How Self-care Helped Save my Life
Meet Stacy Quinn, a Bayer colleague whose “stroke of luck” was discovering just how life saving an active self-care routine could be.
I’ve always been healthy. It’s something I’ve prided myself on—but I’ve never really thought my life would depend on it. But a few years ago I faced a health crisis that I was able to overcome largely because I take care of myself in just about every way possible: I watch what I eat; I exercise almost daily; I don’t smoke; and I have low cholesterol and normal blood pressure.
I remember it like it was yesterday. On my way to work a few days after Christmas, my head started to feel like someone was chipping away at my skull with a jackhammer. So I popped a few pain pills and loaded up on caffeine. I had a busy day ahead of me, and I wasn’t going to let what eventually grew into the worst headache of my life keep me from crossing things off my to-do list. While I was determined to stay the course, I was struggling. My head was pounding. My stomach was upset. My vision was a little blurry. But I kept going.
Then, during a meeting with my boss, I lost my speech. Hearing myself, I paused, took a deep breath and started speaking again. For the first time since I was a little girl, I couldn’t string together a sentence. I took another pause, closed my eyes and took another deep breath. A few seconds later, my speech returned to normal. The experience was surreal, and it left me shaken up.
Headaches Were Getting Stronger
At the time, I rationalized the incident as a side effect of the bad headache and stress. So I discounted the setback, got back to business and charged ahead through the headache. But it wasn’t stress.
Not even close. Ten days later after I had slurred speech in my boss’ office, the headache persisted and I finally got help. A neurologist in New York ordered an MRI that revealed one of the main arteries between my heart and brain had ruptured inside itself (carotid artery dissection), causing a 90% blockage of blood flow. That lack of blood flow sparked a transient ischemic attack (TIA), commonly called a mini-stroke.
I never thought stroke was something that could happen to me. In my case, I can’t connect the mini stroke to any of the risk factors. I just happen to be one of the 1 in 100,000 people who have this happen to them for no known cause.
If I hadn’t been fit and healthy, I would have likely had a full-blown stroke that could have left me with long-term health issues. I believe that my health kept me out of the operating room, helped me quickly return to most of my pre-stroke activities and reduced the blockage in my artery from 90% to 40%.
Taking care of myself in all the ways I had control over is one of the main reasons I am here to tell my story. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my health journey over the past few years. It’s a part of me, and it’s at the heart of why I’m an Ambassador for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign—an initiative that encourages women to take charge of their heart health. I’ve made it my personal mission to raise awareness of self-care, stroke symptoms and stroke in women.
Anything can happen to anyone of us at any time. But I’m lucky. I had health on my side.