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I have been staring into nothingness for hours. Thoughts come and go, floating past like autumn leaves on a burbling stream.

For the first time in my life I feel vulnerable. In spite of my lifelong healthy diet, regular exercise and mindfulness… I’ve had a stroke. Two actually, but who’s counting? 

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women; 55,000 more women than men die each year from strokes. I didn’t see mine coming and didn’t even recognize it when it did, but first, a quick primer:

♥️There are different types of strokes: one caused by a blood clot is an Ischemic Stroke. If it’s caused by a blood vessel rupturing, it’s called a Hemorrhagic Stroke and a TIA (transient ischemic attack) is caused by a temporary blood clot.

♥️There are known risk factors, some completely within your control: being overweight, lack of exercise, eating a high-fat diet and cigarette smoking. Others include high blood pressure (keep it below 140/90), diabetes (with blood sugar levels above 7), high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

♥️There are risk factors specific to women: pregnancy, taking birth control pills, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and risk factors stronger in women: having migraines with auras, atrial fibrillation, diabetes mellitus, lupus, depression and psychosocial stress. 

Please commit this to memory:  Currently the only acute treatment for stroke is with a clot-busting drug known as tPA, which must be administered within 2.5 hours of the onset of a stroke!

  • FACE: drooping, uneven smile or brows, can’t stick out tongue evenly.
  • ARMS: weakness, numbness or tingling on one side. Can’t raise them and hold them in place for a count of ten.
  • STABILITY: can you stand? Are you off-balance?
  • TALKING: difficulties, slurring and unable to pronounce words or repeat a sentence.
  • EYES: blurring, double-vision, pupils differ, visual field effects, loss of sight.
  • REACT: call AN AMBULANCE immediately! Do not drive yourself.


  • DIFFICULTY SWALLOWING. You can’t drink a glass of water.
  • VERTIGO: dizzy, spinning 

I woke at 4:30 am with my left forearm half-asleep and tingly. Then the left side of my face begin tingling. I turned on my bathroom lights to observe my face – I saw no asymmetry: I smiled, raised my eyebrows, stuck out my tongue, stood on one foot, then the other. I held my hands out in front of me and counted to 10. No headache, no nausea. No blurry vision.

Because I didn’t know then that tingling was one of the FASTER stroke indicators, I didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, I went back to bed.

When I went to my doctor 48 hour’s later, she sent me to the ER for an MRI of my brain and neck (not suspecting a stroke), and an Echocardiogram to see what was making my heartbeat wildly irregular. Everyone was surprised… I had two small strokes!

I have stopped HRT (with no ill effects); I’m taking two new medications and wearing a heart monitor for 30 days. I consider myself lucky. If you need to, lose that extra weight, stop smoking, find a friend to walk with and monitor your health issues carefully. Do it for yourself. And do it for those who love you.

XO Donna

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Donna O’Klock spent 35 years in the beauty business, talking, teaching, and learning. These days, she’d “rather write than talk. It’s better that way because I can edit.” She writes two blogs, and, and is the author of  Sick and Tired & Sexy: Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness.

Austin, Texas, has been her home since 1978, but she and her fiancé have downsized and are traveling the country in their RV.

24 thoughts on “I HAD TWO STROKES”

  1. Donna,
    I am so happy you lived to tell about your experience. And thank you for the timely, thorough information about strokes in women and signs to look for.
    Just three days ago, I woke up and felt nauseous and dizzy. The dizzyness didn’t go away and I immediately thought stroke. I raised my arms and smiled and that was ok so I called the doc instead of 911. It turned out to be vertigo.
    Again thank you for this post.


    • Thank you Lucy, so am I. And I am especially grateful that I am able to still write. So glad you knew to check for stroke symptoms, and that your doc knew what it was right away!
      Please share this post with your friends, and family for me. Thank you!
      XO Donna

    • As always, you are my champion and the one I model myself after. Thank you once again for your strength, your courage, and your intelligence in sharing this important information with us.

  2. One year ago on April 16th I too awoke with tingling in my left arm but turned over and went back to sleep, awoke again with the same and adjusted my position and slept till morning. When I got up all was fine and proceeded to wash my face and realized my left side of my face was numb sort of. Otherwise I felt fine and I also checked my arms for stability, smiled, the whole routine for checking for stroke. Everything checked out ok so got dressed and called in to my doctor because my face still seemed numb. I had to leave a message and when they didn’t return my call shortly I left and went to the dry cleaners and grocery store and finally came back home and found multiple calls from my doctors office so I called back and they insisted I go to the er. Long story short, they ran all kinds of tests insisting it was stroke related but I looked perfect. Finally they had to do a mri and it showed up. I was kept overnight and released, I now take a baby aspirin and very low dose blood pressure medicine. It should also be noted that my red blood cell count is/was high which makes your blood thicker so we are keeping a tab on that, donating regularly will help with that as well. I exercise daily eat mostly well except for sweet tooth, and my weight is ok for my height, I was under a lot of stress due to imminent deaths of family member which we didn’t realize at the time so I am sure that was part of it. I was lucky it could have been worse but I feel confident and healthy now. I will say to you it took several months for the very subtle affects to completely go away so I eventually felt 100% again. Hang in there, do what they tell you and take each day slowly until you feel normal again. When I say take it slow I am referring to not trying to do everything at 100 mph, take your time, the affects will subside and you will be fine. Good luck , you are going to be ok again.

