Know the signs of stroke. But also know the signs that might not be a stroke, but are probably (definitely) a stroke.

Well.

These last 2 weeks have been stressful and exhausting and frustrating, to say the least.

Early in the morning on June 2, I got a call from my mom saying that she thought my 79 year old Dad had a stroke. He had fallen that morning while working outside and was dizzy and having trouble walking. I took the news very well – I was very calm and dignified and stoic. (That is a total lie – I lost it and started crying hysterically. My husband had to take over things like dialing the phone and driving because I was FREAKING OUT.) We drove to my mom’s house, picked her up, then drove to the hospital where the ambulance had just delivered my dad to the ER.

The EMT who arrived at my parents’ house first, checked for signs of a stroke – had my Dad raise both arms (he did), had him answer basic questions (he passed, all without slurred speech), had him do basic fine motor skills test (he was able to count to 4 while touching his thumb to the tips of all four fingers on the same hand)…they determined that he probably had not had a stroke, he was most likely dehydrated.

At the hospital, they did labs and took his blood pressure and monitored his heart – all came back good (well his blood pressure was a little high, but not alarmingly so). They gave him 3 bags of fluids and he seemed to improve. I think he was still feeling a little dizzy, but he didn’t say so then. They agreed he was probably just dehydrated, and Dad said he was feeling better, so they sent him home with orders to follow up with his primary care physician. WHEW! Okay, cool. We can deal with dehydration. No problem!

But later that day, he wasn’t really any better. And the next day he was much, much worse.

Turns out, he’d had dizzy spells and fallen twice before in the previous week, but those  were minor compared to Saturday’s spell.

At that point we knew we weren’t dealing with just dehydration.

Fast forward 10 days later and we finally get an MRI which confirmed that he had 3 mini strokes and one larger one caused by a clogged blood vessel in the pons area of the brain.

So all those dizzy spells he was having were actually strokes. It played out like this: he would get dizzy, fall, have trouble walking for a bit, then it would all clear up and he would be fine. That last one though, he got really dizzy, passed out and fell, and then he stayed dizzy for quite a while. His speech didn’t get very slurry until later that Saturday night and into the next day. It was almost like a slow progressing stroke, if that’s such a thing.

His face never drooped on one side, he never lost complete feeling on one side of his body (his left hand and leg are just a little weaker than his right), he didn’t have a severe headache, he had no loss of vision in one eye, he was never confused…I mean those are the symptoms, right?

I take a CPR/First Aid course every year for work and those are the signs we’re told to look for. My dad didn’t really have any of the obvious signs but you would think that a hospital ER would know to look for this, right? Not necessarily:

Another alarming finding from the study was that across all ethnic and age groups on average, if you use an ER of a nonteaching hospital—that is, a hospital that is not connected to a medical college—you face rather high odds of having a stroke missed: 45%. And, worse, if you are in a low-volume ER—meaning one that doesn’t see very many patients compared with other hospitals—the odds of being misdiagnosed increase to 57%! The take-home message here is that, if at all possible, use a busy university hospital when you need to get to an ER.

(Source: David E. Newman-Toker, MD PhD, associate professor, department of neurology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. His study appeared in the journal Diagnosis.Date: June 30, 2014 Publication: Bottom Line Health)

The hospital we went to is in a very small town – it is definitely not a university teaching hospital and it is very low-volume.

So here’s the symptom that should have tipped us off: he got dizzy for a few minutes.

Um, what?

That’s right. Plain ol’ Dizziness. Out of the blue, unexplained dizziness was the only sign of the first mini stroke. He had been outside, looking up at something, and he got dizzy and fell. The dizziness went away after a few minutes, so he didn’t really think much of it, in fact, he didn’t even tell my mom about it until a week later, when he got dizzy and fell the second time. The next day though, when the dizziness came back again, it didn’t go away for several days.

That’s not to say that every time you get dizzy, it means you are having a stroke. But if it comes on suddenly and out of the blue (not as in if you were laying on the couch for 3 hours then stood up suddenly – that’s different) and you are at risk for a stroke, then call 911 and tell them to take you to the nearest university teaching hospital (if that’s a possibility).

My dad spent a couple of days in the hospital and is now on blood pressure medication, a blood thinner, a statin for cholesterol, and an aspirin, and will start physical therapy this week to help improve the weakness on his left side, his walking, and his speech. He has a good chance to make a full recovery if he does what he is supposed to –  I think he will because it really scared him. And the rest of us too.

