My Carotid Artery Dissection

carotid artery

After four days of throbbing neck pain, I finally called the Dr. I had assumed it was related to my cervical stenosis and arthritis. I also had some cold symptoms and thought it may be a swollen gland. I was wrong. My doctor’s office said it wasn’t related and I should get urgent care. 

I went to the local urgent care walk in clinic, my daughter by my side. After careful examination they decided to send me to the ER for images. They said while they couldn’t hear any blockages in my neck arteries they wanted to make sure, because if there was anything wrong there, it put me at high risk for stroke.

The ER physician ordered a Cat Scan with contrast dye. He explained he wanted a good look at the arteries because sometimes surgery is needed for a dissection; but, he assured me that it was probably nothing because the chances were 1-2 in 100,000.

Feeling a little more relaxed knowing the odds, my daughter and I awaited the results and looked forward to going home.  

We were all surprised as he returned and said something was there, a blood clot. Apparently, my carotid artery had a small tear and it clotted off.  I didn’t need surgery; but they were going to give me an IV of blood thinners.

Relieved there was no surgery needed; but the relief lasted moments and ended when they said they were admitting me. It all became very scary. They had to admit me for observation to make sure I didn’t have a stroke.

The next 24 hrs seemed liked days. I felt very emotional knowing that there was a possibility I could have a potentially fatal stroke. After the shock wore off, the tears came. Then the prayers.

The next morning I met the vascular surgeon, He prescribed blood thinners and a follow up in three months. I felt he was kind of dismissive. I am always suspicious of being treated poorly with basic medical insurance; but, I tried to find peace in the fact that I was being discharged.

I also met with the physician on duty. He ordered a MRI of my brain to make sure I didn’t have a mild stroke already. He was very nice and took the time to answer my questions. As much as I wanted to go home, I was fearful. He said if I had any numbness in my limbs, extreme headaches and/or vision problems to come right back. 

He drew this picture for me to explain exactly what had happened.carotid artery dissection

I also googled and researched carotid artery dissection, and it did not put my fears to rest. I was still at risk for stroke or worse, and it could take 3-6 months to heal.

The MRI came back negative for a stroke; however, it did show White Matter Disease, which I knew about in 2011, when a MRI was ordered for my migraines. It was explained back then as normal; but, this doctor used words like Lyme and MS being possible.

My head was spinning. I didn’t know what to think. The fact that my artery spontaneously tore made me afraid to even sneeze. I anxiously awaited to talk it over with my doctor.

A few days later, the other side of my neck hurt. It wasn’t throbbing pain, more of a sore feeling. Terrified I went back to the ER to make sure it wasn’t happening again. They ordered an ultrasound which showed “normal blockage for my age.”

When I asked my doctor about it, she explained, as we get older our blood vessels narrow and I was right where I should be. I thought to myself, normal???? How?? She ordered another ultrasound in two weeks to see how my dissection is healing and to monitor the blockages and blood clot. She also said that the white matter hasn’t progressed much since 2011. I was to discuss all of it with the neurologist who I have an appointment with on Dec 24. Meanwhile, keep taking the blood thinners, despite they have started making my gums bleed. She said I could skip a dose every other day. The good news was there wasn’t any stenosis and the blood was flowing good to my brain. I could return to my life. I can do my yoga again and not be in constant fear.

Because of the severity and rarity of this, I have to believe it happened for a reason. I started reflecting. I had been working on transmuting parts of me that I viewed as negative. I wondered if those parts were trying to hurt me, because they felt threatened. I also have been struggling with my marijuana dependency, I felt trapped within myself because of these issues. I prayed for help. Now, I am forced to not smoke anything, because it constricts the blood vessels.

Was this an answer to my prayer, a wake up call? I don’t know. I do know that I can’t wait to put this behind me. I hope that it heals quicker than three months. I want to be off these blood thinners and find herbal replacements. I am going to research herbs to help my circulation, my blood vessels, and my brain health. 

I want to live even though I know parts of me don’t. I began working on that in therapy yesterday. I am sure that this incident will begin a whole new path of my journey to health.

I am reminded that health is golden, life is precious and to not waste any time. Love the people in my life. Live my purpose. Fuck the fear. Go for it, reach for those dreams.

Every moment is an opportunity to live the best life I can.

I don’t want to die with regret. 

life-is-short-enjoy-every-moment.jpg

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3 thoughts on “My Carotid Artery Dissection

  1. Oh, what a scary thing to have happen. I’m glad you got it all checked out, and are doing better. My daughter had something similar quite awhile ago, and went through all the testing, blood thinners, etc. They said it would heal up in a few months, and it did. She’s doing great now. Don’t know if that helps ease your mind, but just wanted to give you some encouragement.
    Prayers for a speedy healing. ❤

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