Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Hole in my Heart.....Literally

It's been a long time since my last post: Hopefully this explains why successfully and with any luck there wont be such a gap again.

Irony is a bitch:

Just a few hours after that last post, I had another TIA. Only much worse. Just after midnight Monday night / Tuesday morning (however you want to quantify it) I woke up feeling that oh so familiar "something is very wrong" sensation. The entire right side of my body was completely numb. From my face all the way down to my foot, everything was numb. I knew immediately what was happening. Of course knowledge turned to fear as I had just experienced a TIA within the last 24 hours, could this be a massive stroke coming to do me in at last?

I woke my wife up, rather ungracefully, and called my neurologist right away. He told me to head to the emergency room and that he would call ahead, get me thru the wait and get me admitted. When we arrived, we made our way thru the metal detector and the human wasteland that is the Antelope Valley Hospital emergency room and got to the check in window. I announced that my doctor should have called ahead for me.

The woman at the desk asked me what I was there for and I told her I was suffering either a stroke or a TIA. She said "Well its not a stroke, if it were you would not be able to talk". I then said "really? I've had 5 of them, how many have you had?" and that seemed to get things moving. True to my neurologist's word, we were ushered right thru and did not wait in the ER waiting room at all. We were taken back to an ER bed immediately and I was given the requisite blood thinners and bevy of tests.

A few hours later I was taken upstairs to the room they had waiting for me and was told that an MRI was scheduled for the morning. The night RN urged me to try to get some rest, which is of course impossible. A hospital is no place to rest and get well.

The next morning I was taken for an MRI and an MRA which I had never had. The MRA basically looks at all the blood vessels in the brain using the MRI machine. Luckily the results of both were negative. Meaning there was no new damage. The numbness had already begun to fade and was now just in my right cheek, hand and foot. Classic TIA. What a relief.

Later that morning, my cardiologist stopped by to see me. He said that since I am already in the hospital, he wanted to go ahead and perform the TEE test that we had scheduled for Friday but to move it to the next morning. Since I already have a room, and some comfy clothes on, we might as well take advantage.


So the procedure went smoothly, there were no complications or mishaps. Afterword in recovery, the tech asked me if the Dr. had come by to see me to discuss what they had found...nope. That sounded ominous. Then the nurse did the same thing. Now curiosity is setting in as anaesthesia is wearing off.

Later on, back in the room, a hematologist came by to see me. He told me that the cardiologist had found a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale). A PFO is a small hole between the two atriums of the heart. Everyone has it in the womb, its necessary before birth but after birth it is supposed to seal shut and in most people it does. It is estimated that anywhere from 12-15% of the population at large walks around with a PFO, but very few of those people every suffer any ill-effects from it.

In my case, this hole between the atriums allows bad blood and small clots from one side of my heart to escape to the other side. This bad blood and these small clots then travel to the good side and then straight to the brain. Small clots going thru the brain equal TIA or Strokes. PFO is also related to migraine. In many studies the relationship is huge.

What Now?

Wow. A reason. It was a shock to hear that I had a hole in my heart but at the same time it was almost a relief. Now there is something tangible something that we can see. Something we can fix? As soon as I heard the words, I called my wife, I called Friends at work and got everyone researching. Looking for everything to do with PFO.

We found all kinds of literature from the Cleveland Clinic about PFO and what they are doing to close them now. There is some encouraging information and recovery time is minimal because they can do it thru a cath now. The Doctors set me up to see a specialist at UCLA just as soon as I got out of the hospital (More on that in the next post).

Knowing my condition, the doctors put me on Coumadin (a gnarly anti-coagulant) which makes you live like your in bubble wrap. I cant do anything I like to do. Nothing very active that can cause bruising or god forbid, bleeding. Mountain biking is out, Kickboxing is out, BJJ is out. I cant do anything that involves risking bruising or bleeding. Its like being in prison. The sooner I can get this stuff fixed and get off the drugs, the better.

So late Friday night(March 13) , around midnight I escaped. I was finally released from the hospital. I was given my orders to see UCLA the following week about patching the hole in my heart, I was given my prescription for Coumadin and I was told to come to the lab every day so they can draw blood to check its level in my system. It was quite an ordeal but at least I have some answers. After three years of strokes for no good reason, I finally have something to actively pursue.

In my next post I will talk about what happened at UCLA and just how much of a pain it is to try to find a good place to get a PFO closed. Lesson learned....don't mess with Irony, it will get you back.


Steve said...

Hey, I hope you don't mind, but I wrote up a little post about your blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts.

Anonymous said...

hey, Just come across your blog from Steve. Very interesting and well written. Let me know if you would like to exchange links.

alex said...

Great blog! Very inspirational and informative! Definitely going to be following this one. Hope you get better soon its great to see you sticking with your training in the face of adversity! Thanks Steve for spreading the word

Elyse said...

Hi Jay,
Been reading you for a while now and I'm really glad to see you're making progress.
Just wanted to let you know that my thoughts and hopes are with you!!

Never tap.

Jay said...

Guys, I can't thank you enough. It is great to know how supportive our community is. Steve, that post was something special and I really appreciate it. Thanks for being with me since just about the begining.

Mark and Alex, thanks for you words. I have added your Blogs to my list and I will be following your adventures as well!!!

Jay said...

Thanks Elyse, its good to have some kind of answer no matter how ominous it may sound.

I have not seen a new post from you in a while, hope the wrist is healing well. You have my thoughts and hopes for your recovery.


Mark Cook said...

I'm a first time visitor. I rolled on over from Steve's blog. Good luck with your health issues. A solid diagnosis sure is a good start. Take care.

Mark "Oldman" Cook

Anonymous said...

Jay, I'm 39, take blood thinners because of a clotting disorder, and train in BJJ + Judo. It can be done. You just have to be careful. My heart goes out to you, I hope things get better. A PFO closure might just do the trick.

Sir. Fobos said...

Atleast you now know what the problem is and can get it fixed. You have friends behind you and a hope to move forward. You will be in my constant prayers!