The most unbelievable three months in history (stroke, love, marriage)

July 1st, 2009 started off like any typical day. I woke up, ate breakfast, and went to work. Around lunch time I decided to go grab something to eat at a local sub shop. One of my coworkers met his wife and we ate with a small little girl under the age of one that brightened my spirits and made for fun conversation. After we got back to my vehicle I noticed a pressing feeling on my chest. I had been having these symptoms for a few months - sometimes once a day, sometimes once a week. I thought nothing of it because after a second I was back to normal albeit a little scared. I thought “what could the doctors do anyway since I’m only 25? It’s probably heartburn or something” The rest of the day was pretty typical. That night I went to bed about midnight expecting to wake up and drive to see my family for the extended Independence Day weekend.

That next morning I woke up at 830AM and immediately brushed my teeth. Something felt weird, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. I went to call someone and when I tried to speak I couldn’t get the words out. I just stammered and stuttered. I felt humiliated and hung up the phone thinking “what hell is going on?” I noticed my tongue felt swollen. I figured I probably bit my tongue or had an allergic reaction and just needed to get my blood flowing so I decided to go lift weights. I drove about 10 minutes away and had a pretty typical workout with free weights although I was slightly weaker than normal. I decided afterwards to go play frisbee golf outside. I played a few holes (nothing abnormal) but got tired and decided I needed to go home. On the drive back I got something in my right eye and tried to blink to get it out…but I couldn’t blink my right eye independent of my left one. I then began rubbing my face and noticed my whole right side of my face was numb and my tongue wasn’t swollen but the right side was numb. I immediately though “Oh, shit. I’ve had a stroke.”

But I didn’t want to believe it. I needed an authoritative source like Google to tell me so I drove home to check it out. I put my symptoms (numbness, slurred speech, etc) in and everything said stroke go to the ER. By this point it was 11AM and I could barely speak. I live alone and decided that before I went to the ER I needed to at least make myself presentable and shave/shower. In retrospect, I clearly wasn’t thinking rationally, but it made complete sense at the time.

So rather than calling anyone I decided to drive myself to the ER which was about 20 minutes away. My condition continued to deteriorate and by the time I got to the ER I literally could barely speak. However, I never had any paralysis in my extremities - it was all isolated to my face and speech. When I walked in they saw this 25 year old man who was in good shape (6’2 215 pounds) who could barely speak. When I finally muttered out that I thought I had a stroke they all got concerned and were stammering around to get me help. This really scared because these people see people in bad shape all the time and for them to be concerned there must really be something wrong I thought.

Suffice it to say that I still didn’t really want to believe I had had a stroke so I called no one (no family, friends, etc). They ran all sorts of tests on me because they didn’t really believe a healthy 25 year old with no drug use had had a stroke but by 1030PM they officially told me I had a minor stroke.

My world absolutely came crashing down. I felt like I was just waiting to die. Any minute I could have another clot and that would be the end of me. And as someone who identified as agnostic “what if there is a God and I’m going to hell?” I was spiritually and literally alone at the ER because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. Fortunately a complete stranger I had been chatting with as best I could for hours consoled me by hugging me and sending along encouraging words. She apparently had a son about my age. I have no idea who she was and haven’t seen her since. I wish I could to let her know how much it meant to me.

Apparently I had had a cryptogenic minor stroke. Basically I had no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, no drug use, etc. There was no reason I should have had a stroke.

Fast forward to the next day on July 3 and my family showed up. The doctors and everyone were telling me how fortunate I was to not be dead or have paralysis. But I didn’t feel fortunate at all - I wanted to die. I hated everything and was so bitter that this shit had to happen to me. I was a good person and never hurt anyone or did drugs. Why me? I felt so broken and would break into tears when doing my speech therapy. It was so tough because mentally I was all there. There was just a disconnect between my brain and my tongue. I wouldn’t wish a stroke on anyone. I don’t know how older people with paralysis survive because I honestly don’t know that I could have.

