Brain Attack

Yesterday, I read a distressing Facebook post from a woman who was sitting in a hospital after her father had had a stroke. He was in his workshop, stumbling around and slurring his words, and she still had to yank the plug of his saw out of the wall before he would stop working. It reminded me of my own father’s refusal to admit he was having a stroke as he apparently ignored HOURS of facial drooping and inability to keep liquids in his mouth as he drank. By the time he got to the hospital, his blood pressure was something like 220/160 and he had suffered a full-blown stroke.

PEOPLE!!!! We cannot afford to ignore the symptoms of a stroke! Think of it as a brain attack, because that’s exactly what it is! The sooner it’s treated, the sooner the damage can be minimized.

Most strokes are the result of clots (ischemic), but some are caused by bleeds (hemorrhagic). Either way, the sooner the damage is detected and properly treated, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Some people have tiny clots that temporarily cause stroke symptoms (drooping facial muscles, slurred speech). These attacks are called TIAs, Transient Ischemic Attacks. The problem is, by the time the person gets to an emergency room, the clot has often passed and the symptoms have resolved, and then the patient is sent home only to wait for “The Big One” – which is coming, most likely. HINT: with most of us having cell phones/tablets these days, take a photo or short video of the person if you can and show it to the ER staff. That will give them a basis for ordering the right tests or medicines to prevent a recurrence.

If you or someone you know or love is having any of the following symptoms, get to an emergency room as fast as you can:

– facial muscles drooping on one side

– when you smile, your smile is crooked

– when you stick your tongue out, the tongue deviates to one side, not midline

– when you raise your arms, one lags behind

I can tell you from my father’s experience and from listening to similar stories from my patients over the past 25 years, that denial is powerful. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve treated who are left with permanent dysfunction from a stroke because they didn’t get to a hospital soon enough.

DON’T ignore what’s happening. DON’T let a loved one put you off, and say nothing is wrong. Remember, it’s a brain attack!

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