My Husband's Heart-Related Stroke (Part 1)
Editor's note: This is part 1 of a series. Be sure to check out part 2.
Before I start, I want to say I have the utmost respect for our first responders, but no one is perfect, and as caregivers, it is OUR responsibility to speak up!
When my husband and I got married, I knew there would always be risks of heart attacks. But about a month ago when I thought our lives couldn't change any differently, my husband had a stroke. I had just gotten out of the shower when our youngest son came into my bedroom to tell me Chris needed us to call 911. It took me a second to realize he was serious (even though this is something we NEVER joke about) because fifteen minutes earlier, he had been fine.
He was in AFib
When I walked into the living room, he told me he was in AFib, something he had never experienced before. My mind automatically went to another heart attack that was about to happen. I felt his pulse, and although it was fast, it was also extremely weak.
I called 911 and gave them his medical history, his surgical history, and that he has a device implanted in case his heart stops. I'm not sure how the 911 system works everywhere, but they do not keep us on the phone. She told me to call back if his defibrillator went off or something new developed.
Realizing it was a stroke
While we were waiting, he kept asking me to help him stand up, and I would do as precisely as I was taught to help him stand. However, he would think he was standing while still sitting down, giving me a look like, "why aren't we moving?" His reaction is when I realized his entire left side of his body had locked up.
Not a heart attack
He would give me a look like, okay, let's walk, but he did not realize he was still sitting. I knew this was not a heart attack. He was having a stroke.
Frustration with the first responders
Not just a seizure
By this time, the fire department had shown up and began to downplay the entire event even as it got worse. The first group of EMTs who arrived agreed with the fire department. Because of how his left arm was curling up, they kept mentioning he was probably "just" having a seizure. I have Epilepsy, and I knew they were wrong.
I know what type of seizure they assumed he was having. They believed him to be having a Focal Onset Aware Seizure or previously known as a Simple Partial Seizure. This type rarely lasts longer than two minutes but most last just a few seconds. However, if he was indeed has a seizure it was occurring as a warning sign of a stroke.
It took another female
Awake but concerning
Back to Chris' story. By the time any first responders arrived, his symptoms had lasted a lot longer than two minutes. While yes, he was awake and could talk coherently, which is typical with this type of seizure, he was having symptoms that typically do not occur with this type of seizure.
The mind-body disconnect was intense, as mentioned above. While this type of seizure can be a warning sign of a stroke, it was not treated as such. As time ticked on, which is BAD with a stroke, I grew more and more frustrated. They were not listening to him or me. At this point, a female paramedic arrived. I pulled her aside and explained Chris is an RN. His first job out of nursing school was on a Neuro/Stroke floor. If he says he is having a stroke so please take him seriously. She was the first one who let me speak without cutting me off mid-sentence.
What type of heart failure have you been diagnosed with?