They ran some tests and eventually attributed the stroke to Patent Foramen Ovale (congenital birth defect in my heart - a 11mm hole). I had surgery at the end of August to correct it and am doing well running a few miles a day and exercising.

Well, running in parallel to all of this is that after having the stroke I was in the hospital for a week. When I returned home to see my parents, I went to church with my aunt and met the most amazing girl. She’s has the most beautiful eyes and smile I’ve ever seen, gorgeous body, and a terrific personality. We’ve been going out for 2 months now and are seriously talking about marriage. If things continue to go the way they have been, I am considering proposing right before Christmas when we plan to go on a vacation. She has indicated she would say yes if I asked her now so I’m sure this all isn’t too soon for her. It’s just the most unbelievable feeling in the world being with her. It’s like I have a lover and best friend who’s always there for me. I wouldn’t be alive right now if it wasn’t for her support right after the stroke because I felt so sad and broken I would have killed myself. It just sucks we live about 200 miles apart and she is still in school and won’t graduate for a year and a half. I can drive home every weekend and she comes here some too so we see each other 3 days a week.

Since I had the stroke I’ve lost about 40 pounds (6’2 was 215 and now 175) ( I still have a difficult time eating because I’m afraid of eating the wrong things and having another one. It’s purely psycholiogical though because all the doctors say it wasn’t diet related. But I still worry because the next one will unequivocally be my last - I’ll either die from it or end my life. I just don’t think I could go through another and the constant fear of dying every night I go to sleep, etc. And the Coumadin, Lovenox, and Plavix suck. I bruise so easily and bleed and bleed and bleed when I get cut. It was and still is a nightmare.

There’s no way I would have ever imagined all of this happening to me 3 months ago. The one thing I’ve learned is that you better treat everyday like your last because it damn well could be. Certainly plan for the future but live for the present because you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

So I guess I wanted share my story with you guys and let you know that heart diseased effects everyone regardless of age and diet and activity level so never think it’s just for the smokers, obese, and elderly like I did. I know that’s cliche and we hear it all the time, but it’s true.

Related to the girl:

  1. How soon would you consider too soon proposed? Like I could see myself doing it in the next couple months which would mean we would have been together for around 4 months. I’m 25 and she’s 19.

  2. How would you feel about getting married but still living apart for the first year or so only seeing each other on weekends? Like we had thought of it like military families who live apart for a year or more at a time. Surely if they can do it, so we can since we will have every weekend and holidays together.

  3. Related to the ring, what, IYO, is a good guide for how much to spend? 1/2/etc month salary (gross or after tax)? I honestly have no idea and had never even thought of getting married until the past month or so so I’m really clueless.

  4. Do you think I’m just overly emotional with everything that’s happened the past few months and should maybe wait ANOTHER 6 months or year or more to let my life get settled back down before making such a long term commitment?

I realized this is almost a stream of consciousness type of post that may make little sense to others, but the past few months have just been crazy. I never would have imagined it happening to me.

Oh my, dgrdfd! Your story comes at a particularly apt time for me. I just learned today the brother of my oldest childhood friend had a stroke. I couldn’t believe it, and he’s 49.

But back to you — how scary! I don’t blame you for being nervous. Congratulations on meeting the girl you would like to spend your life with, but, I think I won’t be the only person to say you are overly emotional and probably need to wait a little while. You and she are very young. If you’re committed, dating for a couple years won’t hurt a thing. Many, many couples survive long-distance relationships. With what you’ve been through, you need time to make sure you are YOURSELF, and I mean that in the kindest way possible. I’m not suggesting you break up with her, just slow down.

Best of luck to you. I’m glad you’re healing and I have to say, your newly toned and slimmed bod is pretty fine-looking! :wink:

Holy shit. I would have trouble believing that I’d really had a stroke at your age (or, hell, my age) too. Congratulations on the recovery and coming out on the other side.

