Last week, I watched my dad make toast, top it with peanut butter and then a couple of slices of bacon. For lunch, he had half of a BLT and I think he had some chips mid-afternoon. Two bags. Sunday, he stumbled down the stairs and asked me to take him to the emergency room. It’s a good thing I volunteered for the American Heart Association for years, I knew immediately what was going on. He was having a stroke and I had a very narrow window to get him to the emergency room.
My dad has had a love affair with bacon for his entire life. He smoked heavily for 40 years. He thinks water is the stuff sweetened with Sucralose, drinks too much wine and doesn’t exercise much. He’s also really stubborn so as we’ve pointed out to him on numerous occasions that he eats like crap, he never stopped. And, since he’d been incredibly healthy for his 76 years and didn’t take any medications, he could’ve cared less. He went to the doctor for check-ups and was never diagnosed with hypertension. That’s had all of us baffled for years. Sunday was a shock.
I’ve spent a lot of time around hospitals the past few years with my daughter, so I was under the assumption that very little could faze me. Watching my dad stumble to the car with his speech impaired and face slumping crushed me. The few minutes we had to wait in the ER before he was seen made me frantic. We weren’t really sure what time my dad started to experience symptoms because no one had talked to him that morning. He went out to get the paper, came back to his room and started to read. It could’ve been a half hour or it could have been two hours. We just didn’t know and unfortunately, if he needed clot buster, it only worked in a three-hour period. A CT scan was clear so it was determined that he had a TIA. That’s when he slurred that it had happened before.
On Saturday, he had two similar episodes that he said, “just passed.” And, while we were in the ER, he had another. We were told that multiple TIA’s that impair the same spot are rare so they’d have to admit him for tests. That’s when he had a seizure (which probably saved his life because I was about to strangle him for not telling us what was happening). I hustled my teenager out of the room and we patiently waited.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned hanging out with neurologists the past few years, there’s so much they don’t know about the brain. That’s why it’s so tricky to treat migraines. What I didn’t realize is that can apply to strokes as well. As my dad had test after test done and they all came back with nothing wrong, I’d shake my head. We emerged from the hospital on Tuesday with the diagnosis of TIA’s but at best, it’s an educated guess because they just don’t know. He’ll be on blood pressure medication and will follow-up with neurology in a couple of weeks. They’ll order another MRI in three or four months.
My dad’s love affair with bacon? It’s over. Basically, we had the doctors scare him over and over so he’d understand the toll that his eating habits were having on his health. We’ve also told him he has to stop drinking crap and that chips are a delicacy. We’d like to keep him around.
If you’re not familiar with the signs of a stroke, it’s wise to take the time to educate yourself in case it happens to you or someone you love. Please check it out on the American Heart Association site. That way you’ll know what to do.