World Stroke Month – A New Perspective

Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

World Stroke Month – A New Perspective

If I had written last May about World Stroke Month, as a nurse of more than thirty years, I would have been able to share many facts, signs and symptoms, treatment options, preventative measures, and even some of the struggles patients and families will face after a stroke.

 

If I had written it last May.

 

But I didn’t write it last May, as a nurse of over thirty years. Instead I am writing it this May, as a daughter of a stroke patient.

 

Here are some of the statistics I would have shared last year:

According to the CDC at cdc.gov

“Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans died from stroke—or one person every four minutes—died from stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Each year, almost 800,000 strokes occur in the United States. Strokes often lead to serious, life-changing complications. . .”

 

Strokes don’t just happen to the elderly. It can happen to anyone. Some of the effects of stroke listed by the CDC are below:

  • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.
  • Problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.
  • Problems understanding or forming speech.
  • Difficulty controlling or expressing emotions.
  • Numbness or strange sensations.
  • Pain in the hands and feet.
  • Depression

So, back to my story. Last May my Daddy suffered a stroke. It was determined that it was an embolic stroke, meaning that due to atrial fibrillation in his heart, he had formed tiny clots that had traveled to his brain and caused the damage. He miraculously recovered a great deal of function, but was left with some significant challenges in how his brain processed. But, for the most part we believed God had given us a miracle and we had dodged the bullet.

The doctors put him on a medication to prevent further clots and strokes and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Until autumn, when he incredibly suffered a second stroke. I say incredibly because the doctors are still befuddled by how someone on that particular medication could have a stroke. But he did. And this time, he was left with damage to his speech center. We are still thankful. Grateful. Counting our blessings. Daddy is still with us, he is still wise, loving, funny, kind, and gentle. We count each day a blessing. But, it occurred to me. I’ve learned a few things through this experience so I thought I would share them here.

  1. A stroke will change your life forever – We can’t go back. It isn’t going to go away.  Daddy has said it over and over—“My brain just doesn’t work the same.” The damage requires rehab, exercises, medications, doctor’s visits, retirement, all lifestyle changes not only for my dad, but for my mom as well. And, despite the best care and an incredibly motivated and hard-working patient, the damage is still there.

 

  1. It isn’t just the patient whose life changes. Stroke changes the dynamic of the entire family. Children find themselves helping parents through the maze of post-stroke life, picking up more and more responsibility. Even grandchildren step up, taking on responsibility! This isn’t easy for anyone involved. In our family, we have discovered that each of his four children is uniquely gifted to help in a different way. We each do our part and so far, it is working. Words cannot say how thankful this makes me.

 

  1. Our brains are amazing! The thing that struck me so impressively was just how intricately the brain works, day after day with no fanfare. We take it all for granted, it is so automatic.

For instance, I didn’t know that speech and the ability to sing are in different parts of the brain! Yes, really!                  While Daddy struggles to talk, he can sing the hymns he has spent his life leading congregations through.

And then there are those interrupted pathways. One therapist described it as if you are on your way to work                 and the road is closed. So, you turn around and go another way. But, that road is closed too. So, you are forced             to wander around new neighborhoods looking for a connecting street. Hopefully, you find one before you are               late. With the stroke patient, hopefully they find a new pathway and then can keep using it until the brain                     hardwires it. Incredible. But such hard work. And, sometimes the stroke patient forgets where they are trying to           go before they get there!

  1. Daddy was right when he taught us these truths: God holds the keys of life and death and he gives us struggles to grow us up. Either one of Daddy’s strokes could have ended his life. But, God isn’t done with him yet. It is no secret to those who know me well; if I’m not careful I can catastrophize. But, this event gave me one more opportunity to grow in this area. God is good, all of the time. He loves us. Our days are numbered by an all-knowing, loving God. What more could we ask?

I’m sure I could find more to write about, but I’ll stop here. I do want to leave you with the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Because, if you spot these you must act immediately. No taking a shower, mowing the lawn, waiting an hour or ten to see if it gets better. Seek immediate medical attention. Early treatment could reverse the damage in some cases but there is a narrow window of opportunity! As we found out, immediate treatment doesn’t always mean reversal of symptoms, but who knows, it might for you or your loved one!

From the strokeassociation.org this helpful acronym:  FAST

 

F              Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A             Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S              Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T              Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

 

My parents this year: Happy Anniversary Daddy and Mom! 42 years and counting!

Daddy and Mom 2016

One Comment

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  1. Cyn Rogalski

    All true Miriam.
    I had a stroke when I was 16 years old, from birth control pills. It was June 7, 1974. I It was a Friday. The emergency doctors told my mother I was on drugs; take me home-I’ll’come down’ in a couple of hours. Mom brought me back on Saturday-they still insisted it was drugs. Sunday, back to the hospital-my mother ready to strangle someone, insisted on during our family doctor & having someone else see me. I remember the (new)Dr examined me, & agreed something was wrong. He asked me why I didn’t die? I garbled out that it wasn’t time yet. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 28, but He knew me…and knew He needed me for something! Speech took the longest to come back…(and now it’s hard to shut me up)!

    Thanks for this Miriam. Medicine has come a long way.