In September 2018, Michael Johnson had a stroke. “Why did this happen to me?” was the question the retired athlete pained himself with. He did all the “right things” – didn’t smoke, ate healthily and, obviously, worked out. “It’s natural for anyone to go through that period of anger,” he said with self compassion. Remembering back to the moment it happened, Johnson told The Guardian he had felt “a sort of tingling sensation” in his left arm.
Positioned in his home gym, Johnson “hobbled over” to his weights bench and thought, “Am I having a cramp or something?”
“I called my wife, Armine, over and said, ‘Hey, something feels weird. Something doesn’t feel right.’”
Johnson recalls feeling “no pain”, “no jolting moment” that would have led him to believe he was suffering from a stroke.
“I think that’s one of the things that makes it so potentially dangerous,” he said.
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Armine drove her husband to the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica – 20 minutes from their Malibu home.
It was the right decision, as a CT scan and MRI scan confirmed Johnson had had a brain attack.
“I’d been able to get off my bed, and on to the MRI table myself – but when the MRI ended 30 minutes later, I could no longer walk,” he recalled.
“I couldn’t stand or put any weight on my left leg. The numbness in my left arm had increased significantly and I couldn’t feel the two smallest fingers of my left hand. And my foot was completely numb.”
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Only 50 years old at the time, the doctors diagnosed Johnson with a lacunar stroke.
“It made me feel – it’s hard to describe – just afraid and scared, and wondering what my future was going to be,” Johnson added.
Crediting his prompt visit to hospital and physical fitness, medical staff said Johnson stood an improved chance of recovering.
But that journey of recovery wasn’t an easy stint, the former sprinter had to learn how to walk again with the help of a physiotherapist.
“The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person, but usually begin suddenly,” added the NHS.
Depending on where the brain attack occurs, symptoms will vary from person to person.
Other possible symptoms can include:
- Complete paralysis of 1 side of the body
- Sudden loss or blurring of vision
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying
- Problems with balance and co-ordination
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- A sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- Loss of consciousness.