One year later…

As the year anniversary of my Carotid Artery Dissection was approaching I had many feelings spring up. I was feeling guilt because I knew many people would be curious to know how the last year has played out and I’ve been bad about writing blog posts. I was feeling joy because my health has been improving tremendously but then feeling sad for those that have the opposite experience with CAD. Some have lifelong effects of this injury and some sadly die from it.

There are still many unknowns about CAD and in my case we still aren’t sure how it occurred. After looking back at my week that week I was fairly stressed with several fundraiser events coming up, my mom visiting, some bad news for the chorus I sing with and was exercising 4-5 days a week. Two nights before I had spent about 4 hours cleaning and organizing the chorus storage room with a friend. I had been reaching overhead lifting boxes and bins. The day after that I went to Jazzercise and that’s when it all began with the headache and then wound up in the hospital the next day. I may have created the perfect storm for the injury to occur. We just don’t know.

I’ve had several MRAs over the past year, each one drastically improving from the last one and thankfully the headaches have nearly come to a halt. I’m blessed to have a body that repaired itself quickly and I’m thankful for everyone who helped me get through it and move on!

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Ding ding! Round two…

On November 19th just 69 hours after I was discharged I began to have symptoms that were described in my initial post and put me in the hospital for 12 days. I happened to be at the salon at the time (no, I wasn’t back to work that soon, I was treating myself to a much needed haircut from one of our awesome stylists Jennifer).

I had just gotten off the phone with my doctor with my INR (Coumadin blood thinning level) results from the day before, a 1.8  which was low but nothing to be alarmed about really but I was concerned that my levels had dropped even lower that day. I expressed my anxiety about not being checked for another 5 days after being checked daily for 12 days in the hospital but he didn’t seem the least bit concerned. I was upset. I know my body and I just had a feeling that I needed to be checked.

Less than 30 minutes after that phone call with my doctor I began to get an aura in my left eye again, this time it was covering my entire eye. I couldn’t see out of that eye at all and I was panicking. My persistent headache was really bad at that time too. I called the doctor’s office back and was told to go to the emergency room ASAP so our salon apprentice Adrianna drove me back to the hospital.I NEVER imagined what happened next.

They wanted to immediately start an IV so that they could do a CTA (a CT angiography combines a CT scan with an injection of a contrast to produce pictures of blood vessels and tissues) to get a look at the dissection again and make sure it hadn’t gotten any worse. hey also wanted to see if there was anything else going on to cause the worsened headache. It took 5 excruciating pokes and an hour and a half to get my IV in. BIG thanks to Marie in pediatrics for getting my baby veins to cooperate!

My INR draw was taken immediately . When I was released from the hospital on that Monday, November 16th my INR was 2.4. (We want that number to always remain in the 2-3 range to prevent a stroke or excess bleeding).  Wednesday the 18th it was 1.8 and now Thursday the 19th it’s 1.4. This was not good. In fact, it was downright scary. A whole point down in 3 days is BAD.

Coumadin resistance is rare but does happen. I was told it was most likely genetics that was causing me to take such high doses of Coumadin. When I left the hospital I was taking 12.5mg, average for my age and weight is about 5mg.

I spent the next 7 days in the hospital. The first 2 I was classified as outpatient/observation and on day 3  I was finally admitted and reunited with my old roommate Amy in room 5527. (I’ll be sharing more about Amy and how this miraculously happened VERY soon!) I was so excited to be back in the “dorm room” and out of the CDU where its nearly impossible to get any sleep with a curtain as a “door”.

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Together again! #hospitalbffs

It appeared my INR was going to crawl back up to therapeutic once again so I braced myself for another long haul. They immediately bumped up my Coumadin to 15mg. They also started me on Lovenox shots twice a day. Lovenox is a blood thinner derived from Heparin that works quicker and more efficiently in the body. As soon as it’s injected it’s like a 12 hour insurance policy. They had me start doing them myself because I will have to do it should the Coumadin stop working and/or I get low. I am praying that I don’t have to rely on the Lovenox not only because it’s expensive and they hurt but because of the rarity of my Coumadin resistance it may be my only option as a blood thinner. In that case our insurance will have to cover it, but not without a fight.

Amy and I continued to walk together every day and night and have shenanigans “downtown”, go shopping at the “mall” and do our Starbucks run every morning. Even the kids were very fond of her and couldn’t wait to see her (and she didn’t need cookies or jello!)

Essential oils also continued to be a big part of my pain relief, emotional well being and overall recovery. Some dear friends totally surprised me and showed up in my room all the way from Alabama and brought me a special blend of Helichrysum and Cistus to support my circulatory system. My hubby also brought in my diffuser so our room smelled amazing and helped Amy and I relax at night.

