Every May, we recognize National Stroke Month. It’s a time for us to raise awareness about the impact of stroke not just on the individual, but on the family. This month, two people are going to share their stroke story from two very different perspectives: survivor and partner. Each week this month, we’ll hear from Steve Strommer, a stroke survivor, and his partner Tracy Nelms. They’ll recount their experiences at different stages of the recovery process, and provide a perspective that only someone who has been there before can.
Today’s post is from Steve – and it’s about the night it all began.
What was to start out as a quiet evening at home watching TV, turned out to be anything but that. The movie, The Expendables, may have been the ultimate of action thrillers for many people, but it will forever be for me the movie that will remain in my mind as infamous.
About a third into the film during yet another scene filled with mayhem, I noticed that the audio level from the soundtrack was starting to irritate me. I found this to be peculiar since noise rarely affects me in this way, so I got the remote and turned the volume down.
It wasn’t much after this that my head started to feel similar to it as if I had a vasovagal reaction (fainting) like I used to get many years back when I would get a hypodermic needle for travel vaccines and such. I found it strange and wondered what this could be about… and it was to get even stranger.
Before long, it felt as though somebody else was in the room with me, pushing me on the shoulder. I couldn’t figure this out because I knew I was alone. It didn’t take much longer before I freakishly realized that I was being touched by my own left hand, which suddenly felt curiously detached from my whole body. I thought to myself, “This is getting a little too bizarre to be normal.”
My left hand and arm had suddenly felt as though they had fallen asleep with pins and needles and a pervasive numbness. I tried to drink some water, and it came dribbling out of the right side of my mouth. I stood up to walk to the couch, and fell over onto the floor. I did this three times. I knew that something was seriously wrong and that I was very ill. It was at this moment that I said to myself, “Damn, my man you are having a stroke.”
It suddenly occurred to me then I had to let Tracy know what was going on with me and tell her that I was very sick. But the thought of texting, let alone simply trying to dial 911, was more than I could comprehend. It went from 11:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. like that. I tried for hours to find the phone, to call 911, to reach Tracy – but I just couldn’t physically do any of it.
Many hours after the first signs of my stroke, I somehow manage to dial 911. When I got the dispatcher, I told the woman I believed I was having a stroke. She assured me that an ambulance would be there shortly and I gave my address and then hung up the phone and laid back down on the floor. I was freaking out at the thought of what was happening. It was the last thing I expected to happen. My hand was still numb. It felt as though it was filled with sand or lead birdshot.
Within 5 minutes, I heard a siren coming from the distance away and knew that they were on their way to me. I laid on the floor with my mind racing thoughts of what was to come and what all this actually meant. My life was possibly in some kind of jeopardy .When they arrived, the ambulance personnel started to question me as to my symptoms and they took my vital signs. They noticed my left hand had curled into a fist. The next thing I knew, I was put into the back of the ambulance and they were taking me to Riddle Memorial Hospital. And that’s the last thing I remember.
Tomorrow, Tracy will share her account of the days follow Steve’s stroke. Stay tuned throughout the month of May to learn more about Steve and Tracy’s experiences and their ongoing journey.