The Stroke from Crystal’s Point of View

Crystal spoke at Fairview Southdale’s Spine, Brain, and Stroke Conference. You can listen to her story, or read it below (If you read it, you won’t be able to hear Tanzen’s own embellishments to the story. Firefox won’t play the audio, however other browsers do).

Introduction: Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here and share my story. My name is Crystal Grotzke, and today I am accompanied by my husband Seth and my daughter Tanzen.IMG_2209

Background: Just a little background to what happened before the stroke in March- Two days before my daughter Tanzen was due, Seth and I decided to go to the mall for a walk. We were involved in a minor three car accident. I had to go to the hospital for monitoring to make sure our baby was OK, and to make the story short, we had Tanzen while we were there! Things were going really well.

Stroke: We were moved up to our room where we thought we would be staying for the next couple of days, and several of my husband’s family members came to visit. About 9 hours after Tanzen was born, I suddenly got intensely dizzy. My vision went double and started spinning. Within a few minutes, I was not responding. My entire right side could not move at all. Seth called the nurse and within a short time emergency personnel were there to help. I think there were about six people working with me. I remember very little for several hours after my vision went double. I was rushed down to have a CAT scan. I remember a couple of times just barely coming to, seeing someone’s face right in mine as they were asking me a question. I thought that maybe I was answering them, but I guess my answers were not really as coherent as I thought. I didn’t remember that I had a baby or what my last name was, and in response to some of the questions I mentioned being part of a ladies’ Bible study or quoted an English grammar rule. I remember just barely able to wonder where Seth was in the room and why he was crying.


Both my husband and his father are pastors, and they prayed with the doctors when the time came to make the decision as to whether or not TPA should be administered. Seth had a few options, most of them very scary. He could choose not to go the route of using TPA and my brain would have continued to die. He could choose to have the medical staff give me TPA and face some scary potential outcomes. I could be paralyzed because of having had an epidural. I could have serious problems bleeding since I had just given birth. Or, the TPA could stop the damage to the brain. Seth decided that we needed to try to save my brain as best as we could, so they administered TPA. Within 20 minutes or so, my toes started moving and I started being able to hear again. I couldn’t figure out why people would be so excited for my toes to move since I had no idea that I hadn’t been moving them. Over the next little while, I couldstart to move my leg, my hand and fingers, etc. I still wasvery confused and in and out. Unfortunately, I was present enough to experience all of the emergency procedures they had to do to stop the bleeding. I was frightened, thinking that I may be dying, but I was too nervous to ask Seth if I was going to do so. After all of the procedures, things were still confusing for me. It took about 12 hours after the TPA for my vision to start working properly again.

The following couple of days were filled with tests: MRI, testing to see if I had a hole in my heart, blood tests, eating and drinking tests, more blood tests, etc.

I am so thankful to God for the quick thinking and competent team work of all of the medical staff. The OB staff worked with the neurology staff to help come up with something that would work because of the abnormal situation that I was.

Encouraging and Helpful: I was so impressed with those who worked at Fairview Southdale. From the nurses and doctors that helped with the labor and delivery and afterward and the stroke and ICU, etc, etc. Many of the people were so kind. They went above what they needed to in order to take care of me, including coming in to check on me (in their street clothes!) when they weren’t working. From the nurse who would put chapstick on my lips to the one who would just stand there and take the time to listen as I cried and shared my fears and concerns. Also, they allowed my husband to stay in the room where we were all supposed to so he could get some rest, they took excellent care of my baby, loving on her and even crying over her as she wasn’t with her Mommy, and they allowed her to come down with my husband every once in a while so that I could see her.


Stroke floor: Eventually they discharged Tanzen, but they allowed her and Seth to move up to the stroke floor where I spent one night.I had to take a test, I am sure most of you are the ones giving the test, where I had to remember words, mark shapes, etc. I guess I did reallywell on the test, with the exception of having to put markings on a circle to make it into a clock and then put that it was ten to eleven. Well, I have always been weak in the area of telling time, so I failed that portion of the test and we had to convince the nurse that it wasn’t that the stroke that had damaged that part of my brain, I had always been bad at telling time.


FEAR. I was so scared the first night that I was alone. I was super dizzy when I closed my eyes to try to sleep, and I kept wondering if I was going to die. (Also, as it was my first baby, I had no idea which things were normal for postpartum and which things had been caused by the stroke.) When I came home and I would feel a twinge in my leg, I would wonder if I had a blood clot. I wasn’t afraid of what would happen after death, Jesus Christ has shed His blood on the cross in order to provide eternal life for me, but I was not desiring to die and didn’t know what would happen to Seth and Tanzen.


PRAYER: So many, many people were praying for Seth, Tanzen, and myself. People were praying for the doctors and medical staff as well.

DISCOURAGEMENT: There were so many changes so quickly, dietary changes, a new baby, medication and trying to remember what shots were supposed to happen where and how often. There were many, many doctors appointments, and it was all a lot to handle. Thankfully, God gave me a great husband and church family who helped a ton. And He blessed me in that I didn’t have to have any therapy after the stroke.

FACING QUESTIONS: Will life ever be back to “normal”? Will I have another stroke? Will I have to be on coumadin forever? Will we be able to travel, have more children, etc? But God is so good, in control of all of those situations. I had awesome INR nurses, women who were really sweet about the difficulties of the medication, lack of sleep with a new baby, so sympathetic when I had to go back onto lovenox because we couldn’t get my INR levels straightened out, etc. They were so caring!

I am so thankful that I have been able to learn more about the intricacies of the brain and how God has created things to work, and thankful that He has given you all the ability and the brains to understand and to help others! I can’t even say how much I appreciate all of those people who have helped and served me and my family through such a difficult time in our lives. Thank you to all of you for what you do, and the lives that you are impacting by working with others and helping them.