Re your questions:

  1. I was ready to marry MrWhatsit after the second week I knew him. If you’re both ready, it’s not too soon.

  2. If you absolutely have to do this for logistical reasons, then sure, it can work. I have a friend in Seattle who was in a long-distance relationship with his wife in Toronto for a year or two while she finished grad school. They saw each other on weekends. It was slightly stressful but worked out fine in the end.

  3. No advice here, we were broke and went with inexpensive rings. We picked ours out together, which was fun.

  4. Only you can answer this question. I wish you the best regardless of what you decide, though. It sounds like it’s been quite the wild ride.

Wow, thanks for sharing. I really felt shocked and horrified for you while reading!! Boy am I glad you’re ok!

Very nice that karma turned around on you and you met the love of your life right after. Hurray!

Since you’re asking opinions…you just went through some heavy heavy shit and you are ready to die tomorrow. Your girlfriend is still quite young. She might be ready for you to die tomorrow too. But let’s take the logical route and assume you’re not.

There’s no reason to rush into getting married. If you’re going to be apart for a year and a half, see how that goes. See if you still love her after the shock of the stroke wears off - that you love her for her and not because she represents your new lease on life. I am hoping and wishing that it will work out that way - and it TOTALLY could. Probably will. But what is your hurry?

Enjoy and deal with your lives as they are now. When she graduates, start a NEW life together. But wait until then.

Hell, man, you just cheated death – and found love to boot. Buy that ring!

Jo Kerrwoman and I were ready to be married before we left the camp where we met. We waited a while – a whole six months!

This woman was there for you in your time of need. She’ll be there for you.


I say give it at least 6 months before proposing. Even if you are both ready now it will stop any future thoughts of, “Did he only propose because he isn’t making rational decisions right now?” or “Did she only accept my proposal out of pity due to my stroke?” that may arise if you run into bumps in the road in the future. I would rush to the altar with my fiance tomorrow but because I know having plenty of time for decision making and the general comfort of our families is so important we are waiting another year before we get married. Not having her mom freak out on you is worth a few months wait!

If you seriously think you would have killed yourself after the stroke were it not for her, you should forget marriage for the time being and seek counseling. Life is going to throw you curveballs. Today is was a stroke. Tomorrow it may be cancer or unemployment…or the woman who saved you from killing yourself will leave you for a co-worker. Until you can handle these inevitable curveballs without considering suicide as a viable means of coping, you should consider yourself a Work in Progress, and save marriage for a time when you are whole emotionally.

Oh, and nice abs.

As someone whom the doctor’s kinda think had a micro-stroke 5 years ago, which left me with 55% hearing loss and tinnitus in my right ear, I can sympathize with what you went through. I was 38 years old at the time. ( I have issues of getting to the noun in a sentance since then, it is usually when I am tired. It’s weird, but that is the brain for you.)

It is scary as hell to have this kind of thing happen OUT OF THE BLUE and I am very glad you survived everything and were able to post here again.

I have no thoughts on your new found sparkly relationship, but I think with the date that you had your stroke, you should view it as the Day You Got Another Chance.

That is how I view August 1, 2004.
Congrats on your second chance at life!

(At least you didn’t do what my husband’s uncle did. He and his wife of 40+ years were visiting family in Germany and the day before the flight home he looked awful. He felt awful. Everyone told him to delay his departure. Being stubborn and cheap (not wanting to pay the change fee for alterations like that) he said no. Got on the flight in Hamburg to Spokane.

Somewhere over the ocean it was apparent that Something Was Wrong. He poo poohed the attendants, situation was worse and an emergency landing was made in Chicago. HE REFUSED TO GET HELP OR GET OFF THE PLANE. His wife, I have no idea how you could not just tell your husband to STFU and GET OFF THE PLANE… So, by the time they made it to Spokane, he was nearly toast. Irreversible damage on a stroke.

