Sarah Silverman, no relation to the Wreck-It Ralph actress: A 24 year old women with a hectic, full life, one that didn’t factor in a medical emergency. “At 24years old,” she said, “I never saw this coming.”
“About three months ago, I was standing in my kitchen making dinner when my vision went blurry. My heart was pounding. I had intense chest pain. My knees buckled. Suddenly my left arm and left leg went numb. I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes. “What is happening to me?” I wondered.
Silverman had just worked 3, 20-hour days, and was obviously very exhausted. “I figured I was just extremely sleep-deprived and that this was my body’s way of telling me to slow down. That sounded about right—between taking five classes a week for my Psy.D. in clinical health psychology, working two demanding therapy jobs at different hospitals, and writing a dissertation, I was lucky to get four hours of sleep a night. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was seriously wrong.”
Silverman went and laid down on the couch, but to this day does not remember how she got there, since everything was a complete blur. She couldn’t make a phone call for help, since she lives by herself and didn’t know where her phone was. ” I rested for about 15 minutes, Silverman said, “and the sensation and pain finally subsided. Ironically, my next thought was that I had work the next morning, so I should head to bed. I probably just needed a good night’s sleep anyway, I thought.”
Silverman woke up the next morning feeling disoriented, but she still went to work. Feeling nauseous, and with her left arm and leg still feeling very weak, she called her physician to see if she needed to go in for a checkup. Silverman spoke to a nurse about her symptoms, who said, “You need to go to the ER right now,” she said. “It sounds like you had a mini-stroke.”
Silverman didn’t believe a word. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “There’s no way I had a mini-stroke. I’m healthy. I’m young. That could never happen to me. Still, I decided to go to the ER after work—just in case. I was shocked when the doctor asked me to stay overnight to run a few tests. Turns out, mini-strokes are possible at any age.”
TIA(transient ischemic attack) is the term for a mini-stroke. According to the American Stroke Association,” a mini-stroke is more of a “warning stroke”—a warning that should be taken very seriously. Having one is usually a precursor to experiencing an actual stroke weeks or even months later. A TIA is typically caused by a blood clot, but unlike a stroke, the blockage and symptoms are temporary and last only a short time. The thing is, there’s no way of predicting whether symptoms are from a TIA or an actual stroke, so getting to the ER immediately is crucial.”
Silverman notes that since she didn’t go to the ER the night of her episode, it made it more difficult for the doctors to figure out what had caused the episode in the first place. She was confused because she didn’t think she was at a high risk of TIA in the first place. “I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a family history of blood clots or stroke. I don’t take birth control, smoke, or drink heavily. However, I do have a personal history of heart problems, including a heart murmur and tachycardia (a faster than normal heart rate). Of course, sleep deprivation was a major factor. That, combined with high stress, not eating right, not exercising very often, and a history of heart issues, most likely led to my TIA, according to the doctors.”
At the hospital, the doctors told Sarah that she had to slow down, and they gave her aspirin to take every other day so that her blood wouldn’t clot. She was told that she didn’t need to stay on the medication she was taking, but that she did need to make time for sleep and recreation.
Silverman has always considered herself healthy, so the stroke caused a huge wake-up call to go off. She had been a dancer and worked out regularly, but then grad school happened. Constant stress, as well as little sleep then took center stage. “I still try my best to work out on a regular basis and eat healthy most of the time,” she said, “but logging more than 15-hour days at school and work doesn’t leave much—if any—time to take care of myself.”
The ironic thing was that although Sarah was a therapist as well as a consultative psychology liaison at the hospital, she constantly was telling her clients they needed to make time for themselves. “I guess it’s time to start practicing what I preach,” Silverman said. “The most important thing I learned from this scare is that you have to make time for yourself. No matter how busy you are, even if it means blocking off time in your Google calendar, it’s absolutely vital for your well being. You only have one body; you have to take care of it. The biggest takeaway I have for women is to always listen to your body and seek medical attention if something seems off, even if you think you’re probably OK.”
To all career women, Sarah says, “You who swear it’s impossible to miss a day of work—I promise you, your health is more important!”
Source: Women’s Health Magazine