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My Dad. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Note to Self

Change your frame of mind, Jill. Telling yourself over and over again “losing weight is so HARD!! It’s the MOST DIFFICULT THING I’VE EVER HAD TO DO!!! IT’S JUST SO HARRRRRRRD!!!!!” is not going to help. And besides that, you deserve a bitch slap for thinking it’s too damn hard, because you know what’s hard? Trekking for 5 miles with a jar on your head to the nearest watering hole so you have enough water for your family for ONE DAY is hard. Having to figure out how to pay for another round of chemo for your cancer-stricken child/spouse/parent is hard. Deciding to put your grandparent (or parent) in a nursing home is hard. Not having enough food to feed your kids…when payday (if you’re lucky enough to have one) is still 6 days away is hard.

Deciding to stop feeding yourself shitty food…NOT HARD. Deciding to figure out WHY the hell you think stuffing your face is a good idea every time you have a feeling …NOT HARD. Finally deciding that WHAT you put in your mouth is not the issue and taking the steps to figure out the WHY…NOT HARD.

It’s only hard if you decide it is. It doesn’t have to be hard. It can be soft and gentle and freeing and liberating, if only you’ll let it be.

You think changing is going to feel like jumping into an ice cold swimming pool in the middle of February, but what if you dip your toe in and you discover the pool is heated and it feels warm and welcoming and absolutely divine??? What if slipping into that warm, silky water is exactly what you need? You’ll never know if you stand there on the side of pool, shivering because you decide it’s too hard to be brave enough to take that first tentative dip.

Get some perspective. It doesn’t have to be hard.

As my title says, this is a note to MYSELF. I’m tired of using the excuse that it’s too hard to change…too hard to pause before I eat, too hard to ask myself the right questions. There are so many things in this world that are hard…taking care of myself should not be one of them. 

Good things

Howdy!

Yeah, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, but good things have been happening while I’ve been away from Blogland!

I hit my mini-goal of 188 and am sitting pretty at 187.6. Woohoo!! The last time I weighed below 190 was two years ago. I spent all of 2013 and most of 2014 in the 190s and felt pretty miserable about it. I keep track of my weight periodically on a spreadsheet and now have almost 4 years’ worth of weigh-ins on it. I also make little notes about what I am doing or what’s going on at the time of the weigh-in. It’s interesting to look back and see where I was compared to where I am now, which honestly is not a very big jump. At the end of 2011, I got down to 180 pounds (on Thanksgiving Day to be exact) and that’s the lowest I’ve been since. Not sure I could get down to 180 by Thanksgiving again this year, but I think I could get close. The next mini-goal I’m chasing is 185 pounds – if I work consistently at it I could be there by Thanksgiving, I think. Not that I’m using Thanksgiving as my target…I’d be happy if I hit it before then. 🙂

In addition to hitting my mini-goal of 188, I also hit my company’s annual health evaluation goal. The company that does the health evaluations assigns you a score that represents your overall health (zero and below are the target scores) – when we started this 2 years ago in 2012, my health score was a -15, which is good. In 2013 it was +11 (which is not so good – moderately high cholesterol and moderately high blood pressure bumped me above the recommended score of zero or less). Shortly after last year’s evaluation, I started working with Selvera, so I’ve spent roughly the last ten months working to get these numbers down. I’m happy to report that my score for this year’s evaluation (which I just took earlier this week) is a -20!! My total cholesterol came down from 232 to 212, and my blood pressure went from 143/83 to 134/78. Other numbers were improved as well (I’ve lost 11 pounds) and since I met those goals, I get a 10% discount on my health insurance premiums. I. AM. THRILLED. I love saving money as much as I love having better health.

I can say with total honesty that I know my numbers would not have come down were it not for working with Amanda (my stellar dietitian) and the Selvera program. I’m fairly certain that left to my own devices, my numbers probably would have gone up and I would be one sad panda right now. I can’t recommend them enough. Seriously, if you are struggling to get the weight off or the numbers down and you can’t seem to do it on your own, give them a call. They are sincerely pulling for your success – if you succeed, they succeed. It’s as simple as that.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll check back soon with an update on how my mini-goal is coming along. Speaking of mini-goals, I think I really like striving for a goal of just a couple of pounds at a time. Feels so much easier than trying to achieve a 40 pound goal. How do you feel about mini-goals? Is it easier or harder for you? Just curious how you guys feel about it.

