Paul Ansaldo Kansas
I was 29 years old when I had my stroke, which changed my life forever. As I look back, my life has been altered, not for the better or worse, it just became different. I now face a few more challenges in my day to day living and at 53 years young, I’m writing my stroke story for the first time.
I will always remember October 6, 1990 not only as a beautiful sunny day in Ocala, Florida but also the date of my event. I have no idea why the medical profession refers to it as an event but they do. I woke up feeling fine with plans to go to the Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers football game in Gainesville, Florida. Go Gators! My only concern that morning was can the Gators beat the Tigers? I showed no symptoms or warning signs of what was to come. I was able to drive to the game, felt fine, no headache, and my speech was intact.
During the second quarter of the football game, it all changed. Suddenly, I was having difficulty reading and seeing the numbers on the back of the players’ jersey. I was starting to feel a bit dizzy so I went to the restroom to splash cold water on my face. It was on the way back to my seat that I quickly became disoriented. I was stumbling, walking into people and doing my best to try to stay upright. As soon as I made it back to my seat, I fell forward on the person in front of me and passed out. I was in and out of consciousness. Within minutes, stadium security called for medical assistance. The paramedics were able to give a preliminary diagnosis of stroke as my face was distorted, and speech was slurred.
I was informed a few days later that I had a left Middle Carotid Artery (MCA) dissection, cutting off blood flow to my brain which ultimately resulted in a massive stroke. My Initial deficits were: total paralysis on the right side of my body, global asphasia: unable to produce recognizable words, and had little to no understanding of the spoken language. The doctors were concerned that I would never walk, talk or have a rational thought again. They did not paint a positive future for me as I could not do basic commands, did not recognize my family and had no idea of my situation.
Within ten days, I regained feeling on my right side, my paralysis almost completely went away and I started to walk. I was then released from the hospital. In reality, this is a relatively short amount of time given my situation. I did not have to have surgery. The majority of my paralysis went away and I started to walk. A true blessing that is unexplainable even 23 years later. My communication skills took the longest to regain, especially the task of putting together a sentence with somewhat clear pronunciation. It’s been years later and it is still my speech that prevents me from achieving full recovery.
A few months into my recovery, I was having somewhat clear thoughts and I knew that time was not my friend. When my stroke occurred, my daughter was five and my son was just three years old. It is from them I got my inspiration to work hard every day to gain back the abilities I had lost.
The fact that I am a stroke survivor is something that I chose not to share with others. Once people would find out, their expectations of me were lowered along with their confidence in my abilities; some would even question my intellect. So for a long time, I chose to keep my experience to myself. I would only confide in those I’m close to. Now, after 23 years of living with and working through the outcome of my stroke, my philosophy has changed. I want to share my story in hopes that it will help others. I no longer want to stay quiet. I feel I have gained the insight and wisdom that allows me to help other courageous stroke survivors.