Jul 16, 2017

ALERT: Millennials Are Prime Candidates for Stroke, Too

Who's known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers, born between 1980-2000, totally immersed in a world of digital technology, the largest generation in western history since the1930s, were the number one reason why Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination during the primary season, focus on larger societal needs rather than individual ones, are mostly liberals, favor the legalization of weed and same-sex marriage, are non-religious, impatient, and adventurous?

Answer: Welcome to the world of Millennials. 

Oh. One more thing. More Millennials are having more strokes. So if you're one of the millennials, put down your damn iPad or iPhone or whatever techie-toy you use and read this fucking post.

An analysis of Millennial strokes in Scientific American, reported by Dina Fine Maron one month ago, finds this trend differs, depending on where one resides and depicted in the graph below. The South has most; the West has least. Big cities has most; rural areas has least. 

Yes, it's true. A growing body of research indicates strokes among U.S. millennials—ages 18 to 34—have climbed significantly in a little more than the last decade.

The investigation used data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and discovered the hospital stroke victims' discharge data increased from 2003 to 2012.

Furthermore, a study published earlier this year in JAMA Neurology concluded that there was a 32 percent uptick in women stroke survivors in the 18- to 34-year-old range and a 15 percent spike for men in the same range from 2003 to 2012

With Scientific American's analysis, they decided to research further to investigate whether the stroke trend differed by areas.

Ralph Sacco, president of the American Academy of Neurology, said, “There has been mounting evidence from different studies suggesting that even though the incidence and mortality of stroke is on the decline, the rates may not be dropping quite as much—and even [may be] increasing—among younger populations. The reasons for these trends are not entirely clear but there are concerns about obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity having a greater impact in younger stroke victims.” Drug use, he said, may be another factor.

MRA of a brain bleed
Moran reported earlier analysis from stroke expert Mary George and colleagues at the Center Disease Control and Prevention found stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and hypertension are escalating among younger adults. 

“I think this data is consistent with other data, and so whenever you have replication consistency across different data sets we begin to take it seriously,” Sacco adds. “I think the fact that we see this trend across all regions, and that we see the amount of relative increase for hospitalizations rising for stroke, is alarming.”

In 2012, Dr. Brett Kissela, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, specializes in factors that influence stroke outcome, including diabetes and drug use among the younger adult population. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

"The rising trend found in our study is of great concern for public health because strokes in younger people translate to greater lifetime disability," said Kissela. He added that "younger adults should see a doctor regularly to monitor their overall health and risk for stroke and heart disease.”

That said, if you know any millennials, share this post with them, providing an opportunity for them to stay healthy. Stroke is a bitch. Take it from somebody who surely knows.

Jul 10, 2017

...And More: The Tales of a Stroke Patient Is Expanding

In a dialog between Rebecca (who overlooked her husband's birthday and who's pregnant with triplets, in the famed This Is Us, the second season coming in September on NBC) and a liquor store owner, Teddy:

Teddy:     Hi.

Rebecca: Hi. I need to make a fancy chocolate almond cake as fast as humanly possible.

Teddy:     Ok.

Rebecca:  So I'm going to need butter, sugar, flour, almonds, and semi-sweet chocolate.

Teddy:      M'am. This is a liquor store.

Rebecca:  I know. But the sign said Liquor and More. So where's the more?

Rebecca, on the advice of Teddy, buys a banana-nut muffin instead and Twinkies to squeeze out the insides. So the liquor store "and more" is exactly what this store is.

Babies and More, Mufflers and More, Signs and More. The "and More" is used like et cetera, but a small number of people (I'm being kind here) may not understand et cetera, coming from Latin which nobody speaks anymore except clerics but good for a higher score on the SATs, an expression that is used in English to mean "and other similar things."

But everybody understands "and More." So I'm changing the original title of my blog from "The Tales of a Stroke Patient" to read "The Tales of a Stroke Patient and More." Yes, I have opinions with most of my brain left. I started a second blog, "As Joyce Hoffman Sees It," and then realized later the "and More" tacked onto the original title would be just fine, allowing me to write about anything, like Donald, energy, Donald, abortion, Donald, refugees, Donald, taxes, Donald, marijuana, um, et cetera.

I'm delighted to inspire and educate folks with my posts about strokes, but I want more. So every once in a while, I'll write something that has nothing to do with strokes. Where's the more? You may be looking at it soon.

Jul 9, 2017

Stem Cell Research, Part 2, aka Who Knew!

When I wrote the first stem cell research post (http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2013/03/stem-cells-embryonic-and-otherwise-aka.html), I was skeptical. The Big Maybe Not, I said. But I am less so now. Most of the scamsters and shysters who claimed to have stem cells have been arrested or are purposely missing. There's something afoot and it means possible dis-ability for so many of us who are brain injured.

The most recent news came in June of this year from the 15th annual International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) meeting in Boston. The group included more than 4,000 stem cell scientists, bioethicists, clinicians, and industry professionals from over 50 countries who discussed the latest discoveries and technologies within the field, and how they are advancing regenerative medicine, including stem cells and cancer, disease modeling and organogenesis, gene editing and gene therapy, and potential breakthrough therapies currently being tested in clinical trials.

Said ISSCR president Sally Temple, “Discoveries are moving forward quickly, with developments that are changing the way we view and treat disease. That has tremendous implications, not only for scientists, but also for regulatory bodies, industry, and patients.” 

