Dear Family and Friends,
First of all, this post is from Danielle. Many of you know that we have struggled through a difficult few days this past week. And many of you have not heard anything about what has been going on with us, so I will do my best to describe the details of the last few days and update everyone on Kevin’s status. Before I go on, I want to take the time to thank each and every one of you for your prayers, your thoughts, keeping in touch with us and each other, helping out with everything you have all done, and especially for your love. We have felt so incredibly embraced this week. We truly believe in the power of prayer and know that because of all of you, I am able to report good things tonight. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
Here is our story:
Last Thursday morning, 8/9, Kevin and I both awoke at 6:30 a.m. I got into the shower and Kevin got Kyleigh up. He brought her into our bathroom, put her on the ground for a minute to begin getting ready for the day. He then returned to Kyleigh a few minutes later and leaned down to pick her up. I later learned that when he leaned down and came back up, he felt a sort of light headed feeling similar to a head rush. He walked into our bedroom and put Kyleigh on the bed. He sat down himself thinking this light headed feeling would wear off after a minute. Instead, he began to get very dizzy, the room began to spin, and he started to feel like he was in a tunnel with a huge fan right next to his ear. He still thought these feelings would pass, but they began to worsen and he felt like he was having an out of body experience. He decided he better say something to me.
I was getting out of the shower about that time and I looked up to see Kevin staggering into the bathroom. He looked like he was going to fall. I thought he was just being silly, but then he called out my name. It came out in a very slow, slurred tone and I knew something was wrong. I rushed to his side and told him to talk to me and tell me what he was feeling. He was gripping the wall and reached out to me. His eyes were twitching back and forth, back and forth. He couldn’t focus on my face. By now, we were both on the floor and he began vomiting. He was conscious, but slurring his speech and very “out of it.” I don’t know how else to explain it. I told him I was calling 911. He tried to argue, but not very adamantly, further telling me something was definitely wrong. His arms also began curling at his chest and combined with the eye twitching and slurred speech, made me think he was having a stroke. I later told my mother-in-law I thought he was having a stroke at that moment.
The paramedics arrived and rushed Kev to the hospital with Kyleigh and I following. When we got to the ER, they hooked Kevin up to an IV, and began taking vitals. They told me he was definitely symptomatic, possibly with an inner ear issue. Kevin continued to vomit, had an intense headache, couldn’t focus on anything, and I told the nurse I thought the left side of his face was slightly droopy. She did a few tests and dismissed that. After a few hours, we were discharged with information on Vertigo (yes, motion sickness) and Kevin was sent home with Meclizine for motion sickness. They believed he might have an inner ear viral infection or labrynitis causing Vertigo and to follow-up with our family doctor. They told Kevin to lay quiet for 12-18 hrs and not to watch TV or read as any type of visual stimulation might trigger another Vertigo attack. Kevin’s Mom flew into town that night to help out.
I was not satisfied with the Vertigo answer, so I scheduled an appt. with our family doctor on Friday. At this point Kevin was getting better, but still had an intense headache and was wobbly on his feet. Our doctor referred him for an MRI and we went back to the hospital that afternoon for the MRI. Kevin was rushed from the MRI back to ER with no information as to what was found in the scan. We knew it was bad though. When we got to ER, a doctor put Kevin through a battery of questions and finally told us what they had seen on the MRI: bilateral strokes in the Cerebellum, or balance center of the brain, caused by simultaneous blood clots. The doctor was baffled. This is incredibly rare for his age and lack of risk factors. Needless to say, we were stunned. Kevin had suffered two simultaneous strokes Thursday morning most likely when he picked up Kyleigh off the floor. They had no answer as to what would have caused the blood clots, but informed us that he would be undergoing strenuous tests to determine the cause. The doctor, and subsequent doctors since then, have made it well known how lucky we are and how rare this is. We knew how lucky we were, but couldn’t comprehend how rare this is.
That night, Kevin was moved to ICU and underwent a C/T scan of the carotid arteries in his neck looking for dissection of the arteries or blood vessels. Everything looked good. He also underwent neuro checks that night every hour to ensure he was not suffering another stroke or extreme swelling of the brain. Kevin’s Dad and sister drove all night Friday night to be at his side.
Saturday morning began with a C/T scan of his brain and Anteriogram (I think that’s the correct spelling) of the blood vessels in his brain. Everything here looked great as well. At this point, they had ruled out most known causes for this type of blood clot and subsequent stroke. 36% of strokes go unanswered with no known cause.
Yesterday, Sunday, Kevin rested most of the day. He continued neuro checks and remained in ICU, but his speech had fully returned and was only experiencing very limited delayed reaction on his left side (mostly with hand coordination).
This morning, Monday, Kevin was taken for a Transesophogeal Echocardiogram or TEE in which they sedated him, inserted a tube down his throat followed by a camera and a couple of other devices to look within the heart for a small hole which might have allowed a blood clot to pass. BINGO! They found the answer. Kevin has a small hole in his heart called a PFO that did not close completely at birth. This is fairly common (up to 30% of the population are walking around with this), but it’s not common for a blood clot to actually pass through this hole. It’s not something that usually causes any problems in most people that have it. Most likely, when Kevin picked Kyleigh up Thursday morning, the pressure on the heart caused by the activity of picking up 20 lbs, opened the hole and allowed a blood clot that happened to be there hanging around to pass through and up to the brain. So, so rare. The cardiologists decided to close the hole with a PFO closure device which is like a balloon or umbrella inserted into the hole. This is a fairly non-invasive procedure involving a small catheter through a vein in the thigh area and was completed this afternoon in less than an hour. He was done by 3:00 p.m.!!!!
Kevin is recovering very, very well. He has been moved out of ICU into Progressive Care or Telemetry at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. He may be released as early as tomorrow or Wednesday. Kevin will receive Physical and Occupational Therapy for the strokes and we’ll know the extent of that tomorrow, but I expect it will be minimal. I would put him at 98% capacity right now (although I’m not a doctor ;-). All of his doctors are giving him a great chance of full recovery. We have had an amazing team of doctors and nurses.
Kev is holding up really, really well. It’s been a long few days for him with the tests and the unknown, but he has maintained his sense of humor, passion, drive, and love for life. We are all exhausted, but feel so blessed and relieved. I am trying not to let myself think about the “what if’s” of Thursday night after we were released from the ER. It doesn’t do us any good to dwell. This experience has us reflecting on life’s priorities and I know it will be etched into our memories and actions forever, but we will be stronger because of it.
Thank you all again so much for your support, comfort, prayers, thoughts, calls, emails, and love. Although we are out of the woods for the most part, we will continue to need your prayers as we begin the healing and rehabilitation process. Please feel free to pass this email on. I think most of our friends and family are included, but it’s getting late and I may have inadvertently missed a few. We will keep you all posted over the next days and weeks. Thanks again and please hug your loved ones tight tonight! Life is so fragile and so short.