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Saturday, May 12th 2012

Talking About Sudden Health Issues

I love patient blogs. I love the personal narrative as a patient, hearing patients tell their stories. Especially concerning sudden, acute life altering health issues. It’s not watching a train wreck; it is uplifting and motivational. I once heard Jill Taylor speak and while I was underwhelmed with the performance as a public speaker (no offense) I did enjoy her book talking about her experience recognizing she was having a stroke to being a patient to recovering.

Senator Mark Kirk, the man who followed Roland Burris who followed Barack Obama in the United States Senate, details his similar experience as a stroke patient in the Chicago Tribune.

The medical team at Northwestern, in consultation with my family, decided to operate. Sunday evening, Dr. Fessler and his surgical team removed a 4-by-8-inch section of my skull to relieve the swelling. I am told that I woke up on Monday morning and asked for my BlackBerry, although I have no recollection of that now.

Over the next two days, the swelling in my brain did not go down, and Dr. Fessler and Dr. H. Hunt Batjer operated again, removing the dead portion of my brain as well as more bone to allow for more swelling. Since that second surgery, I have been on a steady course of recovery. Two weeks later, the removed section of my skull was replaced and my head was back in one piece. A week after that, I transferred out of Northwestern’s intensive care unit and moved into the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, just a few blocks away. For the past two months, I have been working for hours each day to regain my ability to walk and other motor functions.

I was very fortunate that the stroke affected the right side of my brain. While I could not at first move the left side of my body, my cognitive and speech functions were not impaired. With a lot of work and a lot of help, I have been slowly regaining movement on the left side of my body.

Throughout this time, I have been blessed with great care from some of the finest health care workers in the world. Jesserine, “Jazz,” one of my nurses at RIC, has become a great friend. I do not know what I would have done without her skills and professionalism. Jazz and her colleagues saved my life and have facilitated my recovery in more ways than I could list.

Not the most personal of memoirs but a good read.

I’m a little surprised the Senator got such an aggressive and early decompression. There is good evidence for aggressive, early hemicraniectomy in large non-dominant middle cerebral artery strokes to circumvent the effects of swelling, see here and here. The thing that surprises me, just inferred from his own piece in the Tribune, it seems like he was awake and talky leading up to the surgery. If that’s the case certainly not a patient, at that point, suffering from a malignant MCA stroke. Then again the fact they went back to the operating room for further decompression days later…

I guess all to take away is I should play physician from afar and based on a 1000 word article in the newspaper. We all remember this.

But you should read Senator Kirk’s piece and remember, as he employs, remember American Stroke Month.