He spent his last remaining years, like two or three, in a nursing home in very bad shape.)

I see you’ve refined your “penis this way!” lines. :wink:

I was on Lovenox for about two weeks after my pulmonary embolism, and I’m still on warfarin (another 20-something with no explanation for the stupid thing–maybe it’s the board). It blows, and I hope you can stop it soon.

Four months is way too soon to know how you really feel about each other–you’re still in the midst of that initial rush of hormones. That doesn’t mean that all of what you feel isn’t real or permanent: just that there’s a heady rush on top of it that may be confusing things.

What you can afford. Diamond engagement rings, btw, are a relatively recent innovation: find out what your girlfriend likes, because she might want something else. (One of my friends had a sapphire, for example.)

Yes, I think you’re rushing into things. You’re in your mid-20s; she’s not even 20 yet. If you’re really going to spend the rest of your life with this woman, waiting another six months (or a year) to get to know each other better isn’t going to hurt anything. In fact, especially since she’s so young, I’d say give it more time. Especially if she’s still in school, she’s at a point in her life where she’s changing a lot as a person, where she’s first starting to really solidify who she is as a person.
Waiting won’t **hurt **anything, and it has a great possibility to help: either by confirming the feelings you have now, or by giving you an opportunity to avoid a lot of pain for both of you in the future if it turns out that there are things that are less than compatible in the long run. There is also a huge difference between dating or being friends with someone and sharing your life with them, 24/7.

Holy shit,** dgrdfd**! Your description of deciding to take a shower instead of going to the ER reminded me of an interview I heard with Jill Bolte Taylor.

I think you might really benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to help you with your fears, which might be fueling your rush to marriage.

I’m with **Shot from Guns **on the reasons why waiting is a good idea.

OK, I’ll be the dissenting voice. If you are sure you want to get married, then go ahead. We were 21 at engagement, 22 at marriage. He proposed after 4 months and we were engaged for 6. We’ve been very happy for almost 14 years now. Find the right person and hang on for dear life!

Ring-wise, I’m a cheapskate. So ask her what her opinion is. If you really want to propose with a sparkly ring and all, it’s fun to get a fake one from Target and then go shopping together.

Some people do manage to be married and live apart for awhile, but I would not advise it for the very first year. The first year isn’t the easiest anyway. (My parents did live apart for a year while my mom was in grad school and they did fine.) If you’re going to get married, then surely you two can rearrange your lives enough to be together. If not, wait.

Maybe you’re rushing into things, maybe you’re sure. You’re the only one who can figure that one out. (Keep in mind, though, that if your gf is willing to be proposed to, she may not stay that way for the next two years.) Good luck either way.

Wow. I don’t know why it strikes some people to be so stubborn when something is wrong, but I 'm glad you did go to the ER and are on the mend. That’s some scary stuff! I would also advise you to wait on the marriage until the hormones from the initial infatuation have ebbed some, and I second the therapy first. Good luck with both issues and everything else!

dgrdfd, first let me extend my sympathies. My 30-something step-brother woke up blind in one eye one morning, and when he eventually went to the ER, they let him sit for hours, not thinking it was important. It was a tear in his carotid artery and he came within milimeters of dying (and permanently lost most of his vision in that eye). A couple years later, he nearly died of a burst appendix. He was perfectly healthy in both cases, right up until the point he suddenly wasn’t. That has to be utterly terrifying. I’m so sorry.

Wrt your girlfriend, talk to her. Tell her your concerns, and let her share hers with you. You may find that a long engagement is your best bet. At least she will know that marriage is your inclination, and have a part in deciding whether or not an early marriage is a risk you both want to take.

BTW, nice abs.

If you know she’s The One and she feels the same way, I don’t see anything wrong with popping the question. Perhaps y’all could have a nice long engagement for a year or so and then get married.

May you continue to get better and better, and enjoy many long years with your sweetheart!