In addition, prior to the meeting on June 13, a Public Symposium organized by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), was held as well in Boston. It was advertised as “Innovation, Incubation, Investment: The Landscape of Stem Cell Research in Boston,” and featured local leaders in the stem cell community.

Then about one year ago, Sonia Coontz, who had a stroke in 2011, recovered her right side in a Stanford clinical study in 2016. Injecting human, adult stem cells directly into her brain, along with other chronic stroke patients, proved not only safe but effective in restoring motor function. 

Now 36, Coontz, said, “My right arm wasn’t working at all. It felt like it was almost dead. My right leg worked, but not well. I used a wheelchair a lot.”

After her surgery, "they woke up,” she said of her limbs. The promising results set the stage for an expanded trial of the procedure now getting underway. Dr. Gary Steinberg, who has more than 15 years’ worth of experience in work with stem cell therapies for neurological indications, is the research paper’s lead and senior author.

“This was just a single trial, and a small one,” cautioned Steinberg, who led the 18-patient trial. 

“It was designed primarily to test the procedure’s safety. But patients improved by several standard measures, and their improvement was not only statistically significant, but clinically meaningful. Their ability to move around has recovered visibly. That’s unprecedented. At six months out from a stroke, you don’t expect to see any further recovery,” said Steinberg.

There's more. A recent study involved donor stem cells grown in the lab and delivered through an IV to stroke patients. Dr. Ken Uchino, a stroke neurologist at The Cleveland Clinic, said, “The stem cells are believed to change the immune response of the body to the stroke. And it will turn down the immune response so there is a better healing environment.” 

The study involved 129 patients, half of whom got the stem cells, and half the placebo. The study discovered the patients who got the cells within 36 hours of stroke onset had less disability and more mobility after stroke.

Check out new studies at www.clinicaltrials.gov. Put "stem cells" in the search bar and away you go. 

The Big Maybe Not has turned into The Big Maybe So.

Jun 26, 2017

If You Don't Exactly Hear, You May Be Exactly Screwed

So this is what happened two days ago. I went to the market with my aide and (I approved) her two-year-old, adorable, blue-eyed Sophie because Katie, her mother, didn't have a babysitter. We don't go shopping when she rarely brings Sophie, but she is so behaved, a problem was the furthest thing from my mind.

Sophie walked (let me be clear--WALKED) around the gargantuan Giant Eagle supermarket. We got the needed items, hung the bags on the back of the wheelchair with me in it, and Sophie started to rub her eyes, a sure sign that she would take a nap once she returned to the car.

We left the store and arrived at the car, and Katie said, as she always says, "Don't get up from the wheelchair. The bags are heavy and I have to remove them first." And then added, for a first time, "I'm going to put Sophie in her car seat before I take the bags off the wheelchair."

The parking lot was a noisy one, plus an anxious driver with a muffler issue stopped a few feet away to get the spot Katie would soon vacate. Katie opened the trunk, and then went around to the other side of the car to place Sophie in her car seat. (See the problem yet?)

I didn't accurately hear those instructions. I heard Katie speak, but the words were indistinct, just like the adults in a Peanuts movie. (Wah wah wah). The trunk was open and I was texting on my phone, so I figured, albeit erroneously, that the bags were already in the trunk, and I stood up. As I arose, the wheelchair went flying backwards from the heavy bags and I went along with it, landing on my right side and hitting my arm, neck, and head on the blacktop. When I stood up, assisted by a stranger and Katie (the crowd, fifteen strong, had gathered), I saw the blood on my hand and realized I was cut and my finger was out of the joint.

It wasn't Sophie's fault. It wasn't Katie's fault. It was my fault. The hearing aid had diminished slowly over time, and I was trying to stretch out the shelf life to get a new one in Portland. (If you follow the blog, you know that I'm moving there). 

The rest is all a blur. I went to the Emergency Room and the nurse put on that neck brace pictured above, just in case I had injured my spine and head. I was tested via CT scan and the results were negative. But the X-ray showed a fracture in my finger. The doctor said I should follow up with an orthopedic surgeon (I went and a splint was put on my hand, just days away from the Portland trip).

So, all of this is to say, yeah, hearing is an issue and not one of the usual top five reasons that a person gets injured in and around the home. Slips and falls, often-silent choking, adverse effects of medication, hazardous fire, and severe cuts are the ones most "perennially" written about. But hearing is on my list. 

If you can't hear accurately, let's say, the fire alarm or a siren or the alarm clock or, in my case, instructions, then bad things might happen. Very. Bad. Things. Is your hearing ok? If you have doubts, I suggest you get a hearing test from an audiologist and maybe you'll be surprised at the results.

Jun 10, 2017

Want to Join a Class Action Lawsuit about Faulty IVC Filters? Kirkendall Dwyer is Handling Them.

In America, litigation rules. Some people sue frivolously, like a woman who was burnt by McDonald's coffee that was too darn hot (she won) or a man who sued a beach-front hotel after he was knocked over by a wave (he lost). But the majority of the lawsuits are worthwhile and about personal injury. Take my IVC (inferior vena cava) filter which came from my DVT (deep vein thombosis), for example. But first, a little background.

Two weeks before I had my stroke on that fateful day, April 8, 2009, I called my friend, an orthopedic surgeon, to ask about my foot and leg pain.

"If your pain continues, and it goes up to your knee, and even higher, go to the Emergency Room," he said.

The pain was going strong, and before it got up to my knee, I went to the ER. The ER doctor did some blood tests and an ultrasound, and he came back with the results.

