Kevin gets taken to the ER, and I go to the front desk and check him in. When I'm done checking him in, I go and find where they've put him. It's now around 8:30pm. As I pull the curtain to his bed, I see a team of doctors looking anxious doing a very thorough neurological exam. They are having him follow their finger with his eyes, but his eyes are not steady and quiver back and forth. They tell me he's going for a CT scan. Shit, maybe it is a stroke after all. I'm left alone trying not to panic. He comes back from the CT scan and we wait for the results. Meanwhile he's getting some sort of IV fluids. I assume some Aspirin is in there, but I don't know Swiss brands of drugs. He is also getting anti-nausea medicine and pain medicine, but nothing seems to help. Kevin is still feeling like hell -- the room won't stop spinning. The doctor comes in and says they've ruled out a stroke with the CT scan. Thank God. So they proceed to do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. Again the results come back negative. It's now about 2AM. The doctors say, "Well, we have ruled out all the scary things. Now we'll just wait for the medicine we've given you to kick in until you feel better. Then you can go home." Phew, now I can sleep. Luckily the bed next to Kevin was empty and the nurse was kind and let me sleep there. I was expecting to be woken up an hour later, but when I woke up it was 7AM. Kevin is only feeling slightly better. He tells me he can't imagine living like this for the rest of his life, and it breaks my heart to see how much he's hurting and that he's scared.
After they have given us breakfast the attending Neurologist comes in. She does an exam, and says based on the results of everything they've done so far she thinks he has a severe infection of the inner ear (the inner ear helps control your balance. If you get an infection of it, you can display symptoms like Kevin did, however his were very severe.) She wants to do an MRI just to be 100% sure it's nothing else. OK, I can deal with this. An infection isn't forever. Kevin goes for the MRI, and finally at noon the doctors come in to tell us the results. She says, "It is not an infection of the ear." What?! "You had an infarction." I immediately begin sobbing as the doctor explains that the MRI shows Kevin has had a stroke, and he will be transferred to the stroke unit as soon as possible. That was the most horrific moment of my entire life. So many unknowns laid before us...would Kevin get better? Would he always have this horrible debilitating feeling of vertigo? Would he ever get his balance back so he could walk? Would he be well enough to care for and play with our baby?
Kevin spent 11 days in the hospital and 14 days in a rehabilitation facility. I watched as he made a miraculous recovery with the help of fabulous doctors, nurses, and physical therapists. I'll never forget the moment Kevin ran down the hall for the first time during therapy. I couldn't help but cry tears of joy, because just a few days before he could barely stand without feeling like he would fall and now he could run. It felt like a miracle. His recovery continues to amaze me. Now he's back at work full-time, is training for a half marathon in April, and it's as if the stroke never happened.
While Kevin was in the hospital, he had another MRI which revealed the cause of his stroke. He had a dissection (a tear) of his vertebral artery, which caused blood to clot, causing reduced blood flow to his brain, resulting in a medium sized infarction (stroke) on the left side of his cerebellum and a smaller one on the right. Only his balance was affected. He had no paralysis, no loss of speech, no muscle weakness, nothing like that. They explained that three things are involved in keeping your balance: (1) your inner ear sends messages to your brain about balance, (2) your vision, and (3) the feeling you get from your feet telling you you are grounded. Kevin has forever lost the first, and now has to rely solely on his vision and the messages he receives from his feet to keep his balance. The cause of the torn artery is unknown. It is a freak accident that can happen due to a number of things, such as straining your neck in Yoga or going to the chiropractor. At discharge from the hospital his neurologist told him, "You're just one unlucky bastard." However, the neurologist at the rehab center disagreed, saying he's one lucky bastard for how well he's recovered especially since his initial symptoms were so severe.
Since the stroke, Kevin has had to take a blood thinner (Marcoumar) to help prevent another stroke. He has a follow up MRI in May to see how the torn artery is healing. If it is healed he will no longer have to take Marcoumar, and will be on Aspirin for the rest of his life. If it hasn't healed then he might have to continue taking Marcoumar for the rest of his life, but surgery is not an option because the benefits do not outweigh the risks. So I have to agree with the rehab neurologist. Kevin is one lucky bastard.
We are lucky that it was raining and Kevin was not out at night, alone, having a stroke in the park. I truly believe God was looking out for him and sent that rain.
We are lucky to have such an amazing group of friends here in Zürich who are like family. I wouldn't have been able to survive it without their incredible love and support.
We are lucky not only for our friends here, but our friends and family all over. We were in awe of the outpouring of love we received via phone calls, emails, and texts which helped us get through each day.
We are lucky that Kevin's parents and my mom were able to fly over here to be with us during that time.
We are lucky that Kevin is such a strong and determined man who worked so hard to make a full recovery, and never once felt sorry for himself.
But most of all, we are lucky that Kevin is well and will be able to be the amazing father I know he'll be to our daughter.
We truly are lucky. Even though those were the worst four weeks of my life, I have never felt so blessed. I'm grateful for the insight this experience has given me. It has really driven home what's most important in life -- your people and the ones you love.