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The First Precursor: The Pain in My Legs | The Tales of a Stroke Patient | Joyce Hoffman

The beginning of the drama and I couldn't stop it.

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

I can’t really say what happened when I had my stroke on April 8, 2009, because I was unconscious for eight days after. But I can tell you about some events before, like the pain in my legs beginning on March 26, 2009, and my unbearable headache the night before the episode that would change my life forever.

But a stroke was the furthest thing from my mind. It was something that happened to other people, meaning not me, which leads me to believe, if I could have a stroke, anybody could have a stroke. I’ll begin just before events started to become alarming.

It was in late March when I got into the elevator as I left the law firm in Philadelphia, staggering to my car a half block away from severe pain in my heels, feet and ankles. I was employed at Cozen O’Connor as a Technical Trainer, and though I didn’t mind at all standing on my feet throughout the day, I was so aware of it now.

My home was near Philadelphia, but I had plans with my friend in New Jersey. I had two adult sons, but they were seven hours away, and if I needed any sort of help, I could rely on my friend to give it.

When I arrived at my friend’s home, my pain hadn’t subsided and realized if the pain continued Friday, I couldn’t go to work. As much as I loved work, and as busy as I was, I couldn’t tolerate standing.

When I woke Friday morning, the pain was not the same. It was worse. Also, I had ear surgery two weeks before, and the doctor put me a round of antibiotics. I called the doctor and he didn’t know how the surgery could cause the pain in my legs, either. So I continued to take the antibiotics. At that point, I didn’t care.

My friend had to work both Saturday and Sunday and he left at 6:30 am. I was on my own. I called a friend of ours, an Orthopedic Surgeon, and these were his words to me: “If a warm bath doesn’t help and if the pain increases and moves up your leg on Sunday, go to the Emergency Room.”

All of the above happened and I was scared. I drove myself to the ER on Sunday. After an ultrasound and blood testing, the ER doctor saw blood clots. My platelets had also dropped dangerously low, unlike the ear surgery two weeks before when my platelets were normal. That was the beginning of the drama and I couldn’t stop it.

The doctor ran my platelets again and I was admitted. The stroke was 10 days away.

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