Jenny Gao's story--in her own words.
I had a stroke but conscious
- on vulnerability and blessings
By Jenny Gao
It was a Friday morning like any other.
I woke up, got up and ready to leave for work.
By six a.m., I was downstairs.
Breakfast time for my cats has to be punctuate.
That makes all of us happy.
Gabriel just used the litter box before I came down
So I cleaned the litter box and dropped the litter in the garbage can in the garage.
I returned to the kitchen, and was getting some breakfast when suddenly
I felt my body being dragged down.
I also felt a bit dizzy, so I tried to sit down by the kitchen table but I could not sit.
My body still was dragging downwards so I thought I'd better take a short break on the couch till I feel better.
It was not as easy as I thought it would be.
I got close to the couch and I had to let myself down on the floor, on my stomach.
I tried to call my husband, who was still sleeping upstairs but I felt nauseas when I tried to shout.
I was afraid that I would throw up, so I tried to drag an area rag close just in case I threw up but I couldn't.
By this time, it was obvious to me that I could not move without help.
Now I know that I was lucky the blockage happened in my right brain so I could still think and talk. Had it happened to my left brain, I would have lost consciousness.
I became scared. I was frustrated. Then even more scared.
What if Jeff doesn't wake up until his usual seven o'clock?
What if he goes through his daily routine before he comes down?
He will go to bathroom first, then turn on the TV, do his stretching exercises, then wash up, get dressed.
By then it will be eight o'clock!
The phone was far from my reach.
I tried to tell Gorge to go get Dad.
He would not listen, but kept scratching my hair, wanting me to get up.
So there was no option for me.
I tried my best murmuring: Please, come down and help me.
I can not get up, I need you to help. Please come down quickly.
I must have repeated it at least thirty times.
Miraculously, Jeff heard me in his sleep and came down!
That was the most important reason I am still alive today. For strokes, every minute counts. Each second, thousands of neurons die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients.
Jeff called 911, and the paramedics came within minutes.
They checked me over and asked which hospital we wanted to go to.
Then we were on our way to Edward Hospital.
In the ambulance, Austin, the young paramedic worker, got me on IV and asked my more questions.
At the same time he was on the phone talking to the ER staff, giving them information to get ready.
Look at it now, what a beautiful system for saving lives!
In the ER, multiple people asked the same questions, made me repeat the same "mobility" test (as I call it).
I was able to answer all the questions but I had difficulties moving my left arm and left leg.
Later I was told that I did not make any movement on my left side.
I was given an MRI, which revealed the blockage in my right brain.
Almost immediately, Dr. Miller was contacted and an anesthesiologist was called for.
The ER is like described on TV, So many things were going on that it was hard for me to focus. I started to feel overwhelmed by so much happening.
Dr. Miller was talking to my husband and
I heard part of the conversation.
They were going to give me a procedure to remove the clot.
I doubted myself and everyone else, so I asked Jeff if he understood what Dr. Miller was talking about.
He said yes and that I should do the procedure.
I told him I did not like the idea of anesthesia.
I believe it makes me stupid.
He said but you need to do it and you will have to be sleeping for the procedure.
Very shortly thereafter, I was pushed into a lab for the procedure called Cerebral Angiogram with Mechanical Clot Removal.
I knew Jeff did not come with me
so I asked the nurse to do me a favor and make sure
I was the right patient in the right lab for the right procedure with the right doctor. This became a funny story afterwards.
The nurse turns out to be Dr. Miller's wife.
Here is where I got very lucky again. First, Edward Hospital only created this new stroke program two and half months ago when Dr. Miller brought it with him to Edward. Second, it was Friday, and early morning. The teams of doctors, technicians and nurses were all there and freshly ready for the day.
Dr. Miller pulled four pieces of clots out of the artery in my brain.
One of them was more than three centimeters, longer than my little finger.
Someone also told me that when the huge clot was pulled out,
right away blood went into the vessels of my right brain,
the whole team was all excited.
This is a beautiful picture I have not seen, but keep visualizing.
This is quite an experience for me. It made me think a lot. Human beings are so vulnerable most of the time. Terrorist attacks, economy crashes, natural disasters or strokes. Whatever happens to us happens, no matter what we want. This is the nature of life.
But, just as we are vulnerable, we are blessed so often. We have no control of either.
We tend to forget how fortunate we are until we recognize our vulnerability.
My stroke experience showed me how I was saved by many factors completely out of my control. If not for my own life, I would never even think about some of the factors that helped save my life.
I am not a stroke survivor. I would never have survived it by myself. I was saved.
I was saved by other human beings, closest to me and total strangers:
My dear husband, paramedic workers, doctors, nurses and others.
I was blessed that many things happened the way they did.
I will always treasure these blessings, but most importantly, the kindness and willingness to help in human beings.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services