For the purposes of this website, my life was pretty boring until 2005. And then at the age of 24, out of nowhere, I had a stroke.
2005 – a few months after the stroke
I had always considered myself to be pretty healthy, and had no major health issues prior to that. The stroke occurred as a result of a lesion (most likely a blood clot) in the right side of my pons. I lost fine motor function on my left side, which was not very fun considering that I’m left handed. Besides having to learn how to walk again, I had to re-learn how to write, play guitar, hold a fork, etc. Luckily, my young brain quickly recovered, and after a couple months of physical therapy I was pretty much back to normal. A lot of excellent doctors treated me, but no one ever figured out what caused the stroke.
2006 – hospitalized for a month for autoimmune diagnosis
A little over a year later I noticed that I was having a hard time exercising. I kept thinking I was just way out of shape. It got so bad that I was out of breath even from walking, so I went to the doctor. I then spent the next month or so living in a hospital, being tested for a wide range of possibilities – long story short is they settled on a narrowing of my pulmonary arteries, most likely due to inflammation, that was causing my shortness of breath. I was diagnosed with the rare autoimmune disease Takayasu’s Arteritis, which is characterized by the narrowing of arteries due to inflammation (but only rarely in the pulmonary arteries). The cause of this disease, like most autoimmune diseases, is not known. So then I spent a year on heavy immunosuppressant therapy; we tried a combination of steroids and other scary drugs, and they worked for the most part. I would still get winded upon exertion, but I could at least function.
2007 – about a week after surgery
In the fall of 2007 I went to California to have a pulmonary re-sectioning surgery performed, where the doctors would remove the inflamed tissue surrounding my arteries and enlarge the arteries using parts of a cow’s pericardium. I often joke that I sometimes crave grass. It’s a pretty scary procedure, something they call a standstill operation – in order to get to the arteries, they had to perform a full cardiopulmonary bypass, deep hypothermia and full cardiac arrest. As you can imagine, when you’re clinically dead for 8 hours there’s a pretty good chance you won’t come back. It was a scary moment in my life, and I am so grateful for my supportive wife and family for being there to help me through it. I made it out okay and now I have a killer scar and some crazy stories. Unfortunately, it didn’t ease my symptoms – I was on the same amount of medication with little or no improvement.
2007 – immunosuppressant steroids caused weight gain and other side effects
Flash forward to 2010. My continuous steroid and immunosuppressant medication therapy was starting to take its toll, even though I was trying to slowly taper off the steroids. I felt lousy almost all of the time, and worse still was the fact that I couldn’t foresee it getting any better. I then happened across an article that mentioned this crazy diet modeled after cavemen that eliminated grains, and it could reverse autoimmune symptoms. Within a week I had devoured The Paleo Solution and just about every Paleo resource I could find, and switched my diet. My inflammation markers decreased significantly within a month.
2011 – about six months after adopting the Paleo diet
Since then things have been much better. I’m not cured – there’s no mistaking that I still have a serious autoimmune condition – but the Paleo diet has absolutely helped. I started exercising for the first time since 2006. I was able to get off of steroid therapy, which was causing all sorts of side effects (weight gain, brittle bones, memory issues, shingles, and so on). Lastly, my wife and son have joined me on this crazy journey, which gives me comfort that we’ll all three live long, healthy lives.