Have a good weekend! 🙂

Support yourself

In articles about how to lose weight, one of the bullet points is always “surround yourself with support” but what does that mean? Usually these articles will say something to the effect of “enlist the support of your spouse and family and friends”, but um…really? Because a lot of my family and friends have no interest in losing weight and therefore have no idea how to support me other than saying “Go Jill!” Yes I can convey my needs to them and they will do their best to help me, but I have found that I need more than just a pat on the back and an “atta girl!” (although that does help). I need something to keep me motivated, and I need this in my face as much as possible. Here are a few things that are keeping me motivated and supported (and no, I’m not talking about a sports bra):

  • Facebook pages from fitness trainers. Two of my favorites are The Fit Fight by Aimee and The Action Plan – Get Fit Over 40. The first is from a bootcamp instructor in Texas and the second is a trainer from…somewhere (I don’t actually know where she’s out of, sorry!). They both post some really great motivational thoughts and graphics every day – I find that things like that help me stay focused and in a “healthy” mind set. 
  • Hang around people who are already fit and healthy. I got to spend some time over the weekend with my nieces who all work out and eat healthy for the most part. My niece Krysten  has lost 50+ pounds in the last year or so by eating mostly clean and working out like a champ. She’s always been a beauty, but now she looks toned and fit and trim as well. I’m so proud of her because she has worked so hard and let’s face it, she has my genes which means we were born from a people of leisure – being active does not come naturally for us. But she kicked it in the teeth and now does bootcamp and fitness dvds and lives a busy, active life. I figure if she can get up at the buttcrack of dawn and get it done, I can too.
  • Buy some cute new workout clothes and get good shoes! I bought a new work out top for Zumba and my husband said I looked like Rainbow Brite, but I don’t care. It fits well and is perfect for jumping around at Zumba. I’m going to try and get new shoes this weekend because nothing ruins a good workout like hurty feet.
  • I’m still using my Jar of Gems! Is it overflowing with gems? Um… no, but it’s getting there. I have my gem in my pocket right now and I’m going to do all that I can to add it to my jar tonight.

So that’s what’s keeping me going this week. Are there any other motivating FB pages or websites that I should know about? How do you stay motivated?

Fifteen minutes of meaning

Today a very dear friend lost her dad to ALS. It was a long battle (for both of them) and on Sunday Laura had planned on running a half marathon. She still  wants to run it because SHE CAN. She has a healthy body that can do glorious things – things her father can no longer do.

Remember the 5k I ran a few months ago? The race was for a young man who had cancer. At the time of the race, he was in remission and was doing very well. Not long ago, the cancer came back with a vengance and today, this young man lost his battle too.

 

*sigh*

 

But a wonderful thing also happened today. I got a call from Oklahoma Blood Institute telling me that my blood that I had donated was used at a hospital in OKC and had helped save someone’s life.  That feels pretty amazing to me.

 

All of these things has made me realize that I have been acting like a spoiled, petulant brat.  I have this gloriously wonderful body that, despite my best efforts, is still amazingly healthy. I don’t have any chronic conditions, no pain, no recurring illness, heck I don’t even have seasonal allergies. And yet, I abuse this body with food and lack of movement. I take my health for granted every. single. day. and yet it continues to hang on, hoping I will give it the proper attention it deserves.

Today, I finally gave it some attention. I had some errands to run this evening and I thought that while I was out, I would stop by the local park and walk for a bit. I knew I didn’t have long before the sun set, but I also knew that something was better than nothing. So I walked. I walked because it’s what I do best. I only had 15 minutes but those 15 minutes held a lot of meaning for me. They signified that it’s time to grow up a little bit a lot and stop playing Russian Roulette with my health.

But what does that look like? Getting serious about health? For me I think it looks like this:

  • taking my calcium supplement every day (and a multivitamin)
  • working my body at least 3 days a week for as long or as short amount of time as I have
  • finding ways of incorporating more veggies into my meals
  • continuing to work hard on overcoming my emotional eating problems
  • making time for things that keep me balanced – yoga, my friends, God, books.

So that’s it. This isn’t a Rocky Balboa kind of “I’m really going to do it this time!!” kind of post, but instead it’s more of a realization that I need to stop kidding myself that this body is going to last as long as I want it to. I know that there will be times when I forget all this when faced with a decadent brownie, but maybe if I re-read this post often enough, some of it will sink in.

Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Shoulding all over myself

This feels different.

I feel different.

I feel like taking things slow and not stressing out about what I’m not doing or what I should be doing. I’m taking things at my own pace and I like it. In my past dieting life I thought:

• I should be eating only the cleanest, most natural, most wholesome foods (rarely did I accomplish this goal)

• I should be running 3-4 days a week

• I should be strength training 2 days per week

• I should do whatever everyone else tells me I should be doing in regard to health and weight loss

Folks, I’m tired of “shoulding” all over myself. I’m sick to death of the “shoulds” in my life – I think I lived by a lot of them and stepping away from them for awhile has been liberating. Since taking a step back, I have now realized that:

• I’m going to do the best I can where food is concerned. Most of my food issues are not intellectual issues, but emotional ones. These issues take time to deal with.