"You have blood clots in both legs. I'm going to have to admit you." I was in New Jersey at that time.

All right, I said to my inner psyche, don't panic. The blood clots don't mean a thing. I took the day off from work. [I found out for sure 3 years later that Avelox, an antibiotic known as the family of  fluoroquinolones, could produce blood clots]. I was in the hospital for a few days and went back to the law firm, Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia, where I was a Sr. Technical Trainer. The following week, I went to a hematologist in Philadelphia and he discovered my platelets were practically non-existent. But the trouble was nobody connected the dots. The doctors operated in a void.

When I had the stroke, though I was unconscious, it was told to me later by my son that I had blood clots in every extremity (arms and legs). So the doctor at Capital Health located in Trenton, NJ, put a Greenfield filter in my groin [there are many kinds of filters that all do the same thing] to catch the clots from going up to my lungs, heart, and brain. Resembling a windblown, useless umbrella, this is what it looks like. (Greenfield filters were recalled in 2005. A Greenfield filter was implanted in me in 2009. Was the defect solved? I don't know, and that right there is an issue, too).

I was unconscious for 8 days, and when I awoke, my sons, the youngest playing the guitar at my bedside, and my partner (whom I left after 17 years, but that is another story for another time) were waiting. It's all in the book. (The Tales of a Stroke Patient by yours truly, available at Amazon -- https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Stroke-Patient-Joyce-Hoffman/dp/1479712493/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475474432&sr=8-1&keywords=the+tales+of+a+stroke+patient)

Anyway, now 8 years later, I joined a class action lawsuit a few years ago sponsored by Kirkendall Dwyer. The reason I joined the suit was I read a lot of cases where the filters moved and it got me antsy. I received a letter from Kirkendall Dwyer in November 2016 and here is what it said:


Dear Ms. Hoffman,

As you recall, Kirkendall Dwyer LLP represents you in a lawsuit related to your IVC Filter device. I am writing to inform you that we received the medical records in your case. They show that on 04/08/2009, you were implanted with the VENA TECH manufactured by BBRAUN. We are pursuing a claim related to that product.

It is very important that we have a current treatment history. Please let us know if a have had any of the following Injuries after the IVC Filter placement. [I had a pulmonary embolism, #4 on Rafael's list, a couple of years ago]

     1) Perforation of the inferior vena cava or any other organ
     2) Migration of the IVC Filter Implant
     3) Fractured, broken or shattered IVC Filter
     4) Embolization (Blood Clots)
     5) Ischemic Stroke (Stroke caused by a blood clot to the brain)
     6) Tilting or slanting of the IVC Filter
     7) Heart or Lung Injury caused by the IVC Filter

If you continue to have problems associated with the IVC Filter, then please schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have your problems evaluated. During your appointment, please be thorough in explaining your complications.

If you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to call the office.

Kind regards,

Rafael Pena Costa Jr.
IVC Filter Case Manager
(214)271-4027, Ext 7048



Since I couldn't travel to Kirkendall Dwyer which is in Houston and Dallas, TX, Rafael kept in touch with me by phone. Then last Friday, I received a letter that was a report from the radiologist who was hired by the lawyer as an expert that said there was a perforation in my inferior vena cava [#1 on Rafael's list]. So I stopped doing the stationary bike until I saw a vascular surgeon who specializes, in part, in the treatment of disorders of the vascular systems, that is the body's arteries and veins.

I saw the surgeon three days later and I showed him the letter from Rafael and the report from the attorney's expert radiologist that said, in essence, my vein had been perforated by the filter and that warned the surgeon that an operation to remove the filter was needless.

"Forget that you have it," said the surgeon. "The filter is supposed to be permanent and there is no way to remove it because the filter and your vein are one." Then he pointed to the letter and showed me where the radiologist referred to my filter and my vein as occluded (dictionary definition says "taken into and retained in another substance." That's where filter and vein are one come into play.

"You may die on the operating table. Besides, 89% of the people have perforated veins from the filters." His eyes kept darting back to the lawyer's letter.

I believe the lawyer's letter and the radiologist's report are what colored the surgeon's thinking. Doctors hate lawyers' letters.

A few medical professionals in Pittsburgh know about the lawsuit. Word travels fast in the Steel City. But I'm going out to Portland, OR, next month to live near one of my sons. I'll see a doctor in Portland, or Puddleton as it's sometimes called [all that rain--get it?], without mentioning the lawyer. That way, I'll get a straight answer. Word of mouth will probably die when it crosses the Rockies.

So call Kirkendall Dwyer if you have experienced any of the items on Rafael's list. What do you have to lose? I'll answer that. Nothing!

(RETRACTION: The attorney's aide of Kirkendall Dwyer called me last night to tell me he appreciated the post, but the filter was a BBraun, not a Greenfield. He said they don't handle Greenfield filter cases because they don't cause that many problems. However, the BBraun is right up there causing problems as stated in Rafael's list above. Even though the filters do the same thing--catch blood clots, my error came about because that filter information is the only thing I was told from the start of the stroke. So Greenfield filter, thumbs up; BBraun filter, thumbs down).

May 29, 2017

A Review of Stroke Books, and The 3 Things I Didn't Have When I Had My Stroke

I finished all three and very different books about strokes as promised: a brain stem stroke, an ischemic stroke, and a hemorrhagic stroke. Here are my reviews, with a few thoughts at the end on what I was missing when I had my stroke.