My Coumadin was increased slowly up to 20mg, my INR literally crept up .1 everyday until Tuesday it was 1.8 and it jumped to 2.2 on Wednesday morning. I was elated and knew it was safe to return home to my family just in time for Thanksgiving! I also got news that Amy was also being discharged that day too!

So now I hope to be home for good. I’ve been resting up, trying to manage this ever present headache so that I can return back to the salon this week. I will be off for frequent blood draws and doctor appointments in the months to come.

We are planning on getting a consult at University of Michigan to discuss my Coumadin resistance, perhaps figure out why this happened to me and make sure this doesn’t happen again. When I asked the neurologist, hematologist, the attending and my doctor if I had any restrictions they said no. I’m not really sure that going back to my 4-5 days a week of an hour long workout is smart. Again,  I know my body and something is telling me that I need to take a breather from anything that increases my heart rate. I want to provide the best possible healing environment for my arteries!

What really gets me is how healthy I thought I was. I had lost 100 pounds by eating whole foods,portion control and had just started routinely exercising to tone up and increase overall health. Then BAM! I blow an artery. I think a lot about what may have happened had I not lost the weight. Would it have been worse? Would I have had a stroke and died? I’ll never know but it’s scary to think about!

I’m now mourning the fruits and veggies I’ve grown to love because they have drug interactions with my Coumadin. I feel like this is some sick prank. What do you mean I can’t have kale, broccoli and spinach?!? Shhhh, don’t tell my doctor that I snuck a brusselsprout on Thanksgiving. Most people would be thrilled to have a reason to not eat vegetables but  this is a cruel injury for a health nut!

Many of you are still offering help and after a month of this our family could really use it! There are a few ways you can help, we ask for prayer and positive thoughts for me to stay steady, heal quickly and have patience!

Second, I have a meal train that a PTO parent started for us. There are a few dates left, you can sign up here:  https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/95vy3v

Thirdly, a friend set up a Go Fund Me account that will help to fund my medical expenses (19 days hospital stay will NOT be cheap, even with insurance!) and also the lost wages for approximately 4 weeks of time off of work. Those of us in the beauty industry do not get sick days, vacation time or disability. We appreciate anything that you can donate to help offset these costs during this holiday season! Click here:  https://www.gofundme.com/uta4z97s

I again appreciate all of you who continued your prayers, positive thoughts, sent cards and visited me in the hospital this second time around. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top of my torn carotid artery!

 

It all started with a headache…

On November 4th I was at my normal Wednesday morning Jazzercise class. About halfway through the class I saw stars a little, thought to myself that that was a bit weird and backed off a little. When I got into my car after the class I realized I had an aura in my left eye (it looks a lot like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVFIcF9lyk8). I knew what it was because I had an aura in the same eye back in 2003, I was told it was a visual migraine, no other migraine history.

By the time I got home (about 10 minutes) it had traveled up and out of sight. A few minutes later I began to get a dull headache. I took some ibuprofen, smeared some essential oils on my head and continued to my Weight Watcher meeting. I then came home, took a 2 hour nap, rubbed more oils and took more ibuprofen and then headed to work. Nothing was touching the pain except my essential oils, at least that gave me temporary relief and allowed me me to go on with my day. I was beginning to feel really sorry for my friends who get really bad migraines. It wasn’t debilitating, but it was a fairly intense dull ache. This was no joke!

That evening I stopped for some migraine medicine at the drugstore, took one and went to bed. I woke up at 4 and took another one (I didn’t realize the dosing was one pill every 24 hours). When I woke up I still had the headache but life had to go on so off I went to work for a full day of nails.

Around 1 o’clock I noticed my right eye was at half mast. I couldn’t open it more if I tried either. I asked my client if she saw it too and she agreed that it wasn’t the same as the left. I texted my migraine expert BFF and asked if this was ever the case with her and she said no. I decided to finish my 1 o’clock client, cancel the rest of my day and go to the doctor at 3:30. About a half hour later the right side of my face began to get tingly and numb. You know that weird feeling when the novocaine is wearing off after a dental procedure? Yeah, that’s how it felt. It scared the you know what out of me.

I didn’t tell my client I was working on what I was experiencing. I was trying to process what was going on and what my plan of action was going to be. At this point I was fairly certain I was having a stroke. I was trying not to panic and I was waiting to see if it would all go away. I finally told her the sensation I was having and demanded she take me to the hospital right then and there. I of course insisted on finishing because I’m committed like that (or just plain stupid)!

