Mini Stroke, October 2013

It was a typical October day during my first semester of 1L year. For about 20 seconds.

After letting my alarm ring for a bit following another late night study session, I reached over with my right arm to turn it off. Except my fingers couldn't quite bend to hit the button. After using my left hand to do so, I got up and went to brush my teeth. I figured I probably slept on my right hand funny, so I picked up my tooth brush in my left and placed it in my right. When my brain sent the command to lift my right arm to my mouth, nothing happened.

Believe it or not, I had a feeling something wasn't right! I used my left hand to call my dad, a gynecologist, to get his opinion on my situation. As I went to explain my symptoms to him, all that would come out of my mouth was nonsensical slurring. I realized I couldn't move my jaw, or any part of my face. The worst part was I still hadn't brushed my teeth.

My dad told me to hang up and head to the closest medical center. Having now lost feeling in both of my arms I stumbled out of my apartment, throwing my rag doll of a body against every door and elevator button in my way. I felt like a fish flopping out of water as I wobbled down 5th Avenue to a local CityMD, where I was then immediately sent to the ER at Weill Cornell Hospital. 

By the time I got to the ER, my symptoms had mostly dissipated. After 36 hours in the hospital, undergoing multiple tests involving cameras shoved down my throat and bubbles shot into my veins, I was finally released with a diagnosis of a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)- a ministroke caused in my case by a tiny patent foramen ovale (PFO), or hole in my heart. I was told to avoid physical exertion of any kind until further notice.

For the next two months, I pondered what my life would be like if I could never play sports again. I had identified first and foremost as an athlete for most of the decade prior to this life-changing incident. The thought of never having the chance to compete, or even participate in any athletic activity ever again, was truly terrifying.

Thankfully, by December my cardiologist cleared me to resume my normal activities. He determined that the PFO was too small to justify surgery or any exercise restrictions. Now having a renewed sense of appreciation for my physical health, I started talking to friends about forming a Track & Field club to compete in meets in and around NYC. It was around this time when the Skeleton competition in the 2014 Winter Olympics caught my attention, and the rest is history.

Leave a comment