The Butterfly Effect - The day I had my stroke and what happened next...




It's the Butterfly Effect, one magical moment at the right place and right time can change everything.


It was August 29, 2018. I was home alone. At 11 am, I woke up feeling really tired.  I was about to roll over and go back to sleep, but then decided not to. I have fibromyalgia, and fatigue and lack of energy are a big part of it. Although I didn't really understand it at the time, this fatigue was different.  I also had a weird headache in my sinus area beside my nose on the right side of my face. My left hand was completely dead to all feeling, something I didn't understand until days later.

 I got up, and couldn't figure out how to get my bra on  ( sorry guys). I finally managed, and went upstairs.  There was a voicemail on the phone.  I couldn't figure out how listen to it.  I was able to see that the call was from my brother.  I also couldn't figure out how to speed dial him, but oddly enough, I remembered his phone number and dialed him directly. I had trouble hearing what he was saying, and I kept dropping the phone.  Then I started using the wrong words for what I was trying to say.  I wanted to tell him that I was trying to open the window and said something about a paint can instead.  I knew I was saying the wrong thing, but still hadn't clued in.  I dropped the phone again.  Fortunately, my brother recognized that I was having a stroke. I finally realized  that something was wrong when I heard him tell my sister in law to call an ambulance, that I was having a stroke. My brother told me to hang up and that the emergency operator would call me immediately and to keep the phone with me. Within a minute, the operator was on the line telling me to put on a coat, lock the house and wait outside, as I was able to walk. Looking back, it is odd to me that I was really calm through all of this, even though at that point I had understood what was going on.

The operator stayed on the line with me until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance arrived within 5 minutes. I am lucky in that I live a 10 minute drive away from our biggest hospital. When I was wheeled in to the Emergency ward, the stroke team was waiting for me.  I was still stammering, but I was able to understand what was being said to me. There were about 7 doctors waiting for me and I could see them assessing me as I arrived.  Within minutes, I was having my first of what would be

8 CT scans over the coming year. Then an injection of some medication to break up the clots in my brain. 

 I had had a stroke.  I was then in the Neurology ICU for about 5 days.  The nurses were absolutely amazing.  I was discharged, although I hardly remember what I was told to do or not do.  My dad died of a heart attack at age 63, and here I was at age 61 having a stroke.  My mom had a stroke at age 70, so I was feeling particularly vulnerable and afraid this was something genetic that could happen again. I decided to do what I could to prevent this from happening again -  I changed my diet, eliminating all animal products and processed oils for a year.  The fear of a recurrence that year never went away.  I started walking the day after being discharged.  The first day, I made it 100 feet, and had to turn around, I was that tired.  I got home, started slurring my words, my left arm was going numb, and then I got pins and needles in the left side of my face. I was scared to death, I thought I was having another stroke. Called 911.  Back in the ambulance, stammering when talking to the paramedic. Within minutes of arriving at the Emergency ward, I was once again met by the stroke team and had another CT scan.

I had 5 more ambulance trips to the emergency ward over the next year due to stroke symptoms. After 9 more CT scans during the first year, I also got a full workup of every test possible to determine what had caused the stroke.  It was determined that I had only had the one stroke, and that the subsequent  symptoms were the result of me pushing myself too hard. And I have found that to be true, and now recognize the symptoms before they get as severe as the stroke was.  As far as we know, after all the testing, the stroke was caused by an irregular heartbeat.  I had been experiencing a few palpitations for many years, and never thought anything of them, it never occurred to me to ask anyone if this was normal. I am now on blood thinners and cholesterol medication and heart medication for life, and hopefully this will prevent future strokes.  I gradually introduced all foods to my diet, although I am still mostly vegetarian.  Red meat is a once a month treat.  Salmon is wild caught from a consumer supported fishery.  I prepare as much of my food as possible from scratch, on the days I am able.  Doing this right after breakfast has worked the best for me, as my energy is usually down a lot by early afternoon and evenings are spent watching TV while knitting for charity.

I spent 3 months in physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. I still don't drive.  I am now on a waitlist for driver training, and my husband drives me where needed.

Most importantly of all, I found this site.  You all have no idea how much you all have helped me feel like there is a floor under my feet again.  I am still learning what works for me and what doesn't.  When to push and when to step back and rest.  I am learning all the time.

I have few deficits - I get overwhelmed if there is more than one person talking, or if I am in a group of people. Shopping in stores is so unnerving that I stammer and start walking like I am drunk. I sometimes can't find words, and I know that is a sign to stop what I am doing and to rest. I am sometimes unaware of what is on my left side, and I startle really easily.  I literally jump if my husband appears in the room and I am not aware of him.  We resolved this by him flicking a light on and off when he comes into a room.


The Butterfly Effect - My brother who was 58 at the time, played touch football.  One of his teammates was getting married, and agroup of the guys decided to have a once in a lifetime trip to Estonia for a week. My brother went on that trip.  His voicemail was to tell me about the trip. Had he not called, had I not had a reason to be on the phone, I would not have got the timely help I needed. I didn't really understand that I was having a stroke and would not have called for help.

My brother saved my life, pure and simple.

The Butterfly Effect comes from a celebration of a young man who was getting married and who wanted to celebrate it in a special way.

And because of him, I can celebrate being alive and thriving.





Edited by SueC
To add a photo



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Thank you for sharing your experience. Every stroke is different. Ray had seven strokes that I know of and many TIAs but multiple strokes are not common, two of them went unrecognised by hospital staff and only picked up by comparing MRIs. You were indeed lucky your brother recognised you were having a stroke. Good luck with your recovery.

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Hello Sue,

Thank you for sharing your story.  It made me cry.  Sometimes we will never know why bad things happen to good people.  I do know you are here for a reason with great purpose. You touched my life when I joined our chat group.  You inspired me and gave me hope as well as many others.  For that I will always be grateful.  You also paint a beautiful Christmas card.  God bless you and your family.


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it is absolutely amazing how when something happens, the universe aligns . Bravo to your brother for taking it seriously and not chalked it up to 'Sue just being Sue"



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I have to add, I had stroke symptoms 2 months prior to the actual stroke. Numbness and tingling in my left arm and hand.

I went to the ER, and they didn`t pick up on it, or do a CT scan at that time. 



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Sue :


welcome to wonderful therapeutic world of blogging. you write so well, love that butterfly effect comparison. Its great your brother was on phone with you & detected the symptoms & got you help in the timely manner. was George out of town. coming to this  site made me realize bad things do happen to good people & God is always by our side making us meet right people at the right time. you are one of that kind soul who makes huge difference in whoever you meet in your life's journey.




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Sue, covid be damned. I just want to hug you!

Thank you for sharing your story. Your brother is amazing. 

I don't have the right words sorry, I know this isn't right...but I enjoyed reading your story. 

I now know you so much better, my beautiful friend. 



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On 12/6/2020 at 11:05 AM, SueC said:

I have to add, I had stroke symptoms 2 months prior to the actual stroke. Numbness and tingling in my left arm and hand.

I went to the ER, and they didn`t pick up on it, or do a CT scan at that time. 



That maybe true but , at the time, we don't always associate the 'stroke symptoms' with stroke.  I'm just so glad that, as unfortunate as stroke is, our paths crossed to meet. You have truly brightened up my heart  

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