Stroke from a Genetic Condition Ended this Entrepreneur's Dream & Drove a New One

Depression sucks, and it lies. It's a life threatening condition that affects a lot of stroke survivors and can block their recoveries.

In 2010, business owner Keith Taylor survived a stroke. A rare genetic condition meant that the arteries and veins in his body don't always connect the way they're supposed. It's called Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). One day, that flawed connection leaked and began killing brain cell.

Keith began his journey through the stroke care system of the time, into the depths of depression, leaving the business he planned his life around  and to the life he lives today helping stroke survivors in Central Oregon and around the world live their best lives. He shares his journey in today's episode.

If you don't see the audio player below, visit http://Strokecast.com/MSN/Keith


Who is Keith Taylor?

Keith Taylor wears a blazer and looks at the camera against a dark backgroundKeith Taylor runs Strength After Stroke

Keith Taylor is a deeply passionate, and dedicated leader in the stroke community. He is dedicated to helping stroke survivors regain their own power and strength to live a full and productive life. While owning and being the sales manager of a large manufacturing business in Oregon, he had a stroke at the age of 48. After looking for, and not finding, anyone to help with the depression and lack of confidence after his stroke, he decided to create that for other stroke survivors.

He is President of the Board of Directors with Stroke Awareness Oregon and is the owner of Strength after Stroke; a company dedicated to providing resources for stroke survivors to re-ignite their desires and regain their confidence.

What is HHT?

HHT stands for Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia. That tells most of us…absolutely nothing.

The condition impacts the way the blood vessels in our body connect.

When the circulatory system works properly, blood flows from the heart under high pressure through the arteries to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the organs throughout the body. One big artery (the aorta) comes off the heart and splits into smaller and smaller arteries that carry blood to the kidneys, the toes, the brain, and every other part. The arteries are built to withstand the blood pressure.

Veins take blood from the organs and bring it back to the heart. Along the way, the deliver carbon dioxide to the lungs and waste material to the kidneys, liver, and other disposal sites. The blood is no longer under such high pressure at this point.

In between, there are capillaries. These are the tiny, thin blood vessels that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass from the blood to the organs and for carbon dioxide to pass back. Arteries branch smaller and smaller and thinner and thinner to become this huge network of capillaries, which the consolidate and get bigger and bigger until they become veins. Meanwhile, that branching down and consolidating up reduces the pressure on the blood in the system

In a patient with HHT, those capillaries don't always form where they are supposed to. Instead, the arteries will connect directly to the veins. These malformations are weak spots since the veins may not be able to handle the pressure of the blood coming into them. These AVMs, or arterial-venous malformations can then rupture or leak resulting in a hemorrhagic stroke.

You can learn more about HHT at the CDC's website here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hht/index.html#:~:text=HHT%20is%20a%20disorder%20in,present%20between%20arteries%20and%20veins.

HHT is not the only cause of AVMs but it is an important one.


Nosebleeds are an important signal that something may be wrong. Frequent or regular nosebleeds are something to discuss with your doctor.

Nosebleeds are a common indicator of HHT. Someone who has HHT will need to keep on top of their monitoring to reduce the chances of a dangerous stroke or other conditions. HHT by itself doesn't have many visible symptoms so nosebleeds can be a good flag.

In my case, it was nosebleeds that revealed my high blood pressure, which remains one of the top causes of stroke. The problem, of course, with high blood pressure is that it doesn't hurt. Unless you're checking it, you won't know you have it. Nosebleeds, however, are one powerful indicator.

If you or someone you care about has frequent nosebleeds, discuss it with your doctor. There can be lots of different causes, but often the nosebleed is the least severe consequence of that cause.

Depression Lies

I talk about depression a lot on the show because it is a big deal and stroke has been shown to cause depression. Depression can be a deadly disease.

It can also tell us not to get out of bed. Or to skip our exercises. Or to question if we should even be here. Or try to convince us we are a burden to the people who love us.

Depression interferes with our recovery, our energy, our relationships, and our view of the future.

But always remember the biggest fact about depression: Depression lies. All the time.

I first encountered this concept while reading a blog post from writer, actor, and professional geek Wil Wheaton. You can see that post at http://Strokecast.com/DepressionLies

When depression says we shouldn’t get out of bed or off the couch, depression lies.

When depression tells us our friends and families wish we weren't there, depression lies.

When depression tells us to skip therapy because it doesn't matter, depression lies.

Don't listen to the liar that is depression. Help is available. Your doctor therapist will be happy to point you in the right direction.

Hack of the Week

When you forget a name or word, channel your inner Elsa, and let it go. Just relax. It's okay to struggle with names and words. People you deal with will be okay with it. The more you stress about it, the harder it will be to remember and the more likely you are to struggle with other words, too.

Often we worry about what strangers will think about us when we are out and about, but the thing is they don't really care. Everyone we see is caught up in their own fear that everyone is judging them that they don't have the attention or energy to actually judge others.

If you think someone does give you a dirty look or something like that, remind yourself that their probably thinking about that cringey thing they said at their 8th grade dance. Somehow it just smacks them at random from the depths of their memory.

But the key is that's it's not about you. So relax.

And let it go.


Where do we go from here?

Here is the latest episode of The Strokecast

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