The Third Precursor: An Enormous Headache | The Tales of a Stroke Patient | Joyce Hoffman

Author Joyce Hoffman
Author Joyce Hoffman

[Editor’s note: This article is second in the series, The Tales of a Stroke Patient. You can access the other articles here.]

I was still thinking, a week later, of the nurse who told me about her infant sister who had a stroke. There was something about that story.

Anyway, I made it through the weekend, continuing with the Lovenox. The headache would come shortly.

It was Monday, April 6. I worked all day Monday with some pain still in my legs, training the new people who came to the firm, and worked on Tuesday as well. I wanted to save my days for a vacation, a vacation that would never come.

Tuesday evening, when I was ready to leave work, my manager wanted to know if I could stop by and have dinner with the Information Services people from the Applications group. Applications was planning an upgrade and there was so much food, she said. I agreed. But if I knew that the stroke would be ravaging my body in about ten hours, I would probably have elected to go shopping instead. That’s the thing about choices. Sometimes you just don’t know.

The party was Mexican fare and I went back for seconds. I felt good hanging out with those people, the camaraderie they provided, and the distraction from the pain in my legs. I was suddenly in no rush to go home, but I had the beginnings of a headache. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve had headaches in the past twenty-five years. And they were all due to sinuses.

I started to wonder. Did I have a good day? Yes, I did. Check! Did I have lunch? Yes. Check! Did I have enough water to drink? Yes, again. Check! I left the office and headed straight for the car.

The headache had grown stronger. I decided to go to my friend’s house in New Jersey. I didn’t know where this headache was going, but if it got worse, at least I would have my friend there to help me. Plus, I would watch American Idol to take my mind off the headache. It was a perfect plan.

My friend retired about 9:30 pm and AI didn’t make my headache go away one bit. It got worse. My friend was already asleep, but I woke him anyway. I told him about my headache, and he went and got me Tylenol. Somehow, after awhile, I fell asleep.

And that was all I knew. I went into convulsions about 4:30 am. I missed the paramedics who came to my friend’s house, the hospital–the same hospital where I went for my blood clots–where I spent fifteen hours under observation, and the helicopter flight to Capital Health in Trenton, known for treating severe neurological problems.

And that’s what I heard first from my son: “You’ve had a stroke.” My son? He was in Pittsburgh. So what was he doing here? I was so confused. And then that quickly, I forgot that thought and fell back into a deep sleep. Sleep was what I wanted even though I had been in a coma for eight days.