When I arrived at Troy Beaumont they took me right away because my symptoms were quite worrisome and if I were having a stroke they needed to act fast. I had 10 doctors crowded around me, taking vitals, shining lights in my eyes, saying things I didn’t understand. I started to get really scared.

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See how my right eye was drooping? That is from Horner’s Syndrome. My pupil is also smaller on that eye. It’s an indicator for the CAD.

An IV was started, tests and scans ensued late into the night including a CT and an MRI (which with a bad headache and no pain medicine was absolute torture). Late that night I had been diagnosed with Carotid Artery Dissection.

Carotid Artery Dissection is a tear in the artery wall that allows blood to leak between the artery layers and separates them. As the blood collects in the area of the dissection, it forms a clot that limits blood flow through the artery. If the clot is large enough to completely block blood flow, the result can be a stroke. Equally dangerous, pieces of the clot can break off and travel up through the bloodstream to become trapped in the smaller arteries in the brain which can limit the blood flow to a region of the brain and cause a stroke. This injury usually occurs with blunt force trauma, like a seatbelt on the neck in a car accident, a fall or hitting the head. Mine was possibly exercise induced but could have just been spontaneous or genetic (which just about anything can be!). For more information on this you can visit https://goo.gl/o6dqyz

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I found this image helpful if you’re a visual person like me!

After the diagnosis I was sent for an MRA for a better look at the dissection and for another CT to see if there was anything else that may have been causing my horrible headache. Unfortunately my pain management at first was dreadful and it was very frustrating. I was so thankful I had grabbed my oil again on the way out the door the morning before so I had a way to manage my pain to some degree on my own. Thank you peppermint oil for keeping me comfy!

I was told the dissection was extensive but would heal on it’s own with the help of Coumadin (a blood thinner which also prevents clots). I was also told that I didn’t need surgery and that I should plan to stay about 2-3 days while the blood thinners did their magic.

I wound up staying for 12 days because my Coumadin (INR) levels were not increasing to the numbers they needed to be (between 2-3) in order to release me. They’d go up, then back down again, then back up. It was a very frustrating, exhausting experience. Frequent visits from these munchkins really made my evenings. I like to think  they were excited to see me, but the jello, cookies and ice cream I had waiting for them each visit was probably a big part of their eagerness to visit!

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The only thing that really made it tolerable was my roommate Amy who had been there for over a month. We realized that we had a lot of mutual friends through our churches and my kids’ school and had many things in common. I truly believe God put us together for a reason. Every nurse and doctor that came into our room commented on how we were the “fun room” and that our room smelled so good between my essential oils and all the flowers we had scattered around the room. We even were treated to pedicures by our dear friends one day. It was more like a dorm room than a hospital room!

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Amy and I getting some fresh air!

On day 11 I got the news that my INR level had finally reached a 2 and that if the next day it was over a 2 I could go home. The next day it was a 2.4! My family had missed me terribly and clients were sending well wishes but were obviously concerned about when I would be returning to work. My only sadness about this was leaving my new BFF Amy.

Part of my new normal was living with a persistent dull headache. I was told it was caused by the nerves in the artery being inflamed and it would possibly remain until the dissection healed itself in the next 3-6 months. Again, oils will be part of my daily regime to keep me comfortable and sane! Not sure I would have made it without this line up!

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Another part of my new normal was going to be figuring out a new diet since Coumadin is very sensitive to Vitamin K and works against it. I now know more about Vitamin K than any normal person should.

Over the 12 days I made the best of it, Amy and I talked a lot and we both had Campus Passes so we could explore the entire hospital. We would go “downtown” (downstairs) to shop at the “mall” (the gift shop) and get Starbucks. It also allowed us to have dinner as a family downstairs in the cafeteria.

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So many friends came to visit, sent flowers and cards. It meant so much to me and made my days go by so much easier!

 

Darren was even able to get permission for Snubby to come for visits! That totally made my day both times he brought him. He loved all the attention and was just as ecstatic to see me as I was to see him.

Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do. Good news! THERE IS!

There are a few ways you can help, first pray for me and my family. Pray for healing and patience. Second, there is a meal train that a PTO parent started for us. There are some dates left, you can sign up here: https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/95vy3v

Thirdly, a friend set up a Go Fund Me account that will help to fund my medical expenses and also the lost wages for time off of work. Those of us in the beauty industry do not get sick days, vacation time or disability. I appreciate anything that you can donate to help offset these costs this holiday season! Click here: https://www.gofundme.com/uta4z97s

Check back soon for an update to this post… the fun didn’t end here!