1. The Calm Before the Storm: A Stroke Survivor's Story by Delanie Stephenson

Delanie's major concern when she had a brain stem stroke at 33 in Virginia was, who would take care of her two young kids before unconsciousness set in with her words, Then everything went dark. Her sister had a stroke, too, a hemorrhagic one, so the strokes were probably hereditary rather than coincidence. She uses religious undertones all through the book in prayers to God, invoking Him for help with the loss of her ability to walk and speak. Delanie has humor in the book as well as she described her embarrassing moments in graphic detail. There was much support, including her mom, her sister-in-law, friends and, of course, Curtis, her husband. She was in rehab for months and the doctors called her "a miracle." She suffers with PBA (pseudobulbar affect when one cries and laughs at inappropriate times) and has been working with a neurologist as of 2013, and her strength and balance are returning. As the book ends, she offers these words: But with God's help, the love of my family and friends, and lots of hard work, this storm too shall pass. Yes, it will, Delainie.

I give this book *****. 

You can find Delanie's book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Calm-before-Storm-Stroke-Survivors-ebook/dp/B00DRDO9WW/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1495995331&sr=8-14&keywords=the+calm+before+the+storm

2. Stroke After Stroke: A Rower's Pilgrimage by Barbara Polan

Barbara thought she was too young to have an ischemic stroke at 52 (she was correct) when she in great physical shape and had a profession--managing editor of a newspaper--she loved. She expected tomorrow to be like today. She masterfully weaves rowing on a gig boat in Gloucester Harbor all through her book about the stroke. Her goal is to be able to row again. She suffered at the time the book was published in 2014 from anosognosia, as defined by a neurologist as "not understanding the extent or significance of one's deficits," i.e. she didn't know her limitations caused by the stroke. Barbara lost the use of the non-dominant side (left side), but she was fortunate in that respect (she is right-handed). Barbara focuses on exercise repetition, and she has tried, among other things, the Eastern practices of Kundalini Yoga, chanting Buddhist 'nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo' for15-minute daily sessions, acupuncture in the ear, psychotherapy, and aquatic therapy. She said she is happy and well-adjusted, although not complacent or accepting of my limitations.

I give this book *****.

3. Love Stroke: Stroke Recovery and One Young Couple's Journey by Kelly and Brad Marsh

The book is actually written by both Kelly and Brad, which I find a fascinating thing in and of itself from a young couple. Kelly, 36, was ill in Cincinnati after she returned from a trip to New Orleans. The both went to the hospital and she was put in the ICU, and when he wanted information about Kelly, a nurse told him, Nothing good happens fast in the ICU. Soon, a doctor confirmed ongoing bleeding in the brain which needed surgery. Her mother was there to help, but Brad, her life-saving point person, kept precise records of her medications, insurance (if filled out incorrectly, it would delay her rehab), doctors, and even the nurses and aides on duty. The book is a moving account of what people can do to help themselves, even after a hemorrhagic stroke, with helpful tips following the chapters. By working hard, she and Brad now have gone on vacations, something Kelly did not think possible early on. Some of the proceeds from the book are going toward the foundation the two of them started--A Stroke Forward, giving young and old stroke survivors, other traumatic brain injury survivors, and their caregivers the resources for their recovery.

I give this book *****.

Now, the 3 things I didn't have when I had my stroke:
1. I wasn't married (although my partner of 17 years considered us a married-ish couple) so I didn't have support that was even remotely close to what Delanie, Barbara, and Kelly had with Curtis, Tom, and Brad.

2. They had friends. Most of my friends left me once they saw what they thought would become of me. But I fooled them. I am now walking, albeit with an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) and a cane, and I am no longer depressed, moody, and weeping. Sure, I get frustrated some times, but doesn't everybody to some extent?

3. They all had family members to help. My two sons lived far away and they visited me as often as their careers would allow. My parents are dead. That is why I'm moving to Portland soon to be near one of my sons as soon as this "medical condition" is cleared up. The foreboding doctor's call came on Friday and that "medical condition" is the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!

Apr 22, 2017

This Is a Life Lesson: Cankerish Braces Just a Parable

This post is divided in 3 parts. If I had to judge, the 3rd part is the most important. A little background first.

Part 1:

When I had my stroke at 4am on April 8, 2009, the paramedics came and I was soon intubated, I found out a few months later. Intubation is a procedure where an endotracheal tube offers an open passage through the upper airway to allow air to pass freely to and from the lungs in order to ventilate the lungs. It helps to be in a coma-like state to not feel the pain.

Endotracheal tubes can be connected to ventilator machines and is often used when patients are critically ill and unconscious, and cannot maintain enough respiratory function to keep breathing on their own.

During endotracheal tube placement, however, one of the dangers is damage to the teeth. So one of my teeth, the upper right canine, was missing, as in knocked out. Also, I had orthodontia before many years ago and the original orthodontist placed a wire behind my bottom teeth so they wouldn't move, and the wire became dislodged in placing the endotracheal tube. I had the upper right canine replaced with a cap, but the lower right first molar eventually came forward in time and my bite was affected.

I studied the tooth, coming forward each year, until I couldn't stand it any longer. That was the only thing I could see in the mirror--that medial drift of the molar which made room for the rest of the teeth, but the hapless lower left first molar was the victim.

The new orthodontist applied the braces and said, "Remember. Nothing hard or crunchy or sticky while you have the braces on." I sat there and started thinking about Vitamin K.

