Lauren Wood’s story is nothing short of miraculous. At 24 weeks pregnant, Lauren suffered a stroke. In addition to being the mother of preemie twins (born at 32 weeks), she was initially unable to pick up her babies or change their diapers. Her recovery has been a remarkable journey.
We were honored to sit down with Lauren, who shared her story.
Can you tell us a little about yourself — your background, career, anything you’d like to share?
I got my masters in psychology and had been working at schools for kids with neurological and learning differences ever since I left graduate school.
What kept you busy before motherhood?
I was very focused on my job before becoming a mom. I also spent time doing traveling with family.
You’ve had an incredible journey. Can you tell our readers about the major health crisis you faced while pregnant with twins?
I had an ischemic stroke a year ago while 24 weeks pregnant with twins. I am fortunate to say my twins were unaffected by the stroke, and were born 2 months later. Now, they are 10 ½ months old, healthy, happy and thriving! But my story does not begin there. Back in 1995 when I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor called a Chordoma. To give you a picture, this type of tumor was wrapped around my brain stem, squeezing it causing headaches, snoring, and random acts of vomiting. After 4 years of treatment, which included 3 intensive brain surgeries, 1 implanted shunt, and Proton-beam radiation at Mass General in Boston, I looked like I came out of the danger. Little did I know about the side effects of head trauma (brain surgeries) and radiation. Since then, I have experienced grand mal seizures, nasal speech, double vision, hearing loss, and the latest a stroke.
September 22, 2017 – the day that turned my world upside down. I woke up the same time on Fridays because I go to an AA meeting before work. I am an alcoholic, and sure do thank God I chose to get sober before this day. I am walking into the 6:30 am meeting, hobbling along, thinking in my head, “I am so pregnant – gosh, this is tough”. After the meeting, I head to work, and it was getting harder and harder to walk – still thinking it has to do with me being so big. I work at a special needs school, by the way. Eventually, I am walking with one of my students who have Autism, and my coworker behind me asked, “Lauren, are you ok?”, to which my student replied, “Umm, she’s a little pregnant you know.” I said to the student, “That was a little sassy,” to which my student replied with pure sincerity, “Ms. Lauren, I didn’t want her to think you were fat”. All I could say was Thank you, as my coworker was cracking up behind me. One other coworker thought maybe I had some sort of pinched nerve, so, in my mind, I took that as a reason to go do Prenatal Yoga.
On September 23, I go to the Motherhood Center for a Prenatal Yoga class. Let me just say I was one hot mess! But still, in denial anything was wrong with me – I was just incredibly out of shape, even though I couldn’t put my tennis shoes on normally.
It wasn’t until the next day on September 24 that I called my OBGYN. I had become unable to comfortably get down the stairs and completely unable to tie my hair in a ponytail. I knew something wasn’t right. On the recommendation of the OBGYN on call, I went to the Methodist Annex, where they immediately determined my problem was neurological, put me in an ambulance so that I could get an MRI at Methodist Hospital. Later that night, my OBGYN came from her home to let me know that I had a stroke, and will be having another MRI the next day to determine whether or not the clot had stopped bleeding. If it wasn’t stopping, we would birth my babies at 24 weeks, have immediate brain surgery to stop the clot, and then see what would happen. For the next 24 hours, all I did was pray for the clot to stop.
September 25, my 2nd MRI determined my clot had stopped – Thank God! The doctors decided to keep me for a few more days to monitor my progress. My neurologist had told me I most likely would experience Pseudobulbar Affect (or PBA) because of the area in which my stroke occurred.
Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), or emotional incontinence, is a type of emotional disturbance characterized by uncontrollable episodes of crying and/or laughing, or other emotional displays. PBA occurs secondary to a neurologic disorder or brain injury. Patients may find themselves crying uncontrollably at something that is only moderately sad, being unable to stop themselves for several minutes. Episodes may also be mood-incongruent: a patient may laugh uncontrollably when angry or frustrated, for example. Sometimes, the episodes may switch between emotional states, resulting in the patient crying uncontrollably before dissolving into fits of laughter.
I myself was very familiar with the diagnosis having my background in Psychology. My response, “So I’m gonna be one of that kind of crazies,” probably wasn’t the most professional reaction, but given my situation, I think I can get a break.
But it amazes me now how little I knew about strokes. What experience I did have with strokes was my grandmother having multiple mini ones, drooping on one side of her body, and then everything being fine walking out of the hospital within a few days like nothing had happened. Boy, was I clueless because that wasn’t me. I remember asking the ER doctor when I could tell my supervisor I would be back at work. I will never forget his face – he said to me, “If you were my wife, I would just be happy you are alive and keep you and the babies safe trying to recover.” What I did learn as time went on, strokes are a little like Autism – they have a spectrum of severity. As days progressed, that reality started sinking in. I was unable to walk, could not easily move anything on the left side of my body, and had a hard time swallowing, not to forget, my