Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time is critical - for all concerned

This story has a powerful message - a story about what occurs when stroke symptoms are not addressed immediately. The story illustrates that with strokes, knowing the symptoms pays off:

By the time she arrived at a local Irvine, Calif., hospital, a CT scan revealed that a stroke had occurred six hours before, too late to receive a shot of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA), the only prescription treatment to reduce the chance of disability from stroke. It must be injected within four and a half hours of stroke onset to be effective.

Strokes happen to people of all ages, and even mild ones can cause serious disabilities.These two often-overlooked facts underscore the importance for everyone to recognize stroke symptoms quickly and get prompt medical attention — ideally within 60 minutes — when stroke is suspected, experts said. ...

“It’s quite troubling to see so many people in their 30s and 40s in the prime of their lives, having strokes,” said Dr. Michael R. Frankel, an Emory University neurologist. Frankel is also director of the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital.

“It’s not the way I was taught in medical school that stroke was a disease of the aged,” he said.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Overflow with hope'

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

"The God of hope ..." That's a phrase full of promise. No matter what you are going through, God is the God of hope.

When you find yourself struggling for hope - look for his promises to "fill you with all joy and peace." Trust him in his word.

Does hope always mean we get exactly what we wish for in this world alone? No. God gives hope not to the fleeting wishes for a material world, but far beyond this world. He gives us "overflow with hope."

Friday, March 25, 2011

'Yo, it’s a stroke rap, y'all'

You've seen one stroke awareness rap video - and now, another one is in the making from the University of Alabama:

The stroke rap was commissioned by Anne Alexandrov, Ph.D., professor in the School of Nursing and head of NET SMART, an educational program on acute stroke for nurses. Alexandrov wants the video to be entertaining, especially for the health care professionals who treat stroke every day, but she also wants it to be a clarion call for the important role of nurses in acute stroke management.

“I hope this video will capture the experience of providing acute stroke care from the time a patient enters the hospital all the way until they walk out the door to go home,” she says. “I believe it will touch the lives of those who see it not only from an entertainment standpoint, but also from an information standpoint.”

Here's to more education about stroke signs, and what to do when you see them.

Yo, it’s a stroke rap, y’all from uabnews on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family: 'A win-win situation'

The most important people for stroke patients: family. Now, there's some researching finding that stroke patients benefit from family involvement in exercise therapy:

Researchers found that adding family-assisted exercise therapy to routine physical therapy after stroke improved motor function, balance, distance walked and ability to perform daily living activities. It also lowered the strain on the family member, who said participation lowered stress and was empowering.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Emma Stokes, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator and Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. “People with stroke, their families and healthcare providers share in the benefit.”
My own recovery was from language deficits, not physical problems, but family was incredibly important in my recovery as well. The results from this study was not a surprise, but it's good to hear: family is key.

Monday, March 21, 2011

'He refreshes my soul'

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
"Lack nothing," the Psalmist notes. Lack nothing.

Stroke survivors often have difficulty in walking - following the right paths. Visit any hospital or other rehabilitation facility and see.

But God's right paths are so more important - no physical ability required. With that guidance, we truly lack nothing of value. And, with following those paths, he refreshes your soul.


(Photo by Tomwsulcer, via Wikimedia Commons; text added for this blog)

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Friday test about stroke awareness

Check out your own knowledge about strokes, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Know Stroke Campaign. Follow the link and take the test!

It's important to know the signs of a stroke and what to do if you witness any of these symptoms or if you suspect you're one of the symptoms.

Be aware and stroke-smart. As said before: The life you save might be your own.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Important to start rehab early

The research was set to compare the location of stroke-recovery rehabilitation - home or elsewhere.

The best part of the story saying at-home stroke rehab program as effective as outpatient training, though, had nothing to do with where, but with when. Experts recognized that that timing is really the important factor. It's important to get into rehab as soon as possible:

The learning platform did not matter nearly as much as the intervention’s timing, Pamela Duncan, Ph.D., reported at the International Stroke Conference. Patients who began to relearn walking 2 months after their stroke with the locomotor or home-based program progressed faster than did those randomized to the standard care of locomotor therapy beginning 6 months after their stroke.

"Patients recover faster and sustain recovery when the intervention is given early," she said.

Monday, March 14, 2011

'The Father of compassion'

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
Pretty much everyone likes a comfortable chair. A comfortable bed. Comfortable shoes.

Yet, there is so discomfort in this world. You know your own troubles. We know the troubles of those we love. And often, we try to offer comfort for those we love. God knows the troubles of those he loves - all of us - and he, too, offers comfort. And through God, you can help comfort others.

