My flight home was nearly over. I hadn’t been home in 6 weeks, and was looking forward to seeing my family and friends on the one Saturday I had off before flying out again the next day. I work nationally around Australia for a compliance and testing company. We travel pretty much non stop. I was working on a project worth $8 million for a client to upgrade some equipment across multiple sites.
The work was rough, all nighters from 7pm to 8:30am, the day of, after arriving off a 5 hour cross country flight. No sleep for nearly 27 hours and even then your body doesn’t want to adjust right.
All the workers complained, aches, pains, fatigue, not enough time for the deadline, but at the end of the day, you just have to get the job done, so I pushed and pushed and pushed. We purchased 4 cases of 700ml Rockstar Energy drinks and 20 litres of Gatorade. I drank 2-3 Rockstars and 4.5 litres of gatorade a night, and still was dehydrated. We it was time to sleep back at our accommodation, it was straight to bed, maybe a quick meal.
The job got completed. There were 6 crews that first week, and only mine got it done on time, everyone else failed. It was Friday morning, straight to the hotel to grab our gear and off to the airport for a midday flight out to the next city for a Sunday night start. The city was my home. Yay! I get a night at home! I was elated. We flew Business class, and even on the short haul, fell straight to sleep. When I woke before landing, my right thigh felt funny. ‘Jeez it’s numb and burning’ I told my coworker. He regaled me how he had similar issues during the job with his bad back. I thought nothing of it.
We landed and I went to meet my partner to head home. That’s when I felt really poorly. My right hand went numb, then my arm, my right heel and parts of my foot. ‘Take me to the doctors at home, I feel like shit’ I told my partner. Why I didn’t say Hospital, I don’t know.
My doctor was mortified. My blood pressure was through the roof. I was exhausted. Slightly incoherent and slurring my speech. I didn’t think I was that bad. ‘You’ve had a TIA’ he told me blankly. ‘You’ll need a CT as soon as possible to see what the damage is’
What the hell is a TIA? ‘Transient Ischemic Attack, a small stroke’ I panicked. I felt a wave of dread. My uncle had a stroke in his 50s, and loss the use of his right arm! my heart raced. ‘It’s not likely you’ll have long term damage, you’ll get function back over the next 48 hours’ I am 29! how the hell did I have a stroke? He asked, ‘been under any stress, had long shifts or energy drinks?’ I told him, he shook his head. ‘none of that crap anymore, stress less, might be time to change jobs, and you need to lose weight’
The CT came back from the Neurologists, diffused swelling and Cerebral Spinal Fluid noted, but should further issue arise, MRI to be undertaken, other than that, supportive care.
Over the next two days my feeling came back and I got full function. I had to have my pressure monitored constantly, be as relaxed as possible. I take blood pressure meds, anti epilepsy, and others.
I have been advised never to touch coffee, stimulant drugs, or energy drinks. I have also been advised to possibly seek an alternate position in the company and to STRESS LESS.
Stress is really a silent killer who creeps up on you. Take my word, slow down or you may be 29 and having your first stroke.