• I’m also going super slow where exercise is concerned. I’ve started with one yoga class per week. In a couple of weeks I’m going to add one Zumba class, so that will make two classes per week. After a month of that I’m going to add a day of walking – that will put me at 3 days per week. After that, I’ll add something else – when the time comes I’ll decide then.

• I’m going to hold off on the running because right now, I just don’t feel like it. Running feels like rushing things – I need to start off with walking for awhile. You have no idea how freeing it is to make this decision!

Karly’s program is a 12 session course. Normally, I would push myself to do one session per week in these kinds of things, but you know what? I’m going to take my time on this 3rd session because it’s about growth, and there are some things I want to mull around a bit before I move on to the next session. And for once, I’m totally okay with “not staying on track”.

So far, I really like taking things slow. Honestly, it might take me a year to figure all this out. Heck it might take me 3 years or 5 years or 10 years. That’s okay! As long as I am growing and moving in a direction that makes me happy and healthy, I can live with that.

Slow and steady, ya know? Also it looks like this turtle is doing the up dog yoga pose!

How do you “should” all over yourself? (thanks to Karly for introducing me to this phrase!!)

Mirror Mirror on the wall

 

If all the mirrors in the world were suddenly to break, if we could no longer look at ourselves in reflected surfaces, if  vanity were taken out of the equation, would you still work out and try to lose weight?

Think about that for a minute…I’ll wait.

 

Would I worry about my weight if I had no idea what I looked like? I don’t know. How much does vanity play a part in my desire to be fit and healthy? A lot, I’m afraid. More than I’d like to admit, really, but it’s the truth.

I read an article on Today’s Christian Woman called “The Year I Became a Total Hottie”. The article was about a 50-ish woman who lost a bunch of weight and suddenly she was getting all kinds of attention, and she readily admits it went to her head. She was in love with herself – the image in the mirror in front of her and all the trappings it brings with it. The focus of her article was pride and how it can take over and before you know it you’ve turned into Narcissus, pining away for your own reflection. Sometimes when you look in a mirror, you don’t notice certain things, but sometimes you look and see the whole ugly truth: this article was a mirror for me and I cringed at what the author wrote because it looked so familiar.

Last summer I got down to 152 pounds – the lowest weight I had been in years. Planning for my 20 year high school reunion was also just starting and I was so excited that I could be going as a thin woman. I wouldn’t have to worry that people would be judging me, whispering to each other, “Wow she got FAT!” I wanted to show my old high school boyfriends what they had missed out on by breaking up with me (not that I ever wanted to marry any of them). I wanted to be the Belle of the Ball and have everyone gush over how good I looked. Sad, but true – that was my main reason for wanting to go.

I gained a little weight back, but I’m happy to say that I am losing weight again, and I’ll probably (hopefully) be back down to the 150s by the time the reunion rolls around at the end of July, but now I am trying to decide if I really want to go or not.* If I take vanity and ego out of the equation, what other reasons do I have for wanting to spend the time and money to go? Suddenly, my original reason for wanting to go seems pathetic and selfish, and I really don’t want to be THAT person at the reunion – you know the one I’m talking about, I’m sure.

So, aside from the reunion, this article got me to thinking, “is vanity an okay reason for wanting to lose weight?” I think partly, yes, it is okay. Speaking as a married woman, it is a well known fact that men are visual creatures, and right or wrong, most men like their women at a healthy weight (I don’t for one minute believe that men want their women to look like rail thin supermodels – just ask the men in your life who they prefer: Kate Moss or Kate Winslet?) So of course I want to do what I can to keep my husband interested, and getting to a trim weight is just one of many things I can do (cooking a meal that doesn’t taste like sawdust is next on my list). I want his eyes on me, not the hot neighbor next door. (And just for the record, there is so much more to keeping a marriage interesting than just how we look, but for the purposes of this post, I focused on this one tiny aspect, k?)

What would happen though if we did take vanity out of it? Even if I could never visually see the results of my weight loss efforts, I’m pretty sure I could feel them. I think I would notice the increased energy, and the ease of movement, the improvement in my mood. And then there are the health aspects of it: lowered cholesterol, lowered rates of cancer, lowered rates of just about every disease versus that of overweight people. Longevity of life and being able to be active during that longevity are things I would appreciate also.

So, while I think it’s perfectly fine to like what you see in the mirror, don’t let it become your sole reason for losing weight. To be quite honest, I’m still struggling with this. It’s hard to shift my thinking, but vanity and ego really won’t get me very far and I want to go all the way with this.

 

*more on this in my next post! Ooooh, a teaser!