Part 2:

I have to take the same amount of Vitamin K in order to keep my INR (International Normalized Ratio) stable. Vitamin K is responsible for a healthy heart, improvement in bone density, reduced infections, and strong teeth. The INR determines ability to clot and, according to WebMD, "People taking the blood thinner warfarin typically have a target INR of 2.0 to 3.0." Below 2.0, you're aiming to clot; above 3.0, you might bleed. Trust me. I was there, and you don't want either.

I found inrtracker.com and then simply clicked on Vitamin K database to see which foods were allowed, not more than 90 micrograms a day for people 19 and older. This was my regimen, i.e. the same foods I ate every day. I absolutely love cucumbers with the skin still on them (4 thick slices = 30mcg), stalks of celery (1 large = 30mcg),  and blueberries (1 cup = 30mcg).

But I can't eat them now, the cucumber and the celery because they were hard, and especially blueberries getting stuck in the braces because of the outer skin. I felt so defeated that my regimen couldn't exist for a while.

But then, a week later, I researched and while I have the braces, I eat chopped cabbage for cole slaw that's made soft in the mayonnaise dressing (1 cup = 32mcg), ripe "just-melt-in-your-mouth" avocado (just short of 1 cup = 28mcg), and 1 large, soon-to-rotten kiwi (1 = 30mcg), every day. The regimen must continue, for the canker-producing braces, for the must-have Vitamin K, for my anxious sanity.

Part 3:

Until the braces come off in 5 months, I'll go with that regimen every day. Good Lord! It's only 5 months! I'll keep my INR between 2.0 and 3.0, and then I'll go back to the cucumbers, celery, and blueberries once the braces come off.

You see, it isn't the braces alone that's the reason for my telling you the story. It's a parable, an allegory, that applies to everything in life you consider arduous and burdensome. For me, it was assigning other "edible-because-of my braces" foods to my Vitamin K diet. For others, it might be a word you couldn't utter, and now you can speak that word without feeling embarrassed, or a walk around the block that you deemed impossible, and now you can do it twice, or a 12-minute ride on the stationery bike that you thought was the most you could do, and now you can do 55 minutes.

Bottom line? You can do more things faster or effortlessly or efficiently than you're doing presently. Guaranteed. I know because I was there.

Apr 8, 2017

Botox and Stroke Survivors: Does It Really Work?

First off, I have to tell you a story about Botox.

A year after I had my stroke in 2009, I went back to the acute care hospital--Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Pomona, New Jersey--to see a doctor who specialized in spasticity of the limbs or, in my case, my leg. I wrote the book, "The Tales of a Stroke Patient," in part about Bacharach and called Bacharach Rehab X (now that I don't need them anymore, I'll reveal the source), and the insensitivity at times of the health professionals there--doctors, nurses, CNAs. I shouldn't have gone back. But the spasticity was driving me crazy.

If you think about it, you might not get the injection. The word Botox is a combination of botulism and toxin (OnabotulinumtoxinA the active ingredient contained in Botox). Botox comes from a bacteria that is a type of botulism, a type of food poisoning which, if you inadvertently use spoiled beef, can cause you to become very ill if ingested.

Anyway, I heard about Botox (the famous drug used to tackle wrinkles and lines for the insecure Hollywood folks) to also reduce spasticity and I made an appointment with Dr. X who specialized in Botox injections.

I went into the procedure room and the doctor followed. After we greeted each other, I asked him about the side effects.

I thought, C-mon. Botox wasn't to make me look younger. I HAVE A LEG SPASM, FOR CHRIST-SAKE! THEY'RE FUCKING PAINFUL AND ANNOYING! 

The doc said, without missing a beat, "You may die."

I paused and then shrieked, almost simultaneously, "Not today!" and quickly hopped off the table and ran (for a stroke survivor, "ran" is an exaggeration) out of the room, leaving the doc with his needle, the longest needle I've ever seen in my life, already about to inject the "death" serum into moi.

As it turns out, after much recent research, "death" isn't listed on the drug's bottle. Back pain, body aches, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, coughing, headache, and fever are among the possible side effects. And death? Never. 

But it should be. The doctor was right. I could die from Botox if it wasn't injected directly in the muscle and went to other parts of my body. Remember? A toxin? But he mocked and scared me, taking advantage of my nervousness.

Public Citizen's (PC) Dr. Sidney Wolfe demanded that the FDA  order a "black-box warning," to require that every patient receive a pamphlet outlining the risk prior to the Botox injection.

"What we're saying is, nobody should be dying of Botox, and they wouldn't be dying if the government and the companies were doing a better job warning people," Wolfe said. (The good doc's message came true. The warning is now on the bottle though PC discovered 16 deaths specifically related to Botox ten years ago. There are most likely more now). 

So insecure people wanting to look younger and more vibrant aside, exactly how does Botox work with brain-injured people? 

A spinal cord injury site said, "A small dose of Botox injected directly into the spastic muscle(s) blocks the acetylcholine so that the muscle can loosen and relax, resulting in increased flexibility and mobility and reduced pain." 

Relief comes to many within three to seven days following an injection, typically lasting three to six months, so injections that are repeated is normally needed. And check to see if the Botox (I mean, ask the doctor to show you) is manufactured by Allergan and not some counterfeit drug company.

Botox is not a cure, and your symptoms will slowly return as the effects of the medication subside.

