The Malta Independent 23 April 2024, Tuesday
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Hours after saying 'I do,' the bride was rushed to the hospital

Associated Press Monday, 15 January 2024, 08:33 Last update: about 4 months ago

The morning of her wedding, Amy Deike had a dull headache.

It was easy enough to push through. The ceremony went off so perfectly that a full rainbow appeared behind Amy and her husband, Matthew, as they posed for photos. The reception was great, too. Many guests commented on how much fun they were having.

Around midnight, a trolley took Amy, Matthew and other members of the wedding party from the venue – a lakefront lodge outside of Des Moines, Iowa – to a nearby hotel.

Exhausted and excited, Amy couldn't get comfortable in bed. Then she felt so cold that she started to shiver.

"Can you turn off the AC?" she asked Matthew.

Matthew thought it was an odd request. Odder still was that Amy's voice sounded deeper than usual.

He got up, turned on the light and asked, "Are you OK?"

"I'm fine. I'm fine," she said.

Her words came out slurred.

Matthew remembered a radio commercial about the symptoms of a stroke. He asked her to smile.

Only the right side of her mouth curved up. The left drooped.

"Can you stick out your tongue?" he said.

Amy could not. Nor could she raise her left arm.

"Oh my God, I need to call 911," Matthew said, grabbing his phone.

At the hospital, doctors struggled to diagnose her problem. Until a neurologist arrived. He thought she'd had a stroke. Tests later confirmed Amy had a stroke caused by a carotid artery dissection. That occurs when there is a tear or separation in the layers of the carotid artery in the neck, which can lead to a slowing or blockage of blood flow to the brain.

What caused the tear? Nobody knew. It can be the result of many things, including car accidents, prolonged neck extension or even forceful coughing or nose blowing.

When Amy heard she'd had a stroke, she struggled to understand it. She thought strokes happened only to older people; she was 32.

"Age is on your side," doctors told her. "We expect you to make a full recovery, or at least close."

Four days after the stroke, Amy was moved to inpatient therapy. Soon she was eating solid foods and walking, although haltingly.

Once home, Amy spent more than three months doing outpatient physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Her cognition, speech and vision returned quickly, but she struggled to walk correctly and had trouble with balance. She kept pushing herself.

"I'm a pretty optimistic person, and I'm very much a perfectionist," she said. "That motivated me to get to where I needed to be."

A little over three months after the stroke, Amy returned to her job as a loan underwriter at a bank. She was also cleared to drive.

Matthew remained supportive – and worried. Especially at night.

"I would look at her and think, 'Is she shaking? Is she breathing?'" he said.

The day that Amy was diagnosed with a stroke, Matthew had called to cancel their honeymoon reservations at a resort in Mexico.

Nine months later, they finally made the trip.

"It was like we'd pressed pause and now we were pressing play again," Matthew said. "Amy wanted to swim and play in the water, which felt like a milestone. I just watched her and broke down crying. She'd come such a long way."

The stroke was in 2016. Now, Amy is almost fully recovered. Her left side remains weaker than the right; her balance and fine motor skills are also a bit diminished.

She stays on top of her health by watching what she eats and being a regular at a barre fitness studio. She also recently started telling her story at American Heart Association events.

"I hope by sharing what happened to me, it will educate others about stroke, especially since they're rising in young people," she said. "It can happen to anyone at any time. Before mine, I had no idea."

Stories From the Heart chronicles the inspiring journeys of heart disease and stroke survivors, caregivers and advocates.

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