In National Stroke Awareness Month, be aware of signs
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Speaking from recent personal experience, I want to stress that prevention, educating yourself about the warning signs, symptoms and risk factors of a stroke, and the urgency of acting quickly are key.
Warning signs and symptoms may include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or severe headache with no known cause. If you have migraines, talk with your physician to know how to differentiate between a migraine and a headache due to a stroke.
Warning signs can be remembered easily by the acronym ACT F.A.S.T. Face — facial droop or uneven smile; Arm — arm numbness, arm weakness or numbness or weakness of your leg; Speech — delayed or slurred speech, difficulty speaking or understanding; Time — have someone drive you or call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.
Visit with your healthcare provider about risk factors and do your part to be as healthy as possible. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, heavy alcohol use, physical inactivity, obesity, atrial fibrillation, and a family history of stroke. Keep in mind that each person’s symptoms vary and that the cause may also be related to other underlying health conditions, such as small vessel disease.
I had a stroke on April 23rd while attending a community meeting and had no pre-symptoms. I was standing in the back of the room and suddenly found myself on the floor unable to move my left leg and get up on my own (sign #1). I thought my knee must have given way due to arthritis. As I sat in a chair, I began feeling tingling and numbness from the knees down in both legs and in my neck and the back of my head (sign #2). I thought it may be a pinched nerve. A stroke never crossed my mind. Then I began feeling weak all over and my left side became heavy (sign #3).
Becky Currie was truly my guardian angel that day. She was at the same meeting and drove me to the King’s Daughters Medical Center Emergency Room (KDMC ER). As a nurse, Becky recognized the symptoms, knew I needed to go to the ER immediately, and that the tPA medication, referred to as the clot buster, had to be administered quickly. If it were not for Becky, the tPA, and KDMC, the outcome would have been very different. Dr. Brown and the KDMC ER staff acted quickly because they knew every minute counted. The air-ambulance service team was exceptional, and the St. Dominic ICU Stroke Unit provided outstanding care. Since April 23rd, I had a transient ischemic attack (tia) while at KDMC for an ultrasound. I became weak all over, my left side felt heavy, and my speech became increasingly delayed. They took me straight to the ER and Dr. Livingston and the ER staff took great care of me. The tia resolved itself and I walked out of the ER a few hours later.
Reflecting back, I see where God orchestrated every detail of both days and ensured I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people when the stroke and the TIA occurred, enabling me to have as few residual effects as possible. I am thankful that God protected me and continues to provide daily healing. I am doing well at home and remain positive that the residual effects will continue to improve over time with physical, occupational, and speech therapy at King’s Daughters Therapy Center.
I share my personal story so that if you ever have a similar experience, you will have someone immediately drive you to the ER or call 911. Don’t wait. Just because there are no pre-symptoms does not mean it is not a stroke. Be sure to ask the ER about administering the tPA medication, especially before they transfer you to a stroke unit. Time is of the essence as there is only a short window of opportunity to receive the medication, normally considered to be 3 hours from the onset of a stroke.
Educating yourself and your loved ones about the symptoms, warning signs and risk factors of a stroke, not being dismissive of the signs, and having the hospital administer tPA may very well reduce the residual effects and will possibly save your life or the life of someone you know. Remember to ACT F.A.S.T.!
Thank you all for the prayers, texts, calls, meals, flowers and transportation to therapy. I am thankful for the kindness shown by our close-knit community.