Do you know the signs of stroke?
They are abrupt on onset and start rapidly involving numbness, tingling, weakness of an arm or leg, a change in speech, slurring or inability to produce speech, there could be some dizziness although specialists warn not all dizziness means a stroke is occurring and possibly a headache.
Even though it's considered by many as "an old person's disease" it can strike any one at any age. May is National Stroke Awareness Month and being aware and getting to the E.R. immediately could mean the difference in your outcome.
John Van Velzen from Sioux Falls, and his wife Lois, treasure Tuesdays with the grandchildren. But even as they watch cartoons, they are always conscious of John's health. The 69 year old has had 3 strokes in the last 2 years. The most recent one in January.
John says, "I went to the clinic with the 1st stroke ( June 24, 2006) because I thought I had Bells Palsy which I've had before. The left side of my face fell and my left leg was numb. Well I ended up going to the Emergency Room and the doctors said it's not Bells Palsy you had a stroke. I had physical therapy and got better. Once you have one, you are more aware that's for sure."
Three of the risk factors of stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all of which John has. Others are hyper tension, obesity and smoking.
John says, "The second one I was sitting here holding my granddaughter and my hand went numb and the right side of my face got numb. That was in December of 2007. The third one was a month later in January of 2008. Now I know when they are coming on so I go to the hospital right away."
Dr. William Rossing with Neurology Associates, an Avera Specialty Care Clinic, is John's Neurologist. He says, "A TIA or stroke is very similar the same mechanism that causes the blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot that floats up to that vessel or one that forms at the site of the vessel."
Dr. Rossing goes on to say, "With TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) the blockage will open quickly, the symptoms will resolve in 24 hours, often as fast as a half an hour and back to normal in 24 hours with no neurological injury to the brain. That is the one warning sign we have. Just like chest pain for heart attack victims. It's a warning sign that something is going to happen. 10-15% of patients who have TIA go on to have a stroke usually within 3 months sometimes within 48 hours. With stroke the blockage remains and there is vascular damage to the brain."
Because the blood supply was cut off often the symptoms remain resulting in slurred speech and weakness in the limbs. John is one of the lucky ones. All things considered, he's really no worse for wear.
John says, "I don't feel like I can walk as far as I used too."
Because of where John's blockage is located in the back of brain, it's inoperable so he will have to be on blood thinners and anti-platelet agents the rest of his life. Also because he's had strokes in the past he's at increased risk for the remainder of his life of having more. That's why Dr. Rossing says it's important to know the source so they can treat it appropriately. The doctor also says to avoid strokes people need to get their diabetes controlled, get their blood pressure down and keep the tobacco out of their hands.
John says, "You get a ringing in your ears and that's when you know it's happening."
A wake-up call John will have to listen to from here on out.
Dr. Rossing says you have three hours to get to the hospital after the onset of a stroke. In that time frame doctors can determine if they can use a clot dissolving drug (TPA) to treat the stroke and possibly diminish the impact.