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Celeste Baronzzi

April 20, 2024

John 16:33, New International Version

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!”


Endurance Part Two


It seemed like there wasn’t any part of my life or my relationships that weren’t blessed by my new sports.


This is what I did for fun!


I was saved!


Everything wasn’t perfect, but my deepest frustrations, and disappointments were now easier to handle.


I had been training or competing for ten years and had achieved most of my goals. I started dialing way back on competitions. I had one more cycling race to end the season. But I could tell something was off during the bike race. I couldn’t maintain my target pace, and I was having trouble seeing the road and the bike beneath me. My lower peripheral vision was gone, and the rest of my vision was spotty. Other than that, I felt good. I still made the podium and earned enough points to win the season.


A couple days later, after a relaxing 1.5-mile swim, I experienced a swooshing sound in my left ear, corresponding with every beat of my heart. It seemed obvious it had to do with blood flow through that area, but it didn’t make any sense.


After a week of it, I went to my family doctor.


A week later the ER, (twice).


Everyone said there wasn’t anything wrong.


The blindness and the swooshing, and now nausea and headaches were worsening. My blood pressure remained perfect. My blood work was perfect.


I was the picture of health.


But I knew my body well…something was very wrong.


The next day was the first day at a new job. I had to call in to tell our staff nurse that I would be late because I couldn’t see my face. I was trying to put my make-up on in the mirror, but I couldn’t see my face. I certainly couldn’t try to drive. She had no idea what to say. I told her not to tell the rest of the staff. A half hour later the symptoms improved, and I drove myself to work.


By the end of the workday, again, I could not see anyone’s face. I watched my brain try to re-create my coworkers faces from memory. It was like watching a jigsaw puzzle fall apart and rearrange itself, piece-by-piece, over and over.


I kept it all to myself.


I mean, how do you explain that?


I knew I couldn’t drive home.


After everyone left, I stayed behind.


My condition continued to worsen. Even my ability to sync my body to space and time was way off.


Eventually, after a series of frustrating circumstances, I was finally transported to the Cleveland Clinic where they discovered that both my carotid arteries had radically dissected. I was getting very little blood supply to my brain. I was diagnosed with a rare, possibly genetic, vascular disease called FMD.


FMD caused the dissections, resulting in a serious stroke to my occipital lobe (the part of the brain that controls eyesight).


Over the next three days, while in the hospital, I suffered six more strokes, two of those included the loss of my left arm, and the right 3/4 of my tongue. It’s scary to realize how important a role the tongue plays in breathing, not just speaking.


But don’t worry, I am Italian so there were lots of parts of my brain that could take over control of speaking.


My condition became so fragile that every time I lifted my head off the pillow, I would have another stroke.


Please come back next week to read Endurance Part Three.

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