Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

National Stroke Month

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I am not sure what the other leading causes of death are, but I am certain that auto accidents, heart attacks, and cancer have to be in the top five.

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Timing is everything when it comes to dealing with someone who has had a stroke.  Effects from the stroke can be minimal or severe, short term or permanent.

So what exactly is a stroke?  There are a few main types.  The first is called an ischemic stroke, which for simplest terms, is a blood clot in an artery going to the brain.  It can be caused by fatty substances building up a blockage, or even due to an injury.  Another is called a hemorrhagic stroke, which yes, that means bleeding out.  A common cause of this is a blowout of a blood vessel, called an aneurysm.  Finally, there is the TIA, the transient ischemic attack.  Often times this is not considered a “stroke” per se, but rather a “pre stroke.”  If you have one of these, chances are likely that a stroke is more common to occur.

The truth is, without awareness, you may never realize if someone is having a stroke, and just consider a situation odd.  But having had one relative die of a stroke, another suffer a stroke, my awareness of my father having a stroke following surgery for lung cancer led to a discovery that was definitely unexpected.

My father had just has part of his lung removed for cancer.  The surgery went as anticipated, but his recovery took longer.  He would not wake up.  When he was finally alert, they brought him to his room.  But after the first 48 hours, he was expected to resume normal behaviors such as eating and drinking.  Instead, clearly  my dad was confused.  Both my brother and I witnessed several odd circumstances such as my father claiming to need his glasses to eat, he could not see the food and coffee placed in front of him.  I knew my father wore glasses, but not every moment.  He was not blind, and definitely did not need glasses to see things directly in front of him.

But when a certain food item was placed in front of him, a conversation started that would probably save his life.  A particular food item sparked my dad’s appetite, a mozzarella stick that I purchased down in the hospital cafeteria.  Yes, I know, an odd food choice served by a hospital, but I was glad to have it, trying to get him to eat.  He took a bite and then offered the following compliment, “this is good… how did they make it so soft?”  I thought my dad was just goofing around, though he normally does not have that type of humor.  I told him, “Dad, it’s a mozzarella stick.”  And then he sternly responded, “NO, it’s a carrot stick.”  We exchanged back and forth a couple of times, but clearly my dad was not joking.  My brother and I looked at each other and knew something was wrong.

The sad thing is, a doctor was just in to see my father, and pretty much pronounced him, “recovering well.”  But following that conversation with my dad, I dragged the doctor back in, and then a neurologist was called in, and yes, after further testing, my father had not only suffered a stroke, but two of them.  And more effects from the stroke would be discovered.

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A family member is the best opportunity for a quick response to someone having a stroke.  We know how our loved ones act, speak, walk, and go about daily activities.  And just because they do something odd, does not mean that they have suffered a stroke, it could have just been a moment.  But being aware of the following expression, might just make a difference to someone you know and/or love:

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The clip art on this post, were all taken from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association web sites.  But one word, FAST, says it all.  Fast not only describes the symptoms and response needed, but also tells you how quickly you need to react.

You can make a difference.

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