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My brain stem stroke happened when the left vertebral artery, which carries blood and oxygen, dissected.  This happened when the inner layer of the inside of the artery wall partially tore off.  The inner layer acted like a flap, which then blocked the blood flowing to my brain stem.  This was especially important because blood carries oxygen with it.  The lack of oxygen to my brain stem is what ultimately caused my stroke. 

The lack of oxygen also caused damage to my Central Nervous System.  This caused a very serious problem called central pain syndrome.  

Below, I have provided information about the functions of the brain stem.  I included this information so it can be better understood why the deficits from my stroke caused so much damage. 

Brain stem

The brain stem is the stem-like part of the base of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord.

The brain stem controls the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body, and it also controls basic body functions such as breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, consciousness, and whether one is awake or sleepy.

Brain stem Structure

bullet Midbrain
bullet Pons
bullet Medulla Oblongata

In my case, the area of the brain stem that was damaged was the Pons.  The pons is a major structure in the upper part of the brain stem. The pons has two over-arching roles.

The first role is the regulation of breathing. In the pons, there is a structure called the pneumotaxic center. It controls the amount of air breathed and breaths per minute, which is known as the breathing rate. The second role is the transmission of signals to and from other structures in the brain, such as the cerebrum or the cerebellum.

The pons is also involved in sensations such as hearing, taste, and balance.  Furthermore, it is involved in the regulation of deep sleep.

Below is a list of involuntary functions that were affected by my brain stem stroke.  It is a very strange feeling to not have any control over these functions.  An example is breathing.  I breathe automatically.  I cannot make myself hold my breath.  Furthermore, if asked to take a deep breath, I cannot take one. 

Involuntary Functions
bullet Breathing
bullet Swallowing
bullet Reflexes to seeing and hearing
bullet Startle Response
bullet Autonomic Nervous System
bullet Sweating
bullet Blood Pressure
bullet Digestion
bullet Temperature 
bullet Ability to sleep
bullet Vestibular Function
bullet Sense of balance

Observed Problems

bullet Decreased vital capacity in breathing, important for speech
bullet Balance
bullet Movement
bullet Dizziness
bullet Vertigo
bullet Sleeping difficulties
bullet Insomnia

My stroke happened in the upper brain stem.  It was so severe that it severed the connections between the brain and the body. I retained consciousness and intelligent thought but had become entirely paralyzed except for eye movements. I could not move anything below my nose.  This is called locked-in syndrome. I was locked-in for about three weeks.  These three weeks were the worst nightmare of my life.  I was scared to death! 


Since I was locked-in and lost my speech, communication was initially possible by eye gazing (to letters or words on a Communication Board), by code using blinking (once for yes and twice for no), or movements of the eyes (staring at objects, people, etc).

Read my blog article to find out how my communication has progressed.   

Cranial Nerves

The cranial nerves are scattered in various locations along the length of the brain stem.  The function of the cranial nerves, for the most part similar is to the spinal nerves, the nerves that are associated with the spinal cord. There are twelve pairs of nerves that emanate from the nervous tissue of the brain.  Nine of mine were damaged by my stroke. 

Certain Pain Syndrome

My brain stem stroke also caused damage to my Central Nervous System.  This caused a very serious and neuropathic pain problem called central pain syndrome.  

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Favorite Scriptures

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2Cor 4:18

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.   1 Timothy 6:9 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30



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