    • How did you know that’s exactly what I’ve been wondering today? Everything still feels foggy, but I am having fun cooking and binge-watching Longmire. I can’t believe we had the same experience!! So very helpful to hear from you and believe this will resolve itself with “tincture of time.”
      Bless you!

      • Donna, one more thing I forgot to tell you is that initially it affected my vision a little, very slight but noticeable to me, this also corrected itself after several months. I think the brain heals itself in time at least it seemed that way to me. I know you are in a hurry to get back to being your old self but it is going to take a while, several months likely. You are going to be okay again, you have my email and if you want to vent to someone who has been there, feel free to contact me. Six weeks from now you will think to yourself, hey I feel a little more like myself!

        • And, again you are right on my wavelength! Yes, a bit of visual blurriness.. but it matches the way I feel in general. LOL.
          Thank you again for your reassurances. I am enjoying this pace; I aim only to get one thing a day done. An “all time low” for me. 🙂

    • Thank you Barbara! I am happy it wasn’t worse, What a learning experience. Taking lots of time to chill.

  3. Excellent post, Donna! Thank you so much for telling us about this! I never heard tingling was a symptom! So thankful you are okay!

    • Thank you, Beckye! And, I thought I knew everything! (LOL) Please share with your friends… since that makes a few of us who didn’t know.

  4. Donna, Deborah’s given you some great advice, which I imagine you already know, but take it slow and don’t get discouraged. Give in to being tired while walking the exercise line. “Going out for a stroll as you put it in a text.” This is such an important post for all of us, and I know you will continue to improve. After you called to tell me what happened, I began having tingling in my leg, but I’m pretty sure it’s from something I do at the gym, plus sitting at this blasted computer all day. Even so, I worried about it for a couple of weeks. Love, Brenda

  5. Brenda, you’re right about Deborah’s comment, it makes me hopeful. As far as taking it slow, if I went any slower, I’d be at a dead stop. But, it is what it is.
    My advice about sitting for long periods… set an alarm on your phone and get up every hour, or as soon after as you can reach a stopping point. Stretch, walk to the kitchen or bathroom, then settle back in to work.
    Can’t wait to read your book!

  6. THANKS SO MUCH for posting this. We all need this information and I need the reminder. Around the age of 53, I was teaching a bodywork workshop, demonstrating a shoulder compression, and I felt/heard a buzzing in my head and slid off the model’s shoulder and fell to the floor. I was conscious but don’t remember much. I arranged for some assistants to drive me to the San Francisco hospital where my husband was a doctor. I was diagnosed as having a PICA stroke. It has opposite muscular symptoms from a regular stroke: complete relaxation of the left side, rather than contraction. I couldn’t stand up and had no sensation in my left arm. It is a type of stroke had by younger people, average age of 40. I could walk within a week with physical therapy, Feldenkrais and Trager Movement Education, but it took 4 months of healing to rejoin my life. For those 4 months, I was living in the moment, happy and centered, no past regrets, no future worrying. Then one day I thought about what I was going to do the next day and said “Oh s___! I’m well. While my physical symptoms healed too, and 20 years later, I’m very active, I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of any kind of a stroke. I take baby aspirin everyday since I am at higher risk of a repeat.

    • Wow, Sheila-Merle!! It is good to know that you recovered, too. What a journey. I am finding myself surprised by how many women have experienced a stroke… thank you so much for sharing your experience with me!

  7. This was so interesting – your story and the comments as well. I wouldn’t have even thought of a stroke with those symptoms – I always assume it will be much more severe. Now I’ll have it in the back of my mind and that’s such a help for anything that might happen in the future. So glad your story has a happy ending and keep looking after yourself as you heal and move forward. x

    • Thank you, for your well-wishes, Leanne. I didn’t know either… The resident neurologist at the hospital and I had a long chat about these subtle symptoms. She encouraged me to write this post, and I’m so grateful for her time and knowledge.

  8. I’ve had two heart attacks but a stroke simply terrifies me. I saw my brother in law have one years ago and it was the absolute scariest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad you’re okay.

    • I understand, Rena. It seems like our technology can fix hearts, but our brains are still unknown territory. But, not all strokes are devastating, as I’ve learned firsthand, we can minimize our risk factors, and we can take action when we are informed.
      Thank you so much for writing me!

  9. Great reminders for the subtle symptoms. We all think there must be big symptoms and Don’t want to trouble the doctors or ourselves by crying wolf and going to the ER or Dr. You present the reasons to bother and go! Thank-you for sharing your story and I wish 100% soon.

  10. Hi, Haralee – The neurologist told me that it is more common for women to have that “I don’t want to trouble anyone” syndrome. Our symptoms can, and often are, be much more subtle. Very happy to share. Look forward to being %.

    • Oh, my goodness, Contessa… I do hope you’re alright! Thank you – I’m feeling better daily. Much of the tingling is gone. My concentration is improving, as is my energy. In fact, my sweetie is driving me to the store to buy rosemary, lemon thyme, and Mexican oregano plants for a small potted kitchen garden!

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