Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

F.A.S.T. – Recognizing A Stroke

While driving on a highway, a billboard (the old kind, not the Las Vegas flashing light kind), blared an attention-getting message in large, bold print. No pictures, just four large letters… F.A.S.T.

Fortunately for me, traffic was moving kind of slow at that time on Interstate 95 in Delaware, so I could at least make out that F.A.S.T. was not an advertisement, but a very important message. Below the letters, an explanation followed from the National Stroke Associaton. The message was to learn the symptoms of a stroke.

F = Face
A = Arms
S = Speech
T = Time, time to call 911

A stroke is when the brain is deprived of blood flow, either reduced or blocked, reducing much needed oxygen and food to the brain. And depending on which side of the brain that suffers the stroke, the opposite side of the body is affected. Now that you know what a stroke is, and most all of us know that a stroke is bad, let us get back to the message on the billboard.

Getting to the letters, and skipping right to the letter “T”, we are all told that time is the most important factor in dealing with someone who has had a stroke. My grandfather died following a stroke. That was back in 1966. Just two years ago, my stepmother suffered a small stroke. Fortunately for her, she was able to wake my father at 3am, and he realized that my stepmother was having a stroke and called 9-1-1. Then last year, following lung surgery, my father also suffered a stroke while in the hospital, but it was my brother and I who recognized it had happened. In the last two cases, time definitely played a factor in not only their survival, but recovery also.

With prompt recognition, proper medication can be administered to resolve the clotting issue that caused the stroke before the damage becomes too severe and irreparable. It is a huge mistake to underestimate your qualifications to recognize someone having a stroke. You do not need to have a medical degree to possibly save someone’s life. And the National Stroke Association could not have made it any easier than with four simple letters, and easy enough to remember. We discussed “T”. The first three letters are perhaps the most important as they are the most frequent and most noticeable symptoms of someone having a stroke.

F = Face

A stroke will often affect one side of the body. And the most visible part of the body to us, is a person’s face. Perhaps while having a conversation with someone, you might just notice the corner of the other person’s mouth drooping lower than the other corner (not to be mistaken for a frown). This is a noticeable droop. Perhaps the cheek area around the eye will also droop. You might happen to notice that depending on where you are standing, the person may not even see you or hear you (this was the case with my father as he could not see anything on his left side).

A = Arms

This should actually include legs, along with the arms, but again, the arms are the most visible appendage. Lack of use of only one arm, without any kind of injury to it, is symptomatic of a stroke.

S = Speech

A person having a stroke is likely to slur their speech. Provided there is no speech impediment or alcohol consumption, you cannot miss this sudden vocalization difficulty.

T = Time to call 9-1-1

You get the idea. Time is critical. My father’s stroke was not noticed by emergency personnel, but because my brother and I knew my father well enough, there were certain cognitive issues that we were able to question, and then F.A.S. became more noticeable. His neurologist was amazed that my dad would eventually recover from having had two strokes (one on the front and one on the rear, both on the right side). It was time that made the difference.

Back To Paul’s Heart

I cannot believe it has been since June that I have written anything here. But then again, yes I can. I have just spent a glorious Summer with my two daughters. It was time needed, and time well spent.

My daughters are back home now with their mother for the school year, with more visits from me, and a nice Christmas break from them planned.

So, I have been starting more writing prompts and topics all the while, and am now ready to start blogging again. Thank you for understanding.


Morris The Cat Meets Mikey

My eating habits often were compared to two television commercial icons decades ago because, well, the comparisons of my picky eating habits just could not be denied. Morris the Cat was an orange tabby who only ate “Nine Lives” cat food, turning his nose up at any other brand. While I have never tried cat food, I have had to smell it once the can was opened, and they all smelled the same, and looked just as awful. But somehow we were to believe that this housecat knew the difference between one brand and another. According to the commercial, the cat could do just that. Then there was the little kid in the high chair at the breakfast table with his siblings. His name was Mikey, and he did not like anything. Mom obviously did not buy sugar-loaded cereal and the siblings had the bright idea that the best way to deal with the situation, and not eat the cereal their mother bought for them was to “give it Mikey”. Which to their surprise, “he liked it, Mikey liked it”, Life cereal.

Yes, two finicky icons. Those two had nothing on me. My diet was simple… meat and potatoes. I would occasionally sneak in some corn and carrots, apples, bananas, oranges, and watermelon. No seafood. I was easy to cook for. Meat and potatoes. I did not even have to try the food to know that I did not like it. If it was green, I was not even going to spell the name of the food being served to me. Seafood? I did not “see food” go onto my plate if it did not walk on dry land.

This presented a unique challenge because having two small children, I knew that my diet was not a healthy one, and I definitely did not want my children to learn to eat like I did. And that is just it, my food lifestyle was a learned habit. The problem is, it was a forty year education of “no, I don’t want that.” I am fortunate that both daughters ate well right from the beginning. If there was any food that garnered a response “I don’t want that” or “I don’t like that” especially not having tried that, it was met with a “please take a ‘no thank you’ bite.” With that, my oldest daughter eats everything green except for the lawn, but I suspect given the opportunity, and a good recipe, she would find a way. With my youngest daughter, she alone could be responsible for the extinction of the lobster.

So what happens when my daughters diet clashes with my diet especially when my daughters know my health issues and know that I should be eating better? Guilt, lots of guilt and pressure to eat what they place on my plate. The funny thing is, I did whatever I could to change the flavor and the consistency of the food I would rather have turned my nose up. Which usually meant that I smothered everything in ketchup. Even garlic could not alter the food enough for me to eat it. But ketchup? Yep, did the trick. The only thing was, I eventually began to hate ketchup because I was eating so much of it. So it was easier for me to go back to my finicky ways.

Strangely, not until I filed for my divorce, I made another attempt to eat right, eat smart, eat healthy. I have no intention of ever going vegetarian (and I am by no means ridiculing anyone who chooses to eat vegetarian) I love meat way too much. But I am eating smarter. I am working with a dietician who is trying to undo 40 years of bad habits as well as to educate me on “why” I need to eat better, and how.

In between my visits, I would actually take pictures of my plates with all the different colors and email them to her. She could not believe with her own eyes and actually wanted video of me eating the food. I gave her one video, but from there on, she just gave me encouragement. And because I was getting a lot of emotional support from friends in the form of meals, the peer pressure I felt from friends trying to do something nice, I stopped turning my nose up at foods. I am now eating greens, other fruits, and even seafood. I still have the occasional red meat. But I do feel a lot better about how I am eating. And when my daughters visit me, I know that they will be pleased that they can sit down with me for a meal, and not see me drown my food in ketchup.

Of course, this only happens when there are eyes on me. I need to get to the next level to actually order or buy the food when I am on my own. One step at a time.

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