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The Stroke

The Stroke
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
The Stroke
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

It happened at the end of February. My sister called in the middle of the afternoon to tell me that a cousin — one of our favorite cousins, very close in age to me — had apparently had a stroke earlier that day. I was driving, and I quickly navigated off the road and sat in a parking lot to listen to her as she relayed information she had learned from a phone conversation with my mother, which at the time, wasn’t much. What we did know was this: realizing that my cousin may be having a stroke, his family whisked him to the hospital as fast as they could. They called the hospital on their way and told the staff that they were bringing in a patient who seemed to be having a stroke. Medical professionals at the hospital were ready for his arrival and quickly administered medication to help break up blood clots, improving his chances of recovering.

That was weeks ago, and my cousin’s improving each and every day — though the recovery process will be slow and often frustrating. But we are all so thankful that he’s still here with us, and that’s why I chose to write about strokes today — because his family’s swift action was a factor in his survival. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or significantly reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients, and leading to the death of brain cells within minutes. Recognizing the warning signs and knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death, and can significantly affect the victim’s chances for recovery.

The symptoms of a stroke can range widely but are often sudden and severe. The most common signs can be remembered with the acronym FAST, meaning Face, Arms, Speech, and Time.

Face — Look for drooping or numbness on one side of the face. Ask the person to smile and see if their smile is uneven or lopsided.

Arms — Observe if there is weakness or numbness in the arms. Request them to raise both arms — does one arm drift downward?

Speech — Listen for slurred speech or difficulty understanding or talking. Prompt them to repeat a simple phrase and note if their speech is strange or slurred.

Time — If you notice any of these symptoms, even if they fluctuate or disappear, call emergency services immediately.

Think FAST!

But other symptoms can occur, too, including confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and a severe headache with no known cause. Not all these signs occur with every stroke, and sometimes they can pass quickly. However, it’s essential to take any of these signs seriously, even if they disappear, and seek emergency medical help right away. The longer brain cells are deprived of oxygen, the greater the potential for damage. Quick action is crucial when it comes to stroke, as treatments are most effective if given within a few hours after symptoms start. Moreover, emergency personnel often begin life-saving treatments in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and can ensure that the person receives immediate care upon arrival.

And a note about preventative measures — healthy lifestyle choices can decrease the risk factors of a stroke significantly. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol can mitigate some of the risks. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can aid in managing chronic conditions like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which if left uncon- continued from page

trolled, can contribute significantly to the likelihood of a stroke. But even healthy folks who’ve done everything they can to prevent a stroke, will have a stroke sometimes, and strokes do not discriminate by age or fitness level. In fact, I have a friend who is an elite athlete (a longdistance runner) who had a stroke in his thirties.

Each year, strokes afflict hundreds of thousands of our friends, family members and neighbors, acting with fierce urgency and wreaking havoc in the lives of those affected and their loved ones. Awareness is the first step towards being prepared for this lifethreatening condition. Remember the FAST acronym, and make sure your family knows the signs and symptoms, too. Talk about what to do. Make a plan. Be prepared.

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