In June of 2016 Richard and I were on our way to do some target practice. As we were turning left, an older gentleman was not paying attention and T-boned us. The collision spun the truck to the side of the road and tossed our steel target out of the back of our pick-up and it landed in the ditch. Immediately my left arm went numb. I didn’t believe it it was serious enough to call an ambulance, so after exchanging insurance information, we drove to the hospital. I underwent a CT scan without contrast and was sent home with the diagnosis of “Cervical Sprain” and was told to follow up with my doctor.
During my follow up, it was very painful to turn my neck. My doctor prescribed Physical Therapy for my neck. During my evaluation at Physical Therapy, I was feeling nauseated and dizzy. Two days later I was back in the ER with severe neck pain. I was given another CT Scan this time with contrast. They could see that I had suffered a “Vertebral Artery Dissection”, my body had built up a blood clot. The ER Doctor had determined that I needed to be life-flighted to the University of Utah hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a 3 hour drive by vehicle.
During my four day stay at the hospital in SLC, I was told that many people suffer from “Vertebral Artery Dissections” and recover just fine. It was found that I had “Bilateral Vertebral Artery Dissections” and had developed a blood clot. The Doctors felt that surgery would do more damage at this time. I was released on Lovenox Injections, Warfarin, Aspirin and Tramadol for pain management. There was no reason why any of us should be more concerned.
We settled back into our normal day to day lives, I went to my Doctor’s and had my blood tests done, everything was looking good!
2 weeks later I was laying in bed playing on my phone. My hunny had just closed the bathroom door and was getting in the shower. A wave of sudden dizziness came over me. Something was terribly wrong. I stood up and started pounding on the door to the bathroom, as soon as my hunny opened the door I collapsed into his arms. He laid me on our bed, my breathing was labored, I was drenched in sweat, and had uncontrollable shaking on my right side. The ambulance was called and I found myself in the ER once again.
With my mom and dad visiting me. I had noticed that my left leg had lost temperature sensation and was feeling numb, another MRI was ordered. When I came out of the MRI and was being wheeled back to my room, my head started to hurt. Once I got to my room, I asked for some more pain medication from the medical assistant. The Doctor walked in and told me that I had suffered a stroke.
My head was really starting to hurt and my mother had gotten a cold wet washcloth and was rubbing my forehead. Out of the blue my head became super hot, I was in a lot of pain. It was so excrutiating that I was screaming but no sound was escaping. Suddenly my body went ridged, my arms extended down my sides with my wrists curled in. My eyes rolled back into my head and my jaw locked down on my tongue. I was aware of what was going on and was trying to stop biting my tongue, I really thought I was going to bite it off. I could hear my mom and dad getting help, I could hear the nurses rushing around and talking. Then, all of a sudden… black.
During this time my parents were asked to leave the room, I was intubated and rushed to neurosurgery. They thought I had suffered a Tonic-Clonic Seizure (Grand Mal) but because I could remember most of it, it was determined that I had suffered Decerebrate Posturing. A sign of severe injury to the brain.
During surgery I died twice, I had a total of 3 stents placed. It was found that I suffered a Basilar Artery Occlusion and Lateral Medullary Stroke. The prognosis is not good and regardless of your religion or what you believe, I should not be alive. When they did the thrombectomy to remove the blood clot, it had disappeared. Dissolved on its own.
I remember coming to in NCCU and being annoyed because I was cuffed to the bed and there was this strange “mouth wind” going on. I couldn’t talk so I tried to write notes to my mom. I knew there was something really wrong with me. I couldn’t really feel my left side. On my fourth day in NCCU, a physical therapist wanted to get me up and see if I could walk. This was the first time I was out of my bed. I was devastated to say the least. Nothing worked right.
On my fifth day I was moved to the NAC unit. A more comfortable room. Physical, Occupational and speech therapists would come in and do their assessments. One therapist got me into a wheel chair and took me to this little room where there was gym equipment and parallel bars. On one wall there was a huge mirror. She sat me in front of the mirrors and helped me to stand. I wasn’t able to stand on my own. I looked at this woman in the mirror and just started sobbing uncontrollably. Who was this? That couldn’t be me. This was not my body! I almost gave up. It was too much to take in. I couldn’t talk normal, I didn’t even have the strength to grab a tissue with my left hand. I couldn’t sit up on my own. I couldn’t walk!
I felt bad for putting my family through this, my hunny… my daughter, oh my god… my daughter… Her biological father was called and told to come get her for a while because there was no way I would be able to care for her. She was told what had happened, but at 10 years old, the severity of it was lost.
I couldn’t believe that this all happened because someone was negligent in their driving. I went through so many emotions, anger, sadness, guilt, hysterics. I spent approximately 1 month in the hospital. I went through inpatient rehab and was released with a walker. I vowed in rehab that I would NOT let this make me bitter. I was going to be better. I allowed myself to have pity parties but they would not rule my life.
I still suffer with left sided disabilities. I struggle with some cognitive functions and I suffer from Ataxia. It sucks but not bad when the alternative is death.
I have survived two divorces, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse… and now this… I feel unstoppable. Life is not meant to be easy and we all are faced with challenges that push us to our limits. It is true when they say you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Even through all of the trials and tribulations, I wouldn’t change it. I will NOT be bitter. If I can help to inspire others, then all of my suffering is worth it. I will continue to fight, no matter what life throws at me. This is a long road and I may never recover, and that is ok. I have accepted that.
Richard and I actually met at the shooting range. Shooting is something I have always found relaxing and a way to clear my head. I have always been active, I was a beginner’s Muay Thai instructor, I attended a police academy in 2001, went on to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration. I had accomplished a lot in my 35 years on this planet. I loved hiking, fishing, anything that had to do with out doors. All hopes of moving into law enforcement, criminal justice, and continuing my Muay Thai all disappeared on that 7th day of August. I remember going out to shoot the first time since my strokes. I couldn’t pull back my own slide. I couldn’t even load my own magazine. I was devastated.
After some practice and Occupational Therapy, I built up enough strength in my hands to pull back my own slide and load my magazines. I was so happy! My shooting wasn’t super amazing but I hit the target! I would take that! Five months post my stroke, Richard and I went out to practice qualifying for my conceal carry permit. After all was said and done. I cried, my groupings were not bad at all and every shot was center mass. I can’t even begin to describe how important this was to me. It can only get better from here!
Almost 6 months post and I am still in recovery, but I have motivation now. I would like to get into competition shooting, it is something that even I can do with my disabilities. I hope that my story will inspire others to never quit! We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit!