Monday, February 27, 2012


My son, Eric, has had a stroke.  It took me several days before I could actually say that.  I would say that he had a vertebral artery dissection (VAD).  That is true, but not the whole story.  He had a dissection, but then it led to a stroke.  I didn't want to admit that because strokes are scary.  My father-in-law had a stroke that paralyzed him completely on one side.  My mother had many mini-strokes that eventually destroyed her brain.  I did not want to admit that my 28 year old son had a stroke.  But he did.

On Friday, February 17, Eric woke up in the afternoon.  He works the night shift so he sleeps until mid-afternoon.  He woke up with a severe headache and the inability to walk in a straight line.  He kept veering to the right.  Eric has admitted to me that he doesn't have a primary care physician.  He just doesn't get sick or if he does, he just waits it out.  So I'm pretty sure that he didn't want to go to the ER.  But I'm also sure that he realized that this was not something that he could just wait out.  

The ER at Logan Regional Hospital gave him an MRI, which showed a VAD.  This is where the lining of the artery separates from the wall of the artery.  In Eric's case, the separation made a flap that slumped down and blocked off the blood flow, causing a stroke.  This is not a totally unheard of thing, but not real common.  It's usually caused by a sports injury or by a bad chiropractic treatment.  The doctors were able to diagnose this at Logan, but had never seen one themselves.  He was transferred to the U of U Neuro Critical Care Unit that same night. 

He spent almost a week at the U of U.  They stabilized his condition while he was there and assessed his condition.  It was a stroke doctor there that suggested that he had Wallenberg Syndrome (WS).  WS describes symptoms that patients who have experienced damage to the medulla.  Symptoms are so consistent in patients who have had strokes or damage to the medulla that it has its own syndrome named for it.

Eric is now in the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.  He is undergoing physical therapy there.  We hope that he won't be there much longer.  He is progressing, but it is going to be slow going.  They have basically confirmed that he has WS.  Eric has had all of these symptoms to one degree or another except one.  Some have been minor and have since disappeared.  Others have become less pronounced.  And still others are causing problems for him.  Some of the symptoms are:

Slurred speech (happily this is the one thing  he never had)
Difficulty swallowing
Drooping eyelid/numbness on one side of face
Double vision
Weakness in the side of the stroke (right side)
Loss of sensations to opposite side of injury

There are more but these are the basic ones.  Eric never had slurred speech or was paralyzed.  He never had anything go "wrong" with his thought processes.  He is a pharmacist at the Logan Hospital and to test his brain function, they would have him recite drugs that they used at the hospital and what their uses were.  He would start listing them and they would stop him because it was obvious that there was nothing wrong with his brain.  He has extreme vertigo, which is causing most of his problems.  He has a weakness in his right leg.  Between that and the vertigo, it is difficult for him to walk.  He has had hiccups pretty much constantly, but they aren't as strong or severe as they were in the beginning. 

One of his most interesting symptoms is the fact that he doesn't feel hot/cold or pain on his left side.  He feels pressure so he knows he is being touch, but not temperature or pain.  He thinks this has worked out okay because he doesn't feel the pain when they come to take his blood every morning.  Also, he hurt his knee several months ago, but the pain is gone from that now.

I have to say how impressed I have been by Eric and his wife Angela.  They have been the perfect examples of grace under fire.  Angela has been so strong in spite of some personal difficulties she is going through.  Eric has only been positive about everything.  Angela's family has been so great also.  Her parents drove through the night to be with her and her sister Jenny has taken Adam into her family and taken care of him as her own.  She is always ready to drive him to the hospital to see his parents.

So the prognosis?  We don't know.  Eric gives every indication that he will be able to recover from this.  We don't know how much damage will be permanent, but we have every hope that he will be able to conquer this.  It will take time.  That much we do know.  The doctors say that his brain will rewire itself to work around the damage.  But it takes time.  In the meantime, he will probably be going home at the end of this week.  He will do out-patient physical therapy from home.  The doctors say he will be off work for about three months.

Though this has been devastating, it could have been so much worse.  I have seen the hand of our Heavenly Father in our lives the last 10 days.  Everything has fallen into place so that Eric has received the best medical care possible to aid in his recovery.  We have had so many family members and friends offer to do anything to help.  Their prayers have been felt.  Sometimes that is the only thing anyone can do, but it helps.  I have felt their prayers.  Thank you everyone.  If anyone wants to fast for Eric and his family on March 4th, it would be greatly appreciated.

Adam with Eric

1 comment:

  1. I will gladly include them in my fast! Are you doing ok?