“Out of the blue, everything starting spinning, including the words on the computer screen,” says Michael. “I was not terribly worried and thought it would go away if I changed positions, which can help if you have an inner ear infection, for example. I had a difficult time dialing the phone because of the unrelenting spinning sensation, but I managed to call my wife to tell her I’d be late because I didn’t feel well and was going to lie on the floor before driving home. It didn’t occur to me that what was happening was anything significant.”
The call struck his wife as odd, and she called her husband’s work, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s University Hospital East, to have someone check on him. Two other emergency medicine physicians went to Michael’s office and assisted him in making the short trip to the Emergency Department. By that time, he was vomiting uncontrollably. Still, he told them he was OK and didn’t need medical help.
“Clearly, I didn’t understand what was happening,” he says. “I was insistent that I could take some medicine and be back to work in the morning.”
Objective Thinking Helps the Patient
Michael’s colleagues ordered imaging tests that showed he’d had a stroke in the back right portion of his brain. He was transferred to University Hospital for specialty neurology and neurosurgery care, should surgery become necessary. He spent seven days in the hospital.
“The vomiting persisted for four or five days, and I had swelling in my brain in the area of the stroke,” says Michael. “My physicians were concerned, if the swelling continued, they might need to intervene. But that wasn’t necessary.”
Michael had many tests to explore the cause of the stroke. Commonly in a stroke, a blood clot from somewhere in the body travels to the brain and blocks the blood supply. Getting immediate medical attention and clot-busting medication to dissolve the clot and restore the blood supply to the brain helps minimize damage from the stroke. In Michael’s case, the inside layer of an artery peeled away from the outer layers and fell into the blood vessel, blocking blood supply from that vessel. Clot-busting medication would not have made a difference.
“The physicians couldn’t determine what caused my stroke, and my other blood vessels and heart received a clean bill of health,” says Michael. “I didn’t have to adjust my lifestyle and am not at risk for a recurrence. I spent four days in rehabilitation, working with physical therapists to regain my balance, which came back relatively quickly.”
Recovery Facilitated by Good Physical Condition
Eight weeks after the stroke, Michael not only returned to work in the Emergency Department, he ran the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon. “I was signed up for the marathon before the stroke and was determined to make it,” he says.
Michael says his recovery was aided by his good overall physical condition. “I am active and eat pretty well. I think I recovered quickly because I was in good shape,” he says. “Even healthy people can have something go wrong, even if it’s just a broken bone. Your recovery chances are optimized if you are in better condition already.”
Act If Something’s Not Right
Michael emphasizes that stroke symptoms can take many forms and depend on the area of the brain affected. His symptoms were not classic, but his colleagues recognized that something was not normal about his condition and rushed him to the Emergency Department.
“I work in emergency medicine, and I didn’t recognize what was happening to me,” he says. “My experience highlights the importance of others friends, family and co-workers noticing when someone is having a medical problem and taking prompt action. Do what you think is appropriate, even if the individual in question insists it’s not necessary.”