r By Ken Wright
Recently, my wife was cleaning out the house of a loved one in preparation for sale after it was determined the owner would need to move to an assisted-care facility. During this, she came across a calendar with X’s indicating days past. However, the last day “Xed out” was October 13, 2013. That was the day life “as he knew it” changed for the hardest working man I’ve ever known.
After working in the yard all day the day before, he felt more tired and weak than usual- probably a little dehydrated, he surmised. His wife suspected something was wrong and tried to convince him to go the urgent care to get checked out. He didn’t want the expense. She asked him to let her call a doctor in their ward. He didn’t want to bother anyone. Instead, he went to bed early and over the next eight hours of sleep, the stroke he was experiencing destroyed the use of the left side of his body. He woke unable to move in a coordinated way. Within a short time, he lost the ability to speak or swallow. Extensive therapy eventually returned his speech and ability to swallow, but his left limbs remain almost completely nonfunctioning. The simplest trip to the restroom is exhausting and many functions require assistance. Active life, as he knew it had ended, and he now wishes life as he now knows it would.
Delay in health care because of concern for cost or reluctance to bother anyone is very common among the older generations. Often, they have put off health care in the past without serious consequence and may feel the latest feeling of fatigue, dizziness, or weakness may also pass. But stroke will not pass and the expense and bother the victim was so concerned about will multiply exponentially. Miracle “clot buster” drugs and procedures can stop a stroke’s destruction, but only within the first 3-4 hours.
Know and HEED the warning signs of stroke:r
- Sudden, severe “thunderclap” headache, possibly the worst you’ve ever had.
- Sudden vision impairment; double vision, blurriness, loss of vision
- Confusion, disorientation, confused conversation
- Sudden weakness in an arm or leg or both arms and legs
- Dizziness, loss of balance, possibly with nausea
- Pain is not a typical stroke symptom, but sudden pain in one limb, one side of the chest, or one side of the face should be cause for concern.
- Sudden one-sided facial weakness and droop on one side.
- Sudden fatigue and weakness
- Sudden, unexplained hiccups can result from a stoke affecting the brain’s breathing center.
- Sudden breathlessness or heart palpitations.
rKnow the F.A.S.T method of field stroke assessment:
F: Face- Ask the person to smile or show his/her teeth. Do the corners of the mouth rise equally or does one side droop. One-sided facially weakness and droop are strong indicators of stroke.
A: Arms- Lift the person’s arms to chest level (straight out) and direct them to hold them there without looking at them as you release them. One arm drifting down is a strong indicator of stroke.
S: Speech- Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and watch for slurring and correct repeat of the phrase.
T: Time – Time is of the essence. If there is any possible suspicion of stroke, DO NOT “wait a little while to see if it passes.” Call 911.
Do not worry about bothering us at SEMA (Salem Ambulance). We, like many of the South Utah County EMS agencies, are volunteers who aren’t in this for the money. We are in it for the times we can make a difference in someone’s life. We’d rather be “bothered” 100 times for one chance to part of the medical miracle of rapid stroke assessment and treatment than not be “bothered” while we did something less important.