Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Mother of 4 suffers stroke but acts fast, sparing her permanent damage

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Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. It can happen to anyone at any time – no matter their age or gender. That’s why recognizing the symptoms of a stroke is so important.

“I just feel so good I forget that it happened. It still is kind of like, yeah I did have a stroke,” said Jamie Gerdes of Sioux Falls.

A mom to four little ones, Gerdes doesn’t look like your typical stroke patient. She’s young and healthy.

“It was all just kind of -- my entire body was, almost like it was numb,” said Gerdes.

“Unfortunately, younger people don’t realize when they’re having a stroke because they’re not expecting it,” said neurologist Jeff Boyle, director of the Avera Stroke Program.

Dr. Boyle says unlike heart attacks, strokes don’t hurt.

“If strokes did hurt, then maybe we’d see more people come in earlier but we have to be more vigilant and remember to kind of act fast,” said Dr. Boyle.

Act fast is the key phrase to remember.

“We use the acronym ‘act fast’ or ‘be fast’ in regards to stroke. The ‘F’ stands for ‘face’ so if there’s drooping of the face or weakness, that could be a sign of a stroke. ‘A’ is for ‘arm’ so if there’s weakness of arm, really of one side of the body is what we worry about. ‘S’ is for ‘speech’ so if their speech is slurred or if a person can’t find words. And then ‘T’ is for ‘time’ so time is really of the essence. The problem that somebody has at the onset of stroke, that can become permanent,” said Dr. Boyle.

You can be treated if you act fast.

“If somebody can come into the emergency room quick enough, there’s a clot-buster we can use to hopefully cure a stroke,” said Dr. Boyle.

Gerdes acting fast may have spared her from permanent damage.

“I think about how I would have managed if I would have to go to all these physical therapy appointments every week for speech or learning how to walk without a limp or something. That would have been very hard.

Jamie has this message for others --
“People just need to be aware that things like this can happen to young, healthy people and I don’t have family history of stroke. It was just a random thing,” said Gerdes.

Dr. Boyle says it’s better to be safe than sorry and get checked if you are experiencing stroke symptoms.

“If it’s nothing, it’s reassurance and that’s great. But if it’s a stroke, we can hopefully reverse those symptoms and somebody can leave normal from the hospital,” said Dr. Boyle.

There are two types of strokes – one is ‘Ischemic’ and it happens as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. The other is ‘Hemorrhagic’ and occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.