Tuesday, May 15, 2012

National Stroke Awareness Month

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By Diane Forrest, RN

A friend of mine's brother-in-law had a stroke a few weeks ago.  It hit all of a sudden, and affected the left side of his brain.  He was taken to the hospital as soon as he was discovered, however since it was not known how long it had been since the stroke occurred, they were unable to provide him with the clot dissolving medication.  This man was very athletic, ran in marathons, the last was for 29 miles.  The last time my friend saw him was a few days before while he was at the gym working out.  He had a living will, meaning he didn't wish to have any extraordinary means to prolong his life.  While he was in the hospital, he only had an IV drip providing fluids.  It was decided by the family that he be returned home, and have hospice make regular visits.   The man is awake, alert, and can follow some commands such as squeezing his left hand.  He is unable to speak, and unable to move his right side.

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A Stroke is when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain.  This causes brain cells to die, or be damaged. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.  Some people recover completely, and around 2/3 will have some sort of disability.  Strokes can be treated with a drug called Activase if given within the first 3 hours.  This drug will work to quickly dissolve the clot so that minimal damage is done.

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To determine if someone has had a stroke, look for these symptoms:

SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body.
SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

An easy way to remember things to check for if a stroke has occurred is the work FAST
F: Face, is there any drooping or change to one side of the facial expression
A:  Arms, are they able to raise their arms over their head
S:  Speech.  Are they able to speak and answer simple questions
T: Time, check the time that the stroke occurred, and call 911 immediately to get the necessary medications to break up the clot.

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Strokes can occur at any time, to anyone.  Be aware of the symptoms, and how to get the necessary help.  For more information, visit this site: http://www.stroke.org/site/PageNavigator/HOME

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