“I have to go,” I said abruptly. I hung up the phone not waiting for my statement to be acknowledged. Something was wrong.
I had suddenly felt like I was talking similar to Drew Barrymore, out the side of my mouth. I walked to the bathroom with haste. The mirror confirmed my worst fears.
My entire right side of my face was drooping, I tried to smile and the difference between the left side of My face and the right was dramatic. My lip, my cheek, the muscles that show expression in my nose, eye and forehead laid completely flat on the right side of my face obstinate to my commands.
I take a quick breath in and quickly recall an episode of House. What was the acronym? Ah F.a.s.t.
I assess myself quickly my face is drooping. A is for arms. I hold my hands out in front of me trying to hold them even, but my right arm begins to drop and I can’t seem to get it balanced. I move on.
S is for speech, I already was slurring.
T. What was t again? And it hits me: time.
I scream for my mother. She ran into the bathroom panicked knowing that the tone of my voice meant something was very wrong.
I couldn’t find the words to tell her that I thought I was having a stroke. I couldnt bring myself to say it knowing my twin babies were sleeping in the next room and only four days old. Would I be leaving them without a mother, I thought.
” mom, ” I said, “I can’t smile…”
You know how when one panics another person suddenly becomes very calm. In this moment, this is what happened. My mother calmly told me it was going to be okay and called 911. She walked with me the couch. She called Cory from my cell phone, the 911 operator still on the line on hers in case my condition worsened.
“Cory, you need to come home. Paramedics are on the way”. She says.
I begin to cry, you know out of the left side of my face because the right side no longer has any function.
“Let’s say a prayer,” my mother says. We pray together, in the moments it takes the ambulance to arrive. My blood pressure is 230/280… they begin to administer drugs, an IV is put in, they are asking me to do things like count to five,recall the month of the year, tell them what letter of the alphabet comes after c.
I know they are testing neurological functions. And the fear doubles.
These moments, four days after giving birth, had to be the worst fear I have ever experienced. The thought of never seeing my children grow up, and that they would do so without ever knowing me still brings tears to my eyes. The ambulance was ready to go, I looked to my mom, “take care of my babies,” meaning both right now and forever if something happened to me on the way to the hospital.
Cory got in the ambulance with me. And we drove off.
A CT and MRI showed no evidence of stroke. I had suffered from an onset of Bell’s palsy as well as postpartum eclampsia.
Looking back I can see the signs that something was wrong. Postpartum eclampsia often starts with a headache. I had been complaining of that my last day in the hospital.
Blood pressure spikes. Discharge day the nurse documented that my blood pressure was rising. The attending prescribed a low dose of blood pressure meds. The nurse had me lay down on my right side for an hour. My blood pressure lowered and they sent us home.
Muscle weakness. What I thought was just looking tired I can look back now and see I was slowly losing function of my face. I would later learn that several of my family members noticed my face seemed off in the picture the day before the full onset.
At risk factors. From my research, it seems many women pregnant with twins, special those that had been on anti-contraction meds to prevent preterm labor also experienced postpartum eclampsia.
*My advice* assuming it was a stroke is the best course of action. If you have these symptoms seek medical care immediately. If a stroke does occur time is essential. And if you are leaving the hospital and have a headache, or a sudden climb in blood pressure, ask to stay another day.
I was told that my smile may never fully return. It broke my heart to think my children may not ever know my smile.
I could regain most function within a span of 6-8 weeks.
This was difficult. I slurred when I talked for the first week, couldn’t blink or close my eye, couldn’t chew food (you underestimate how much your cheeks do), couldn’t suck a straw. Each of these became milestones.
I ran cold water over my face 9 times a day for stimulation. I began acupuncture three times a week. After the second week my blood pressure was finally returning to normal, I was on a lot of meds and would slowly lower doses over the coming weeks. I would keep a blood pressure monitor in my purse to monitor it.
It felt so good to feel normal again. And not feel like I could sense every drop of blood circulating my body before returning to my heart.
Week three I regained full control of my facial muscles. I really accredited this to the acupuncture I received at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
Today I smile my smile. It’s almost been a year since that day I stood in front of the mirror putting my tv knowledge to good use.
I smile every chance I get.
Simply because I can.