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I Had a Stroke When I Was 26

I am a quirky young woman whose Mind went Pop. Mindpop. My stroke took away my limbs and speech for a while. Here are some chronicles…

I. Speaking Around

I couldn’t speak much for a while after my stroke. It was hard to think of words. Some words were sort far away, and I had to think hard to reach them. Others were just … gone.

When you have trouble thinking of a word, speech therapists teach you to talk around the word to make yourself understood. At the rehab hospital, they showed me a picture of a volcano. I couldn’t remember its name. I identified it as “that place where they sacrifice virgins.”

They showed me a picture of a shawl. I couldn’t remember “shawl.” I identified it as “pashmina.” Stroke Fashionista.

II. Hallucinations

Right after brain surgery, I saw acrobats in my right-hand vision. The acrobats were small, about six inches tall, and wearing shiny white leotards and teal blue tights, climbing on ropes. They showed up several times a minute, blocking whatever I wanted to see. I couldn’t see their faces, but they were all men, and they only climbed down, never up.

The acrobats faded after awhile, and then came scribbles. Whenever I looked at a large white space, like a blank wall, for a moment it would be covered with scrawls, as if a giant child had been turned loose on it with a fat black marker. The scribbles have gone away, too.

I knew these were hallucinations when I saw them. My neurologist said they were probably because surgery or blood irritated my optic system.

My brain surgeon said it was probably because I was a nut.

III. Addled Brain

Depending on where your brain injury hits, your language can be affected. The scientific name for communication loss is “aphasia,” from the Greek for “without” and “utterance.” For patients, it means “frustration.”

Right after the stroke was when the really bizarre words came out of my mouth. Like:

I was trying to say: outpatient
I said: amphibian

I was trying to say: Helen
I said: Halibut

I was trying to say: surgery
I said: veterans

I was trying to say: Dilantin (my seizure medication)
I said: golub jamun (Indian donut)

If the words coming out of your mouth are not what you intend, who’s talking?

IV. Dlrow

In the hospital a shrink was trying to figure out how addled I was.

He asked me to spell “world” backward.

He gave me a blank piece of paper and told me to draw a clock.

He asked me to count backwards by 7s, starting at 100.

I was awful at these tasks. My clock had wrong numbers, and they were not evenly spaced around the dial.

I am better now. Dlrow.

V. Ankle

I have a limp now, although it has gotten better over time. Stroke victims often do. Then we wear an ankle brace on our bad leg to keep us from tripping all over the place because our ankle doesn’t work properly. The brace is huge, plastic up to our calf, and bulky. It often requiring a shoe several sizes bigger than our feet.

Women stroke victims particularly hate their ankle brace. You can’t wear a skirt without drawing attention to it. There goes femininity.

I made a recording early on. Here is one part:

“And I may never wear nice shoes again, which makes me sad. I want to wear nice shoes. I want to wear nice shoes. And I want to not wear these giant clunky shoes that I have to wear.”

At my rehab hospital, an employee who wears click-click sexy shoes has said that when my foot gets all better she will give me lessons on how to walk in super high heels.

Previously: Other Mindpop Posts.

Nina Mitchell had a stroke when she was 26. Her chronicles are at Mindpop and Facebook.

© 2011 by Nina Mitchell, The material in this article is protected by copyright and may not be copied or published or otherwise distributed without the Author’s permission. All Rights Reserved.

Photo via Flickr

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