A recent study at Indiana University found the benefits of Botox in reducing spasticity in the arms and fingers were roughly twice as effective as those who didn't get Botox at all.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, half of stroke patients, 126 in number, received injections of 240 units of Botox and half received placebos. The conclusive evidence said the 62% of those who were given Botox injections found relief in their spasticity, while only 27% of the patients taking the placebo reported improvement. Then again, there's mind over matter often taking effect.

The reason that I am thinking about Botox at all is that on this day, 8 years ago, I had my stroke. And I still have spasms, less often, but when I get them, they are mind-altering. 

I'll call for an appointment on Monday, or the week after that, or perhaps never. That sounds about right--never.

Mar 23, 2017

Cigarettes, Second-hand Smoke, and Even E-cigarettes (aka Vaporing) Can Give You a Stroke, aka You're Playing With Fire

My mother who didn't work used to smoke a lot, notably in the bathroom where she said smoking would hide the smell of poop. (It didn't, in my opinion). She also smoked for hours on end when she was talking to "Aunt" Eleanor, her best friend. She smoked when she sat outside at night in the 1950s and 60s with the neighbors--the Craigs, the Scotts, the Lynches, the Groffs, the Baldinos--and she smoked when she was preparing every decorative, Betty Crocker-like meal, and a few cigarettes after, because she said cigarettes were relaxing. 

She most likely smoked more when we were at school. She probably smoked a pack or more of cigarettes daily for 45 years, and she didn't get cancer, or emphysema, or high blood pressure, or any--but one--of the things that smoking a pack or more of cigarettes daily for 45 years will give a person. She got a stroke.

Heart disease and stroke are often glopped together because they fall into the category of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) diseases (CVDs). 

In the United States, heart disease includes the most common type--coronary heart disease, which is narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. The narrowing can cause chest pain, arrhythmia (when the heart beats irregularly, too fast, or too slow), or heart attack (when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked and a section of the heart muscle is damaged or dies), or heart failure (failure to get the organs to survive because the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen).

Similarly, a stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke, which is the kind I had), causing brain tissue to die, or when the blood supply to the brain is blocked (ischemic stroke). Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability, or even death.

Smoking is one of the major causes of CVD and results in one of every 3 deaths. Smoking can: 
  1. Increase the buildup of plaque in blood vessels
  2. Cause thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
  3. Make blood thick and more likely to clot
  4. Raise triglycerides and lower good cholesterol (HDL)
Even if you don't smoke, second-hand smoke, the smoke from a smoker breathed out by burning tobacco products, harms your health, too. 

Breathing secondhand smoke can cause coronary heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. I've already told you about my mother. And my father smoked cigars. I was doomed. Here are the highlights:
  1. Each year, second-hand smoke exposure causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke. 
  2. Nonsmokers who breathe second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25–30%. 
  3. Second-hand smoke increases the risk for stroke by 20−30%.
  4. Even briefly breathing secondhand smoke can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause your blood to dangerously thicken.
The most alarming news in a recent study has found that people using e-cigarettes may be at higher risk of a life-threatening stroke than ordinary cigarette smokers.

Why? Here's how E-cigarettes work. They work off of battery-power that when drawed on, aka inhaled, gets liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor. The vapor doesn't have the chemicals and tars of addictive burning tobacco, and so e-cigarettes were initially considered safer than cigarettes.

But recent research at Johns Hopkins University used mice who were exposed to e-cigarette vapor for 2 weeks and were found to have greater nerve damage, and their lungs were less capable of fighting off viral and bacterial infections when compared to mice not exposed to the vapor.

One researcher said, “Vaping is not safer than tobacco smoking and may pose a similar, if not higher, risk for stroke severity. Stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to improve your heart health."

The British Heart Foundation is funding research to find out "whether or not they are as safe as people think.” The devices are targeted at helping people quit smoking cigarettes, but they have been ironically called the “gateway to smoking.”

A study reported in February 2017 said that e-cigarettes may be just as detrimental for your heart as smoking ordinary cigarettes. The researchers observed that vapers were more likely to show signs of two key heart risk factors: increased levels of the hormone adrenaline in the heart and increased oxidative stress (an imbalance between the  oxygen and the body's willingness to detoxify or to repair the resulting damage).

E-cigarettes were introduced around 10 years ago and currently have about 9 million users.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals a shocking increase in nicotine poisoning incidents, which "can be toxic, even fatal, to children even in small doses." Additionally, inhaled nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, one of the major causes of stroke.

The Food and Drug Administration in a remarkable move in May 2016 administered legislation extending federal authority over e-cigarettes. "This action resulted in banning their sale to anyone under 18 and requiring adults under 26 to show photo identification," The New York Times reports.

People reading my post won't necessarily stop smoking just because I said to stop. And they won't necessarily stop smoking just because some health professional told them to stop. People are funny like that. They'd probably only stop smoking when something catastrophic happens to them. Like a stroke, for instance.

Mar 11, 2017

NOT BREAKING NEWS: Somewhat Crazy Twice?

Years ago, I was with a friend whose son developed panic disorder from smoking weed. The 22-year-old son had the presence of mind to come to my friend's house. He was lying on the sofa, almost breathless, crying intermittently, begging for help. My friend, who was his father, talked patiently and helped calm him down in two hours. For some of you, maybe talking a mental disorder through will help also, and be enough.  But start at the hospital ER if talking doesn't fix the problem. Mental conditions can be rougher than a stroke! "Head stuff" almost always is. 

