Sybil Jones knows it’s hard to say goodbye. The wife of a U.S. Navy supply officer, Jones has packed up and moved to multiple cities and countries over the past 20 years.
Before her husband Marcus Jones moved to a new duty station, the couple met with friends at a brewery in Arlington, Virginia to say goodbye.
During the farewell party, as Sybil sipped libations, chatted with friends and posed for photos, the scene began to change.
The sounds of happiness ceased and faces blurred. Sybil thought she had drunk too much, but the friend she was talking to knew it was more serious and rushed to find Marcus.
“I walked over and I could tell right away that she was having a stroke,” Marcus said. “My great-grandmother had a stroke (when I was 11) and she looked the same; It looked like the left side of her body had completely failed.”
Marcus remained calm as he called 911 and told the dispatcher that his 43-year-old wife had suffered a stroke. The information allowed the hospital to create protocols during their journey.
He then called home to tell his daughters, ages 16, 14 and 12, that their mother was being taken to the hospital and a colleague was on her way to stay with them.
An MRI showed a clot deep in the right side of Sybil’s brain. She was given anticoagulant medication, but it did not dissolve the clot.
Sybil needed a thrombectomy, a procedure in which doctors can use a catheter to enter the brain and essentially rip out the clot. However, this hospital did not offer this.
She was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital with a comprehensive stroke center.
Marcus remembers a doctor saying before the procedure, “If this works, it will be like she never had a stroke.” But if we don’t do something, this will be her new normal.”
The doctor also said the chances of complications that could be fatal are low.
“Go on,” Marcus said. Then he said a prayer.
Sybil remembers waking up from anesthesia, hearing voices and feeling intense pressure in her groin – the spot where the catheter was cut. She called it her “worst nightmare.” But the challenges were just beginning.
After a week in the intensive care unit, doctors determined that the stroke was caused by carotid artery disease, a rare vascular disease that Sybil didn’t know she had.
This causes a strand of tissue to form in the artery, which in turn causes the artery to narrow, increasing the risk of blood clots.
In May 2021, a few weeks after her stroke, doctors placed a stent in her right carotid artery to remove the web and keep the artery open. Sybil calls it her “fancy necklace.”
Sybil spent a week in hospital as doctors struggled to control her blood pressure.
Instead of boarding a plane to their new home in San Diego, Marcus took a 60-day vacation from work to focus on helping his wife recover. Family and friends helped care for their children.
Due to the stroke, Sybil was weakened on her left side, she lacked the hot-cold sensation and her speech was slightly slurred. She worked with a team of speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists to overcome these issues.
She found the therapy “humiliating.” She struggled with the emotional toll of relearning basic skills like driving, grocery shopping and using a knife to prepare lunch for her children.
On her first trip to the grocery store after her stroke, Sybil came to the checkout and didn’t know how to pay.
“I don’t know if it was fear or what, but I stood there staring at the cashier and said to her, ‘I had a stroke.’ Please be patient with me,” Sybil said. “I didn’t just learn something new; I relearned with a deficit on the left side.”
Sybil still has difficulty concentrating, especially when it comes to multitasking or concentrating amid distractions. She also had to overcome depression and anxiety.
While Sybil was grateful for the support she received from family and friends, she longed to connect with others who understood the journey to recovery from a stroke.
She was particularly interested in connecting with other members of the African American community who are at disproportionately higher risk of stroke.
She recently launched Stroke Talks, a website that promotes stroke awareness and hosts virtual meetings for stroke warriors.
She will soon be connecting with stroke survivors from overseas. After two years in San Diego, Marcus took on a new assignment in the Middle East, Bahrain.
Before boarding the plane, Sybil researched everything from the food to the culture to the medical system. And she’s thankful the going away party was a lot less memorable.
Written by Jodi Helmer.
If you are concerned about stroke, please read studies showing that the shingles vaccine can be a shield against heart attacks and strokes, as well as findings about new links between cholesterol levels and stroke risk.
Further information on the subject of stroke and health can be found in the studies a breakfast linked to better blood vessel healthAnd Olive oil could help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
follow us on Twitter for more articles on this topic.