Did you know that stroke is the 5th leading cause of death for Americans and it is a leading cause of serious long-term disability? To be perfectly honest, before my mother had a stroke, we didn’t know much about it. Easter weekend of 2017 my parents and my brother and sister-in-law were headed from Arlington, TX to College Station to meet up with the rest of the family for Easter. Somewhere on the way down, my mother had a stroke. My brother who was driving and my sister-in-law who was in the front passenger seat were unaware that anything unusual had occurred. My father who was in the back seat with my mother did not say anything. He noticed my mother had laid her head down but he thought she was just tired and resting. My mother also said she pretended to be asleep since she hadn’t realized she had a stroke. Neither of them said anything because they didn’t know about or recognize the symptoms of stroke.
When they all arrived in College Station, it was apparent that something was very wrong with my mother. She was unable to stand and the left side of her face was drooping. My brothers took her to the closest hospital in College Station. Because no one knew exactly when the stroke occurred, she was not given the ‘clot busting’ medication that is offered to patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke and who are able to get to the hospital within 3 hours.
87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes meaning that a blood clot blocks an artery that supplies the brain with oxygen. Recovery for those who receive aid within 3 hours is generally better than for those who do not receive help sooner.
A few days earlier while my parents were walking at the mall, my mother became disoriented and dizzy. She sat down for awhile and because she seemed fine, neither one of them mentioned anything about it. Doctors believe that she suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA). The symptoms are similar to stroke but are temporary and so it is easy to ignore. If she would have gone to the hospital after the TIA, the doctors might have been able to prevent a major stroke. Major strokes often occur a few days to a few months after a TIA.
The bottom line is that stroke is more common than you may think and recognizing the symptoms is extremely important. Main symptoms are drooping of the face, arm weakness or numbness, and difficult or slurred speech. Please educate yourselves. You never know when it could save a life or lessen the resulting disabilities that occur with stroke.