn’t really speak freely with us because he said it would be best if we heard from the internal medicine doctor and him at the same time. So reassuring! 🙁
The internal medicine doctor came in and both stood at the foot of my hospital bed with a perplexed look on their faces. They took turns asking additional and abstract questions, their questions a verbal representation of them scratching their head. The collective concern in the room could be felt. It was explained that I had three dissected (separated/collapsed arteries). My left vertebral artery and the left carotid artery could have happened slightly prior to the right, but were asymptomatic. However, my right carotid artery dissection is the worst one, and it for sure happened that Friday morning. This artery is what also supplies the opthalmic artery with blood and appears to be almost completely collapsed and closed off. Without that artery getting blood, the optic nerve doesn’t get nearly as much as it needs and the eye can’t send a signal to the brain. The eye still does everything the same, but the message is never received by the brain. Because of the sensitivity of nerves, the doctors stated they didn’t know if my eyesight would return even if the blood supply returned. I lost it! They immediately started me on blood thinners with the hope these dissections would help increase my blood flow through those arteries and prevent clotting. I then went on to have an echocardiogram to make sure all of my arteries around my heart were good…and they were. Next up was an ultrasound of both legs to check my femoral arteries and once again, all is well.
The first day in the hospital was a blur…lots of tests, lots of conversations, with doctors, and a lot of pain.
Once they determined what happened, the only treatment was medication, time and prayer. I had to remain in the hospital to be monitored to ensure I didn’t have a stroke or further complications. That meant my INR (anti-coagulant blood level) had to be 2-3 times normal. When I came into the hospital my INR was 1.1. You would think the number should go up pretty fast; however, flash forward three long days later, lots of visitors, several consults with specialists and my INR finally was in the therapeutic range – 2.4. This meant I got to go home.
We got home around 2pm Monday afternoon, and spent the rest of the day resting and getting ready for a week of doctor’s appointments.
Week One Update tomorrow.