Tuesday, April 8, 2014

3:38 AM- A Time I Will Never Forget (Before Aiden was born and just published years later!)

This morning- 3:38am to be exact, I felt the baby move! It was the first time I could actually say, "I know that was the baby!" I woke Russ up, and he was excited, but he quickly fell back asleep. I couldn't fall back asleep---I just layed there hoping to feel it again, and I DID! Then I fell back asleep. But it was very exciting, and I am much more at ease knowing the baby is moving around in there!

Big smiles for me today! :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Go Red!

To experience the birth of your child and to feel your baby’s soft skin- there is nothing like that.  To go through the process of buying your first home- to walk down the aisle with your love waiting to say I do….  Those experiences are truly all wonderful but can be quickly snatched away from you- I know because I, at 27 years old, had a stroke.

I woke up- having a normal kind of day- except that I had the day off due to the President’s day holiday.  Mid-morning, I took my shower, and when I got out, I felt off balance.  I had just gotten over a head cold, so I wasn’t too concerned- I was thinking it might be a bit of vertigo.  I lay down on the couch to watch TV and fell asleep- 10 in the morning---after a full night’s sleep.  I woke about an hour later with a pounding headache.  I got up, took some ibuprofen and  ended up falling back asleep.  My friend called- waking me up-, saying that she was outside and ready to go to lunch.  I told her I would be right out.  It took me ten minutes to get the puppy in his crate, put on some jeans, and grab my coat.  I couldn’t wake up.  In the car with my friend, I was aware of how my tongue moved in my mouth---most of us are not aware of our tongue moving across our palette---but I could feel it.  My friend started backing up, and I couldn’t take it- the vertigo made me feel horrible.  I asked her to go grab us lunch and bring it back.

As I was walking back in the house, my mother came home- apparently I called her but don’t really remember.  She saw me, and said, “Denise, you are gray.  Your mouth is off.  I think you have had a stroke.  You need to call an ambulance.”   I laughed at her.  I said, “Mom, I didn’t have a stroke.”  She said, “Go look at your face.”  I did.  My mouth was cocked.  I looked sick.  I felt lethargic.  I said, “Mom, I’ll go to the hospital, but I won’t take an ambulance!”  I called my friend, she came and picked me up, and we drove off to the hospital.

At this point, it was after 12:30---I had gotten out of the shower around 9:30-10am.  I tell you this because time is of the essence when you have had a stroke.  They rushed me right in…my mouth was giving them concern.  They took blood and asked me multiple questions.  They repeatedly asked me if I smoked.  I kept saying, “No.”  They asked if I was on any drugs or prescriptions.  My response was just my birth control pills.  All I could tell them was that I didn’t feel right, my mouth was crooked, and that I was exhausted.  I had an echocardiogram, and upon review, they picked up my Patent Forman Ovalue (PFO).

Quick heart history and lesson:  When I was born, I had two holes in my heart.  Your heart is about the size of a fifty cent piece when you are born.  One hole was the size of a dime- it was a VSD- a ventricle septial defect) and the other was much smaller. At six weeks old, I had open heart surgery, and had my VSD repaired.  The other hole was a PFO, a patent forman ovale.  My whole life I was told this was just a miscommunication and wouldn’t give me any problems.   A PFO is the hole in every baby’s heart while in the womb—it gets oxygenated blood to the brain, however, it usually closes naturally in most.

The hospital didn’t find this history of my PFO and birth control prescription a bad mix—why would they?  It is a fact that women who take even a low-estrogen birth control pill may be twice as likely to have a stroke than those who don’t and the risk may increase if other risk factors like my PFO are present.  In the doctor’s eyes, I was a normal 27 year old with no major health problems.  I was too young to have a stroke.  Ironically, a year and 4 days previous, linebacker, Tedy Bruschi of the New England Patriots, had also suffered a stroke related to a PFO.  Besides, stereotypically, I could speak, raise my arms and walk.  I didn’t fit the age old definition of stroke.  I was told I had a virus, and I was sent home without answers and frustrated.

Once I got home, I was exhausted.  I felt like I had the fatigue of when you the flu.  I went to bed with a typical busy house going on around me.  My family woke me up a few hours later to eat and half an hour later, at 8:30, I was back in bed and slept until the next morning.

I woke up feeling fine, but after moving around a bit, I started to feel like I was overcoming the flu again.  I decided to follow-up with my primary care physician.  He didn’t think I had stroke either but with my heart history, he decided to schedule me an MRI.  I was thankful that he took me more seriously and had scheduled me a test that would give me more answers.  I knew something was wrong with me.  That was Tuesday, my appointment was for Friday.  Throughout the week, I drove, went to work (many days falling asleep at my desk and going home early.)