Years later, I wondered about mental disorders as related to stroke, and this article popped up. Under the title, Study Links Psychiatric Disorders to Stroke Risk, comes this disheartening news from National Institutes of Health (NIH), published on February 23 of this year:
"Getting care at a hospital for a psychiatric disorder may be linked to a higher risk of stroke in the following weeks and months," new NIH research suggests.

Oh, great, another reason to worry, especially for people who already have depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. Now they might have both--a stroke and one of the aforementioned. Here's what the researchers  found out.

People with mental conditions, stroke or no, possessed a triple threat of stroke--or another stroke--following their stay in the in-and-out ER or for a prolonged stay in hospital bed.
The threat of stroke began to decrease after 30 days, but "remained twice as high for at least a year after the ER visit or hospital stay," the researchers discovered.

"We have known for some time that people who have a stroke seem to be at an increased risk for later on developing some sort of psychiatric illness, depression or post-stroke psychosis," said the lead study author, Jonah Zuflacht.
Zuflacht went on to say, "But what has been less studied is the inverse of that. Meaning, if you have some sort of psychiatric illness, does it increase the risk for stroke?"

The conclusion? The ER visit or hospitalization for a psychiatric disorder was associated with a higher risk of stroke. The research team said the body might go into overdrive with a "fight-or-flight" stress response, elevating  blood pressure, a leading cause of stroke.
"The other possibility,"  Zuflacht added, "is that there are behavioral reasons at work. For example, are these patients not taking the medications they should be taking to prevent a stroke--like their high blood pressure meds--because of their mental illness?"
The study from California's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project analyzed more than 52,000 stroke events--equally divided between men and women--that had taken place between 2007 and 2009.
The team discoved that more than 3,300 patients (or 6%) had hospital care for a psychiatric illness at some point in the year leading up to their stroke and were more likely to be female. 

The risk of stroke tripled within the first 15 days after receiving mental health care and dropped slightly afterwards, but was still more than triple the normal rate of having a stroke one month out, with the risk more than double the norm through the 12-month period.

It's not surprising to me, though, and I think it's more than an increase in blood pressure. The psychiatric illnesses may result in other things, too, like increased eating of junk, aka fast, food (http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2013/04/hey-can-fast-food-in-abundance-really.html), going on alcoholic binges (http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2016/09/alcohol-and-stroke-you-may-be-just.html), or elevating your cigarette smokes (post eventually coming), all causes of stroke. 

Feb 13, 2017

Caregivers Are Suffering; Stroke Survivors Are Suffering: Who Has It Worse?

The former editor-in-chief of the Philadelphia Daily News was Gil Spencer who said, when I was hired as a columnist, that the only reason writers should write is to be read, whether it's positive or negative to their readers' beliefs. Those words are indelibly inscribed in my brain forever. And I was reminded of them again in this post on Facebook.

On January 17, at 8:07pm, I wrote this in Facebook to the group called "Stroke Caregivers." My words set off a firestorm of anger, confusion, and profanity, all of which are ok.

One person wrote, "GFYS," an acronym I didn't know. So I goggled it, and I found out. (Between you and me, I think GFYS is silly because our anatomies aren't built that way. How can you fuck yourself?) Anyway, read the comments. Some agreed with me. But I removed the names of those who didn't because I don't want bogus lawsuits, (bad spelling and grammar aside), and I deleted more because of repetition. But I left my name in when the response was needed. After you read them, I'll have thoughts of my own.

I wrote, "As a stroke survivor, and from all that I've read in your posts, we BOTH have it tough. But really, you can still dance. Get what I'm saying?"
Hmm... I usually don't respond to these kinds of posts; but this 'keeping track' of who has it harder has no benefit. I would never say my husband who had a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side, without 40% of his sight, and plagued with severe cases of aphasia and apraxia that leaves him unable to use any expressive speech has it 'better' than me. No more than I would say my daughter with Down syndrome is luckier than me; however, to dismiss the struggles, pain, fear, and responsibilities a caregiver has is hurtful. Can I dance?... Yes, when my body isn't so riddled with pain from caring for my family or when I am not sick from the stress. This talk does no one good. I wouldn't be anywhere than by my husband's side and I am 100% sure he would be by my side if the tables were turned. I am sorry you had a stroke- I wish you didn't. Please be kind to those of us who love and support our survivors.
Sure -- I can dance. When I might actually have five minutes of someone else taking care of my husband - or when I"m not overwhelmed by fear and anxiety from everything that his strokes have changed. His strokes affected me in every single way -- just differently than him. We are all working through these struggles together -- survivors and caregivers.
We heard you loud and clear. Get what I'm saying?
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I thought that this group was for caregivers where we can vent freely. And no my husband and I can no longer dance. Ballroom dancing was once our favorite activity.
I thought only caregivers were allowed as well. Is there vetting that happens when someone wants to join? Admin?
Yes...It is true that I can still dance....but for me...where is the joy of the dance when the only person I want to dance with can not join me :(
Wow! Some days I wonder which one of us is worse off!
I just reread the informational post by Admin and it does say that Survivors are welcome but that if they are offended by what they read here, other sites may be more appropriate for them.
I think that makes it a little more uncomfortable for us when sharing our honest feelings and try to keep in mind there are Survivors here. 😕
Well that is one of the hard things about care giving, don't you your self be sick, feel bad, Overwhelmed, Exhausted, Depressed your self, Dead even though you are Alive, the Survivors make it ALL about them, sometimes a little self centered. If no one likes what they see on here don't come on! Just like my self centered husband gets on his sites see something that upsets him and takes it out on Everyone else I tell him STOP READING IT!! I can tell you one thing about care giving after So long and So much of it. You become hard sometimes because you get so Sick and Dam tired!
I can agree to what your saying. My husband has managed to become so manipulitave that is down right scary
It's not a contest about who has it harder. It's a completely different set of challenges for both. Trying to compare apples and oranges isn't going to help any.
Joyce Hoffman
Joyce Hoffman Yes, but it proves my point.
January 25 at 9:25

