I was hospitalized for 24 hours with stroke symptoms. EIGHT....separate what appeared to be TIA events. Total loss of controlled speech, right side facial paralysis, right arm and leg weakness and tingling/some numbness. One event caused complete dead right side leg and arm. Each episode lasted from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The last one lasted close to 7 minutes but with mild tingling and weakness on my right side.
The first thing I was aware of on Sept. 9th, 2011 was that morning I suddenly had this bizarre severe burning/stinging sensation in my left eye. It was over just about as quickly as it started. About 30 minutes later I had it again and this time my right one stung really badly too. I thought maybe it was just an allergy type reaction to my mother's cat, since I had spent the night with her and her cat slept on my stomach most of the night.
So, I asked if she had some dry eye lubricating drops and I put some in my eyes. The burning sensation went away again very quickly. I guess this happened about 4 times within a 45 minute period. Anyway...I left her home and headed back to my home. The burning happened a couple more times on the way home. When I got home...within 5 minutes of being there I knew something was terribly wrong. I suddenly couldn't keep my balance when trying to walk. It was as if the floor was moving under me. All I could think was 911. I picked up my cell and realized I couldn't talk right. So I speed dialed my brother. As soon as he heard my voice he said don't hang up, I'm calling 911. Then suddenly my voice was back to normal and I felt fine. Dispatch told my brother to keep me on the phone and they were sending an ambulance anyway. Five to seven minutes passed...and I was still fine.
I was instructed to open my front door and sit in the doorway since I was home alone and wait. While being checked out by paramedics while I was leaning against the entryway of my front door....I was speaking clearly and able to describe how this was coming on. They took my bp 107/68 pulse 66.
I'm athletic...non smoker....non drinker....cholesterol levels in the low 100's...high HDL....have never taken BC pills...never been overweight....weigh 108 pounds (I'm 5'3"). I'm in my 50's.
The EMT's or paramedics.. wanted to take me in anyway. Just to be checked out. I told them...I felt ridiculous and stupid showing up looking totally normal.
Suddenly the severe sting came back into my left eye and my speech instantly slurred and I started to topple backwards. As you can well imagine....the next instant I was swooped up into the arms of this big 6'4" guy bridal style and whisked off my front entry way into the front yard and strapped down on a stretcher. Away we went sirens blaring
By the time the female paramedic had me poked with an IV...I was back to normal again. I told her that felt just awful and grinned at her. She said I bet so. She asked my name...where I lived...what I was doing at that moment...etc. I understood everything. Half way to the hospital another one hit. Same thing...severe burn in my left eye....overwhelming nausea...slurred that out to her and she hit me with Zofran...I believe it was. I slurred out how close are we....she said...we are on the hospital grounds right now Vickie...stay with me. As they raced me in all I could hear was....female....5? years old....TIA or stroke. I understood everything that was being said around me. I looked at my right leg and arm...and thought to myself...dang....I cannot feel them. I told myself to lift my right arm....NOTHING....said the same thing to my leg....NOTHING. I reached over with my left arm and picked up my right arm. I let go and it just fell back to my side. I could feel that the entire right side of my face was drooped as well.:dizzy
I was rushed into a room and 2 doctors and 3 nurses were everywhere. One doctor was asking me to repeat my name, asking me where I was, how old was I, what city did I live in, etc. I knew everything she was asking and how to answer..it just sounded like I had been at a margarita festival for 3 straight days. LOL Two nurses were about to start cutting my gorgeous designer jeans off of me when it suddenly was over. My voice came out loud and clear...."oh please don't destroy my favorite jeans". The nurses looked stunned at my total instant recovery. They said "ok...let's get these off now". Well I didn't have to be told twice. I was outta those jeans fast.
By this time my brother had made it to the ER. He came flying in the room and told me he had gotten hold of my husband's secretary and that he was on his way. He was an hour out. Doctor came back in and asked me to raise my arms. Both were normal. Same with legs. Followed her finger with both eyes normally. They drew blood. Hooked me up to heart monitors. Sent me for a brain CT. Came back from the test and was hit with another TIA (like) episode. Really nauseous this time...slurred that out...they hit me with phenergan. It lasted 90 seconds. Poof...back to normal again. Now they send me for a chest xray. Come back from that and by this time they have CT results and clotting results from blood test. Both normal. Heart monitoring normal. Chest xray normal as well.
We...wait.....and...wait....another one happens....doctor comes back in....examines me while I'm in it. I hear her saying right side weakness...right side facial paralysis....I slur out I can't swallow. She asks me questions...I understand them and answer them albeit sounding worse than drunk...and just like the 6 before that one...suddenly it's gone and I'm normal again.
Doctor turns and walks out. My brother is about to unhinge. He asks the nurse do they have any idea what's happening. The nurse say's "the big gun tests are coming back negative....that's a really good sign. We know she is NOT stroking...but we don't know what is causing these. We are trying to track down the cause. More.....waiting.....
Suddenly the nurse comes zooming in with an injection of Ativan and a bag of potassium for my IV. She said....we've found it. Her potassium level is extremely low. 2.6 She is having arterial spasms of her left carotid artery due to the low potassium. Since it was not a clot....some blood flow was getting thru each time. That's why I was totally coherent during the attacks. And it's why I reverted to normal as soon as the spasm stopped and blood flow surged back to my brain.
One hour after being given those 2 things...I had one last attack (8th one). It lasted 7 minutes. The longest one. But it was much more mild. I just felt prickly and tingley on my right side. My face slacked somewhat and my speech again was slightly slurred. My husband arrived in time to witness the last one. After receiving the potassium and Ativan I completely stopped having them. Total count: 8 TIA mimicking attacks within a 4 hour span.
I was sent to ICU2 for monitoring. EKG monitoring for 24 hours showed no atrial fib...they scheduled and performed an echo cardiogram. It was perfect. They sent me for a brain MRI the following morning because some strokes don't show up for up to 12 hours...and can be missed by CT. Results came back perfect.
The final test was a carotid doppler. Both arteries were wide open with not a trace of plaque. One final blood test was done the following afternoon to see where my potassium level was and for some reason they decided to check my B12. It was critically low as well. Barely at 100. But my potassium level was back up to 4.6
Once they honed in on the electrolyte imbalance and hit me with a large dose....fast drip of potassium combined with Ativan as a muscle relaxant the TIA appearing episodes instantly stopped.
Final diagnosis: Left side carotid arterial Spasms as a result of critically low potassium.
It was horrible...terrifying and emotionally exhausting.
24 hours later after receiving several bags of potassium via drip and a B12 intramuscular shot...I was released.
So.....I wanted to post my experience to let people know that TIA and stroke symptoms do not ALWAYS mean they actually are TIA's or strokes. It can be as simple as electrolyte imbalance. Sometimes it's not the worst case scenario.