After my MRI on that Friday, I learned two things: my husband and I were under contract with our first house and that I had a stroke.  I had to go back to the hospital.  After multiple tests, and many days in the hospital, I met with my cardiologist.  He told me, “Denise, you will not be able to have children because of the blood thinners we need to put you on.  These medications can cause harm to the fetus.  You will need to be on them for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.”  That was the one thing that threw me---I could deal with a stroke---I could deal with that.  I looked at the doctor and said, “That ruins my plans.  My plan was to get married, then get a house, and then have babies.  This will not stop me.”

Using the internet, I discovered that there was a device on trial called a CardioSeal Occular Device.  I asked my doctors if I could have it, and I got it!  I was able to get my heart fixed.   I was a lucky one. There is an estimated 25% of people who are walking around unaware that there is a hole in their heart.

My name is Denise, I am 35, I am married, own a home and have two adorable, funny little boys- Aiden and Elijah.

After my stroke, I have learned how my story has changed others ideas about stroke.  My pharmacist- who couldn’t comprehend why a 27 year old needed blood thinners and heart meds.  My dear friend, a paramedic, said to me, “Denise, my co-workers and I would complain every time we got calls for twenty-somethings with chest pain.  You taught me that anyone can have a stroke or heart attack.  You don’t need to be a fifty-something.  You helped me become a better paramedic.”   Every February, I put my story on FaceBook, and this past summer, an old friend, reached out through FaceBook, to me ask me about symptoms she was having as they were similar to mine.  People- please don’t FaceBook me or your friends asking about possible symptoms- if so, you have missed my point.
My point here today is to NOT dismiss symptoms or any feelings you may have about your health.  Call 9-1-1.  You are not bothering them.  It is their job.  It is your first line of defense.  They start treating you once they are on the scene.

It is important to know the signs of a stroke.  They are:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or legs, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If my mother didn’t know the signs, she probably wouldn’t have insisted that I go to the hospital.  I couldn’t smile, but today I can.  I stuck to my instincts---even if I was a bit stubborn about it at first.  I knew that I was not myself, and that I didn’t have the flu.  I insisted that something was not right.  Don’t presume.  Know that any of us can have a stroke.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Boys, Daddy and I Apologize...

Dear Aiden and Eli,

Daddy and I need to apologize.  Being parents is hard.  In this case, we apologize for lying to you.  We felt with you boys being three and five, you don't quite need to learn about death yet.  Your fish, Junk, was very sick, which we told you about.  His belly was very, very bloated and his scales were all raised up.  In doing research, we discovered that we wouldn't be able to help Junk.  His bacterial infection had gone too far.  We decided to use the movie Nemo to help us in avoiding the discussion about death.  We took Junk out of his tank, into a small bowl with his water so you could say goodbye.  We told you that we were going to put him in the toliet so that he could be with his family, just like in Nemo.  That all things flow back to the ocean.  This is where we lied.  He didn't go back to the ocean.  We didn't want him to suffer any longer, and we didn't know how else to make it easier on you boys (and us). 

We are very sorry.


Mommy and Daddy

(Linking up today at Pour Your Heart Out: http://thingsicantsay.com/2013/07/pour-your-heart-out-no-place-like-home.html

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I have often given the same response when people ask me if it is rewarding to be a parent.  My response is that when you get pregnant, you don't know what kind of child you will have.  I even go to the extremes of saying, "You don't know if you are going to have a serial killer or the next president."  My point is that as much as you think you can influence your child, etc., there are still things you can't control like autism, ADHD, other behavioral things, etc.  I do also say that while some children seem to brighten your day over and over with one thing or another, you can also have a child that can be hard.  Not just hard to put down but give you as a parent many obstacles.  Aiden is that child.

I love him.  I love him with all of my heart.  Aiden has to hug and kiss on his terms.  His bouts of affection are rare.  When I get them, I cherish them.  His development delays made some days very trying.  This morning, it was a 30 minute battle to get him to pick up his pile of legos.  Saturday, it took two hours.

My point is- as a parent, the rewards are often small moments that brighten your heart.  They might not be daily but I can tell you this- I hold onto them.

Here is something that I am very proud of and makes me smile and feel like I have been rewarded.

Aiden's recent drawing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Father's Day 2013

It has been forever since I posted!

I would like to post my annual video that I make for my wonderful husband and father to our children.  Please watch it!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eli's Speech Journey

I could type for days about how both of my children have had speech delays and how much work and devotion it is to get words to come out.  But sometimes, your kids surprise you!

Elijah loves Signing Time!  Plus, he loves music.  One thing I have learned with all of my therapy sessions with Eli is that using music can significantly help a child hold onto words.

Eli is now piecing two to three words together.  He is mostly putting things like together, "Daddy got it."  We are working on replacing it with the noun, but it makes my heart sing when a new word is said or when he started doing this:

He loves Colors of the Rainbow by Rachel Coleman in The Signing Time series.  Here he is saying all of the colors of the rainbow.  I rather talk about his accomplishments today...because I think it is a big deal!!!  Good job, little man!  Good job!!!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Aiden's Drawing!!!

Aiden has been working in with his OT on mimicking lines to create a drawing.  See his success!!!