Paul reminded his fellow believers in Corinth. Remind yourself today - God is here to provide compassion and comfort. To you and through you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Struggling with speech - therapy is critical

I still remember struggling to speak in 1998, using wrong words, sometimes using gibberish, sometimes simply remaining silent. The problem is called aphasia, a common problem for stroke patients.

The article below describes it well:
"In aphasia, patients become virtually trapped in their bodies," said Melissa Moniz, a local speech pathologist in private practice. "This is often devastating for patients who were fully functional before having a stroke."

Does my aphasia problem persist today? Not to a large degree. To any degree? That, I'll never know. Everyone will occasionally stumble in speech. When I do it, I always - and I suppose always will - ask myself if I would have made that error before?

I will never forget the help that speech therapy gave me in my recovery. It's an incredible important job that, unless you need it, is often overlooked.

An article from Bermuda, of all places, tells why speech therapists are important to stroke victims:

Speech and language pathologists at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) ... are an integral part of rehabilitation for stroke victims.

Elwood Fox, chief of rehabilitation at KEMH, said stroke victims commonly experience problems understanding, communicating and/or swallowing. Speech and language pathologists can assess the extent to which stroke victims are affected in each of these areas, and can help them regain or improve their functionality.

Stroke patients often have their ability to communicate and understand impaired in a condition called aphasia. Most commonly, this manifests as either: 1) the patient’s physical inability to speak despite knowing what they want to say, or 2) the patient loses understanding of what is said.

"In aphasia, patients become virtually trapped in their bodies," said Melissa Moniz, a local speech pathologist in private practice. "This is often devastating for patients who were fully functional before having a stroke.

"It can be as simple as them wanting to have their hair combed and not being able to say it, or telling you that they don’t want to eat chicken, that they want a hamburger. It’s frustrating for them not be understood."

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

'God is the strength of my heart'

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
We see examples of the failure of flesh and heart every day. But as this Psalm reminds us, when it's all said and done, when all seems lost and strength wanes:  God is the source of strength.

We all have known people who have had moments of hopelessness. Often, stroke survivors struggle to find hope. I certainly had my days where failure was a threat.

Remember, though, where your portion of strength comes - not just a minute, an hour, a day, but forever.

(Image from

Monday, March 07, 2011

Quick action, right action can turn lives around

Darrell Figy certainly didn't plan for a stroke that day. But quick action turned his life around. From a story in the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader:

"You would never know just looking at me that I ever had a stroke, the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I dress," Figy said. 

Only about 5 percent of stroke patients receive the drug Figy got -- tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved tPA for stroke patients if given within three hours of the patient showing stroke symptoms. Many don't get to the hospital in time.

"A lot of people don't complain," [Dr. Scott] Duff said. "It's painless. They're in a state of denial, or the stroke has taken away their ability to recognize that there's a problem."

Friday, March 04, 2011

Kirk Douglas: Best part of Oscar night

I couldn't help but note Kirk Douglas' appearance at the Oscars this week. The stroke survivor struggled with moving and speaking, but had the nerve to stand and deliver.

There was a time that I had very, very similar speech problems. Thanks to quick action by the health professionals, followed by speech therapy, my ability to speak clearly returned. Not everyone has the same outcome.

I found these good words about Douglas' Oscar triumph in the Houston Chronicle:

Yeah, Kirk Douglas mumbled some lines at the Oscars Sunday night. It took him awhile. He wasn't always easy to understand. He sounded like a stroke survivor, someone who's had to relearn all the tongue-twisting ins and outs of spoken language that the rest of us take for granted. And he looked, well, 94.

To that, I say: Bless him! Thank God he's alive and well and spirited enough to work the crowd and flirt with Melissa Leo. May I live that long, retain that level of spunk and weather the storms of age and infirmity with as much abiding grace.
Amen to that.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

More research: Track your numbers to reduce your risk

We've all heard talk about cholesterol, but a recent US News and World Report study said a study showed that high triglyceride levels are linked to increased stroke risk:

In fact, this stroke risk seems to be more pronounced for triglyceride fats than it is for cholesterol, even though cholesterol is currently the prime focus of current guidelines. These findings, the researchers said, suggest that triglyceride levels should be incorporated into stroke-prevention guidelines.

"There might be an association between elevated triglyceride levels and increased stroke risk," said Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "All the guidelines really just focus on total cholesterol and LDL [low-density lipoprotein] cholesterol, and not on non-fasting triglycerides."

Having occasional blood tests are inconvenient, yes - but more than ever, important for your health.