No it doesn't prove your point at all. It proves that your point is pointless.
I'm sorry, what was your point exactly? I'm not trying to be rude, I want to understand what you're saying. Speaking as a third party, I'm watching what my dad's strokes are doing to him, both physically and mentally, and I'm watching what the effects his strokes are having on my mom. I realize that all strokes are different, and that some are not as affected by their strokes as others, who may be extremely incapacitated. My dad isn't as badly affected physically as he could have been, which I'm grateful for. But as his caregiver, my mom is having to deal with a very difficult set of challenges, and it's very hard on her, both physically and emotionally. Please don't say that it's harder on one group than the other. It's not fair to either.

I usually just read posts here, and don't comment.
I am so sorry you suffer from a stroke.
But, feel you're out of line here.
Yes, our loved ones are suffering ....
They have no choice in that.
Caregivers CHOOSE to stay.
Choose to give all that they have
to care for, often unappreciated, and sometimes downright abusive, loved ones. Oh, and self-centered loved ones.

Liiike .. coming to a site for Caregivers to be about themselves for five goddamnit minutes of the day, and trying to throw guilt on them
Joyce Hoffman
Joyce Hoffman You are unhappy as a caregiver? So then why do you do it?
She never said unhappy...
Well, that posted before I could make corrections.
I'm sorry..
I should have kept quiet.
What cha sorry about? It's the truth. We as caregivers have no clue what the future holds for us when our loved ones come home from the hospital. Not everybody has a positive experience. Hugs and prayers for you and your doing more good than you realize
Yes caregivers can dance...but with who? Its a tough life altogether!
Joyce Hoffman
Joyce Hoffman Maybe I should have said peel potatoes.
husband has No movement on left side and cannot get himself up , gets tired and needs help eating ,sooo , After changing all day , bathing , feeding (food has to be blended) , medication ( has to be through g-tube),breathing treatments , brushing teeth , moving every so often, washing ( use a lot of wash clothes and towels and sheets , mopping to keep sanitary and fresh , I think I would rather collapse into bed........and I also take my mom and dad to appointments and cook and clean and look after them and I have a 13 year old ...
I have seen this happen z few times on this site, so much so I don't feel I can post about how I'm feeling, that's why I started another group for Partners of stroke survivors where we can feel free to say how we are feeling ask what we may think are silly questions without being judged, I won't post the name of the group but if you would kind to join please send me a personal message with friend request xx
Joyce Hoffman
Joyce Hoffman Why does someone "caregive" when there are options? Caregiving is only for special people who don't complain about it to other people.
So Joyce what are the other options you are talking about?
I'm"caregiver" to my 30 Yr old daughter
If by dance you mean be happy or at least content I say yes! It takes time and for me a relationship w God.
Take it one day at a time. I cried many days and nights but it be came less and less.
I try to find good in lil thing.
Best wishes too you.
Yes dance, dance, dance. It's great exercise in any form. I do it with my husband who is in bed and asked him to shake his shoulders because he was getting contracted and I like to see him smile. Dancing is for the soul and everyone should do it whenever they can. Express yourself even if it's a sad dance.
February 4 at 6:28pm
My post was in a metaphorical context. "You can still dance" shouldn't be taken literally. Some people in this group did. With my right side affected, I could have said lots of other things, like "You can still play the piano" or "You can still clap" or "You can still play golf."

Some pleaded for the Admin to step in and say something. Huh? If Facebook is a populist tool, why?

In response to that person who gave the first reply, don't bet on your spouse if the tables are turned. You may think that, but everybody processes caregiving differently. For example, my partner of 17 years couldn't take it 12 years into the relationship when I had a stroke, and rather than wait for him just to come out and say I should leave, I ultimately left to go to another city, with a driver and me traveling through a snowstorm with icy roads. All the inferences were there, like telling me about the woman a long time ago, a cancer patient, who lived in their house and all the resentment he had by losing his space, or imploring me to watch the movie Amour about two octogenarians where the wife had a stroke and the husband, who was the caregiver, contributed to her demise. I am happy without him. I think he is happy without me. I haven't talked to him in years. But I did him a favor. I don't like to see anybody struggling.

I wasn't keeping a scorecard of who had it worse. But just to be clear, the stroke survivor wins in that category. Some have lost their jobs, their pastimes. Some suffer from uncontrollable spasms, deep depression, mood swings. Strokes are a bitch. 

Mark Twain, amid conjecture, is often given credit this quote: You can be sure of two things in life: death and taxes. (Ugh. I know about the latter). But relating to the former, until you do die, there are options to any situation in terms of caring for a stroke patient. Listen up, caregivers. Take a break by having somebody--a neighbor, a family member--do the caring for a bit. Google your options of alternative places where the stroke patient could go for care permanently. You might be surprised at what you could find. But by no means, don't caregive and resent it. Don't play the victim role. Even though stroke survivors' brains were affected, they know. Trust me. They know.

Plus, caregivers can still dance. That's the bottom line, isn't it?