The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website defines ‘vasculitis’ as a fairly rare auto-immune disorder involving blood vessel inflammation that narrows, closes, or weakens certain vessels, potentially causing a number of serious complications.
‘Elizabeth,’ in her 50s, reads this column in the Harrison Daily Times of Arkansas and for personal reasons preferred using a pseudonym. She said in a telephone interview, ‘I was having headaches for a long time, and had other problems, like [jaw joint] pain, and then an eye doctor noticed pressure in my head. Then I had spells of headaches and dizziness, and had two seizures at home.’
In November 2005, while in a hospital and getting diagnosed for her many physical problems, she had a stroke. While she recovered over the next six weeks, doctors learned that vasculitis had narrowed blood vessels in her brain and caused the stroke.
‘The stroke affected the left side of my body to some degree, and the left leg, particularly,’ she said. ‘After more than two years, I still have some balance problems and use a cane to walk.’ She also wears an ankle-to-knee brace on her left leg and goes to rehabilitation therapy three times a week.
‘The stroke especially affected my son,’ she said of the couple’s two children, both now away at college. ‘He was (emotionally) shocked by it. My husband had to help him get to school and accept what was going on.’
The stroke greatly changed their lifestyle. She had been a paraprofessional employed at a treatment center serving mentally ill people. Elizabeth said she may never be able to work again because the stroke affected her eyesight, memory, and fine motor skills. She doesn’t drive a car, and is unsure if she will ever drive.
Yet affected by the stroke, she still does a couple things to help others. For one, she volunteers best she can at a hospital two days each month as a receptionist and does the same light chores at a senior center once a week. She can only tolerate about four hours of volunteering at a time. The volunteer ‘jobs’ are fun and get her out of the house, she said.
Recently, she helped a friend start a stroke support group for her area. She said, ‘We’ve been trying to get people to come. At our first meeting, we had six people show up.’
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