On the evening of Monday 30th of August, I had a stroke. I didn’t realise it at the time but now that I can reflect back on the symptoms, I am pretty sure that was when it happened. I was using the computer just before bed. When I got up to turn in, my right leg momentarily felt weak and nearly collapsed. Since it was such a brief moment, I thought I’d sat awkwardly and that my leg had fallen asleep.
The next morning, my right arm felt strange. I thought perhaps I’d slept on it strangely because it felt weird like that. I continued with my online spin workout but took it easy on my right arm. My arm got worse as the day progressed but since it was a public holiday, I decided to go to the doctor the following day. At this point, I was sure it was just a pinched nerve.
In the night, I had three seizures – at 2am, 4am and 6am. They were all short – less than a minute. I was conscious for all of them – I knew what was happening but was unable to stop it. We went to the ER after the third seizure and after some scans, the doctor confirmed it was a stroke. He was quite adamant that the cause was due to oral contraceptives and not the Astrazeneca vaccine (I got my second dose 6 weeks before I had the stroke).
Based on a neurology report: Birth control pills pose small but significant stroke risk.
For healthy young women without any stroke risk factors, the risk of stroke associated with oral contraceptives is small. But in women with other stroke risk factors, “the risk seems higher and, in most cases, oral contraceptive use should be discouraged.”Marisa McGinley, DO; Sarkis Morales-Vidal, MD; and Jose Biller, MD of Loyola University Medical Center and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
What are stroke risk factors?
- have high blood pressure
- have a history of migraine headaches
I had none of the risk factors for stroke.
Was it because I was on the contraceptive pill and I took the AZ jab? The experts reckon its unlikely, but they aren’t stating it conclusively.
“In my opinion, seeing the very strong activation of the clotting system by these antibodies, minor modulating factors like the pill have probably only very minor influence on the thrombotic outcome,” Greinacher said.
However, he did not deny that there could be some sort of link between the two.
“It might very well be that [contraceptives] don’t make it much better. But the driving force [of VIPIT] is the strength of the antibody and not minor co-factors,” Greinacher said.Dr. Andreas Greinacher led the team in Germany that discovered the rare type of blood clot in AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine recipients known as vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia, or VIPIT.
Rather than dwell on the cause and what should’ve happened, I’ve decided I need to move on and focus on my recovery. Thankfully, I read The Brain That Changes Itself several years ago and learned a lot about the power of neuroplasticity.
The story was about 65 year old Pedro, who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his face and half of his body, leaving him unable to speak. It happened in 1959 back when the advice was for Pedro to be sent to an institution because medical science believed there was no way he would be able to recover sufficiently to lead a normal life. Despite this hopeless prognosis, his son, George, decided he was going to help rehabilitate his father. After a year of specific exercises designed to help him regain normal function, Pedro was able to start full-time teaching again at 68 years old. He continued working, teaching, and travelling until the age of 72 years when he died from a heart attack.
Back then there were no such thing as brain scans so there was no way of knowing the full extent of the damage to his brain caused by the stroke. It wasn’t until Pedro’s autopsy that they were able to examine his brain. What they found was that the huge legion in Pedro’s head never healed even though he recovered all the functions that the damaged part of the brain was responsible for. The damage was mainly in the brain stem – the part closest to the spinal cord. Other major centers responsible for movement had been destroyed as well. 97% of the nerves from the cerebral cortex to the spine were destroyed. As far as strokes go, the damage was massive and it was only at the point of autopsy that the significance of Pedro’s recovery became known.
This was firsthand evidence that elderly individuals with massive stroke lesions were capable of significant recovery. Through research, Paul Bach-y-Rita discovered that late recoveries were also possible. Patients who had been paralyzed for 20 years were able to make late recoveries with brain-stimulating exercises. Of course the road to recovery is not an easy one. It is tedious and requires a lot of hard work, but the point is, it can be done.
If 65 year old Pedro, with his devastating stroke can make a complete recovery, then surely I, 20 years his junior, with just a mini stroke, can regain the function of my right arm.
So this marks the beginning of my road to recovery. I will be following Stronger After Stroke: Your Roadmap to Recovery, written by Peter G. Levine, who specialises in clinical research on the best systems for driving post-stroke brain plasticity. I’ll have to take a little hiatus from my fitness journey, but I will be back. This is my written commitment to myself.