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I did not put my health in the limelight until I had a stroke at 35



I woke up on October 26, 2017 at 6:45 am with the worst headache of my life. The pain felt like my worst New Year's cat, multiplied by at least 10. The sharp feelings seemed to come from the middle of my brain and spread throughout my head in the morning.

I felt good the night before and stayed up until 2 o'clock in the morning playing catch-up. As communication director of a global company, late nights and early mornings were not unusual for me. But today the pain was so bad that I knew I could not collect. I got sick, took aspirin and went back to bed.

I woke up and felt the same at lunchtime, if not worse. I called my friend (now fiancé), Nick. When I tried to tell him what was going on, he interrupted him and said that I did not speak in full sentences, which was strange because I thought I spoke clearly. He promised to drop in after his last meeting at 4pm. I went back to bed.

When Nick arrived at about 5:30 am, I got up and leaned against the walls to support the door. He looked so worried when I answered, and I wondered if I underestimated this whole thing.

Nick led me back to bed and told me he wanted to call my cardiologist, whom I had seen regularly after training for half an hour -Marathon left me breathless. Although I could not hear the medical side of the conversation, Nick's earnest expression told me that he did not like what he heard. After hanging up, he would not tell me exactly what the doctor said ̵

1; just that we need the hospital. He did not want me to worry without knowing exactly what was going on.

Twelve hours after my first pain, we climbed into an Uber and hurried to the emergency room. When we arrived about 15 minutes later, we found that my doctor called in advance and told the staff to look for me because he thought I had a stroke or other brain injury.

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	<span class= Jenina Nunez

Although I heard nurses say "stroke," I thought I was too young to do that, it had to be something else.

I described my symptoms to the ambulance and Nick told him how fragmented my answers had been during our phone call, and the doctor said I would immediately do blood tests and scans of my brain, arteries and heart.

Although I was with Nick I felt lonely as we waited for the results, I still hoped that these headaches were not a stroke or something as bad as a tumor, whatever it was, I wondered I was a few weeks ago I was well.

I felt so much, but I did not discuss it with Nick while we waited in my sickroom quiet enough for us. Hear every beep and every roll of a hospital wagon in the emergency wing.

Some tests later, the doctor was ready to talk to us. When I first started to feel the pain in the morning, a clot had formed in one of the arteries in the middle of my brain, affecting the circulation of parts related to language, logic, and processing speed. It was an ischemic stroke, the most common type, affecting 87 percent of all stroke patients.

I was too young to allow this. It had to be something else.

Nevertheless, it is not common among young people – in 2009, only 34 percent of people hospitalized for stroke were younger than 65 years old. I was an otherwise healthy 35 year old.

The doctor admitted it was unclear what triggered the blockade. They also said that the lack of blood flow damages the cells in important parts of my brain and makes communication difficult for me. What's worse: My attempts to sleep well have prolonged medical care and worsened the destruction. How much worse it was was hard to say, but specialists could estimate the extent of my injury and recommend the best course of treatment.

When the doctor went over the details and intended to take me in for a few nights, I stopped listening. When the results arrived, I was horrified.


When I spoke with the nurses the next morning, I realized that getting words out was not as easy as it should be. I was able to speak but had not had a conversation since the day before my stroke. After the incident, I did not say more than a few words at once because of the pain. Now it felt like every sentence was filled with unpleasant pauses that made me pull out sentences that needed to be completed quickly. My thoughts were complete, but it was as if my mouth could not work with my brain to make it out loud.

Doctors said I have aphasia, a disease that has damaged your ability to retrieve information. About 25 to 40 percent of stroke patients suffer from it.

I tried to keep a journal in my hospital on my second day. I hoped that I just had to try another form of communication, but aphasia also affected my writing ability. My moment of optimism broke in silent tears as I sat alone in my room.

I was worried about how long I had to deal with this condition. Would it be a lifelong problem? How could I do my job as a communications director if I could not even really express myself to my friend? I felt like what defined me, my voice was stolen from me.

"My moment of optimism gave way to soft tears as I sat alone in my sickroom."

The next few days in the hospital continued. I had my blood taken several times daily for coagulation tests and cholesterol, elements that can cause a stroke. My girlfriends also came with gossip magazines and funny socks to replace the ugly hospital stockings. They cheered me up, even though the talks were physically difficult for me.

At regular intervals, therapists were added to assess basic skills such as walking and brushing, skills that could be compromised depending on the extent of stroke injury. I passed all the tests, but I was humble.

When the doctors agreed that I could handle everyday tasks, I was released after five days.


A few days after I returned home, I was uncomfortable with strangers who did not. I do not know what I went through. Still, I needed food, so I went to the grocery store. I answered slowly, when one of the cashiers asked if I wanted to use my reusable or plastic bags. The cashier asked me to repeat myself. I just nodded, gave a simple "yes" and pointed to the reusable bags that I had brought. I never felt more uncomfortable.

Then I limited my trips, got food delivered as often as possible and only met friends at my house. Although I looked good, the fragmented sentences made me self-confident.

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	<span class= Jenina Nunez

The doctors insisted that I begin language therapy as soon as possible, and when I booked my first session, my lead therapist explained that the goal was to the function in the damaged parts of my brain, improve the language and help my mind find new shortcuts to get the words from my head to my mouth.

She gave examples of the kind of exercises we do together would, like puzzles, word problems, example essays – basically activities in middle school – required a puzzle that I derived from a series of clues, what people wore, what they liked best and what colors they liked most I cried and She was frustrated that she judged my abilities on the basis of this exercise, and that this stupid problem would not help me get back to work. [19659002] But she said that the point is not to solve the puzzle. Performing the exercises forced my brain to find new ways to do what it used to do without using the damaged cells. I tried to open up new ones and get faster. Over time, I got faster and felt safer.


Six months after the stroke, the doctors released me to return to work.

I was inspired to leave the house to stop working for therapeutic purposes. I have also repeated hobbies like running and finally writing.

Almost two years later I am finally optimistic about the whole experience. I am grateful that I am alive and even more thankful that I have recovered so successfully. I left my corporate communications concert to pursue a less crazy position in nonprofit public relations. I am living a somewhat new normal state: I see a cardiologist for examination while I continue running. I also use blood thinners everyday to prevent blood clots, as every fourth survivor of a stroke is likely to have a repeat experience.

Nowadays, I pay more attention to my body. When I'm tired, I sleep; When I'm in pain, I do not ignore it. Sometimes I think about how I could have lost the parts of my identity that matter most to me, and I get overwhelmed. But then I open my eyes and see that I still have time to live my life, to be with loved ones and to continue to heal emotionally, and that is what matters.


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