I want to take a moment for a small disclaimer.
Two days ago, I was in a minor fender bender. The only damage to either car was a tiny little scrape. I was going 25 and who knows how fast the other lady was going. It looked like she was zooming along at 40! She ran a stop sign, and if I hadn't slammed on my brakes, she would have T-boned us right at EJ's door. When I got out to assess the damage, she immediately made it sound like my fault. I called the police and they saw through her, and no one was hurt, not even whiplash. But I was QUITE shaken up. When I first got out of the car, I could barely walk, the adrenaline was pumping so hard and my blood pressure was so high. My arms and legs stabilized, but my blood pressure caused a bad headache to develop, along with blurred vision, double vision, and dizziness. Tylenol didn't help, and the headache was in the same spot as my stroke, so my husband took me off to the doc-in-a-box. The doc heard the phrase "stroke 9 years ago" and immediately sent me to the ER for a cat scan.
Seven hours later, I was admitted to the hospital, having had a neuro exam, an x-ray, CT scan, EKG, and 5 vials of blood drawn, with the promise of an MRI in the morning. They thought my CT scan showed scar tissue from my stroke, but they couldn't rule it out, so an MRI would give a much clearer picture. At 11 am, I had the MRI. The neurologist wasn't satisfied, so he said I would have to spend another night while he got a copy of my old scans and compared them.
Apparently the hospital in NC sent the copies quickly, because at 3:30 he was back clearing me to go home. He also had answers. Turns out I was born with a cluster of weakened blood vessels--veins, to be exact. And he thinks the stress of having and caring for a new baby (when I didn't know what in the world I was doing) caused one of those veins to rupture. Commonly called an AVM, mine is more specifically a VM (because mine are just veins and true AVMs include arteries--the doctor actually called it a cerebral venous malformation after asking if I'd ever been told the mass on my brain is a tumor). Between .5% and .2% of the population is born with a type of AVM, and 50% of people with one have a vessel burst. Only 15% of those people experience a stroke as a result. Clearly if the blood vessels aren't removed, the chance of another bleed is 50%. Risk of death is about 15% for each bleed. Brain damage is about 25% or higher, depending on how much blood leaks out. High blood pressure is a serious risk, and when I had my accident on Monday, my vessels throbbed and rubbed against my brain, causing my headache. (Another "side effect" of a VM is focal or general seizures, and the neurologist thought that might have been what caused the vision problems--minute seizures in my eyes!)
Since there was no new bleeding, he said I could go home. He mentioned surgery, but emphasized how much more risky it would be than to just leave the blood vessels in there, since the mass of vessels is in a particularly difficult-to-reach spot. I'm not sure, even if I did have the mass out, if it would cure my intermittent numbness on my right side. I think that's more due to the damage already caused in my brain. Either way though, I think I'd rather live with a minute of numbness every so often than permanent paralysis or death as a risk of surgery!
As horrible and uncomfortable as a stay in the hospital is, I'm glad I finally have answers. No, my stroke wasn't caused directly by my pregnancy/delivery, but that stuff is stressful and if I did have another baby, I can see my blood pressure rising too high and another vein bursting. I told my husband that I just need to live in a bubble. He said I should sell a million copies of my books so I can do just that. Lol.