Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability among adults in the United States. On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Are you at risk? Do you know the warning signs? Would you know what to do? How can you reduce your risk and improve your outcome if you do have a stroke?
You don’t have to be old to have a stroke. I have a friend whose son had a stroke in his 20’s while at college. It can happen to anyone. My friend Donna had a stroke at 71years of age. She’s the reason I am writing this. She did not know she was having a stroke until it was too late to get one of the new treatments that can stop brain damage, disability and even save lives. If only she had known – if only she had recognized the warning signs and got to the hospital within less than 3 hours after the first symptom she might have gotten TPA and it might have made her recovery so much easier. But she, like many others, knew well the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which are widely shared with the public, but knew nothing about strokes.
What is a stroke? It’s an event in which either a blockage of or a rupture of a blood vessel cuts off blood and oxygen supply to a part of the brain – causing the brain cells to die in that area. The brain controls the whole body, so depending on where the problem is, you can get particular symptoms such as sudden numbness, weakness of the face, arm, or leg, usually on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance; or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Fortunately her hospital was designated as a stroke center. That, along with her determination to get well, whatever it took, improved her chances for recovery. They do state of the art aggressive treatment beginning immediately, including all kinds of rehabilitation. Recovery is possible, and the sooner the better. There is much more hope than there used to be. We used to think that if brain cells died there was no hope of recovery. Now we know brain cells can regenerate. Together with the new treatments, there is a lot more hope. And hope is very important. It really makes a difference. With hopelessness comes helplessness, and then brain cells cannot regenerate.
Donna was sitting, writing Christmas cards and had some tingling in her right toes. She wiggled her toes, shook her foot, and did not think much about it. They fell asleep. So she went to bed, slept through the night and when she got up to go to the bathroom her right leg would not hold her up, she couldn’t use her big telephone because her right arm and hand were numb and weak. She managed to use her elbow to call her sister’s programmed number on her cell phone that was in her pocket. Her speech was unintelligible but her sister heard the fear and came right over. Meanwhile she managed somehow to get the attention of her neighbor who noticed her face drooping and knew she had a stroke. He helped get her down the elevator and her sister took her to the hospital. Her blood pressure was high for the first time, and a blood clot had gone to her brain.
Had she known the warning signs, she would likely have looked in the mirror the night before and a few other things that would have alerted her and she would have gotten to the hospital in time for this life-saving treatment. She was highly motivated, eagerly did all the therapies and then some – speech, occupational, physical therapy and more that she asked for to help meet her own special needs living alone, and using the computer. She made a lot of suggestions such as about patients helping patients, tailoring rehab to individual needs in addition to doing the routine things, about lightening up, and so on. She has made a remarkable recovery that she has worked hard for. She knows that she could have another stroke, and she’s determined to do her best to avoid that,
She wants to get this information out – she wants people to know what she didn’t know about warning signs and early treatments. She wants it to go out to everybody so the same thing does not happen to them. Thanks Donna for caring, and if it helps just one person it will be worth it.
If you would like to read more please go to this excellent link:
Information shared here is not intended as medical advice, and cannot substitute for professional medical advice and information. Information provided is general in nature and may be helpful to some people but not others, depending on their personal medical needs. Always consult with your personal physician before changing or undertaking a new exercise program or following advice designed for general audiences only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay getting care because of something you have read here.