New mom Kate Sippel had a gut feeling something was seriously wrong with her, according to a feature story on TODAY.
Her arm would go numb several times a day during her first weeks postpartum, and after several months, she started collapsing, becoming paralyzed for 30 seconds at a time.
“My whole body just hit the ground like a big lump,” she told NBC’s Morgan Radford. “While we were a little shaken up about it, we kind of said ‘Well, maybe you’re tired, stressed, something like that.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t just a one time occurrence for Sippel, as the next day, while she was in the car with her family, it happened again. Sippel says the entire left side of her body went completely numb and she was unable to speak.
“The only thing that came out of my mouth was garbled nonsense,” she recounted. “I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move my mouth, my tongue, anything.”
Sippel’s husband was the first to recognize the possibility his wife was having strokes, but doctors at first didn’t take the Sippels’ concerns seriously as the imaging tests at the hospital showed no signs of stroke. As a result, doctors attributed her symptoms to stress.
Still concerned, Sipple contacted her primary care doctor, who recommended she get an evaluation from a neurologist.
The neurologist ordered an emergency MRI for Sippel, which showed the source of the problem: she had Moyamoya disease, a rare disorder in which one of the brain’s arteries is obstructed, causing transient ischemic episodes, or “ministrokes.”
Thanks to her diagnosis, which confirmed she was having 10-15 strokes a day, Sippel was able to get medication prescribed to her to help manage her condition. However, Sippel knew that she didn’t want to suffer for the rest of her life, so she began looking for alternative solutions.
Shel began her search for doctors who specialized in Moyamoya disease and found herself at the Cleveland Clinic. There, Sippel underwent a procedure to open up a new source of blood to her brain and bypass the blocked artery.
She hasn’t had a stroke since.
“I joke that it was an easier recovery than my C-section,” Sippel said. “I’ve been doing great.”
Looking back, Sippel admits she’s glad she advocated for herself despite her initial diagnosis and believes that the support of her family helped give her the courage to keep pressing when she knew something was wrong.
“I hope that people realize (they don’t have to) take the first opinion as it is what it is,” she said. “People need to be their own advocates…They need to find someone that can help them if they do not feel they’re being well taken care of where they’re at.”