Thursday, July 28, 2011

A story about faith and stroke recovery

My trusty Google alert sent me this story - mixing stroke awareness, young stroke survivors and faith. It's about how a former basketball star is growing church and changing lives in Indiana:
“I remember him telling my family that I had had a stroke and that I needed to have surgery, but there was a 50/50 chance I might not make it off the table,” he said.

But [Chad] Hunter didn’t simply rely on modern medicine to get him through his physical ordeal. He took something much greater with him into that hospital room in February 2008.

“You have to have faith and trust God to help get you through the hardships of life,” he said. “With prayers things change.”
 Now, Hunter leads a congregation, giving back gifts from God.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Story of a 33-year-old...

Time to devote a few blog postings to a topic that is near to my heart - or better yet, brain: Strokes don't just happen to elderly people.

My age when it happened: 39. There are plenty of stories about people who have had strokes even younger.

Is this intending to scare people? Certainly not. Instead, it's important for people of all ages to be aware of stroke symptoms and know that it is important to get help quickly.

A recent story talks about how strokes can strike the young:

By age 33, Wichitan Bill Ramsey had suffered his second stroke. He hadn't even realized he'd had one at age 28 until he went to a doctor days after suffering the second one. ...

Both times, Ramsey said, it never would have occurred to him that he had suffered a stroke.
When Ramsey's doctor told him he'd suffered a stroke not once but twice, he had a hard time taking it serious.

"I laughed and said, 'I'm only 33.' " he said. "I thought strokes happen in older people."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

'So do not fear, for I am with you'

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

People with aphasia - a common outcome for stroke survivors that affects speech - feel isolated and therefore isolate themselves from others, according to a survey conducted in 2004 by the National Aphasia Association.

But nothing - no matter what in this life - can truly isolate one from God. The author in Isaiah said it far better than I can: you don't have to fear, you need not be dismayed. God is with you.

I certainly understand - to a degree - the feeling of aphasia, which afflicted me during my own stroke in 1998. For a while, I could not speak, write or read. I had trouble understanding what others were saying. Talk about feeling isolated.

But God never left me. In those days when my I needed strength, God was present. And God can be present for you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Research looks at racial disparity and time

Currently, this blog theme is time. I saw several versions of this story that illustrates the great importance of getting help quickly for those suffering a stroke.

This article from The Washington Post talks about ways of preventing strokes and how time is important.

Study in D.C. hospitals reveals disparity in stroke treatment for blacks:
Researchers found that blacks are significantly less likely to get the stroke treatment medication tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) because they don’t arrive at the hospital early enough, and even when they get there in time, they often have other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, that make them ineligible for the medication. The drug increases the risk of bleeding into the brain. To be effective, the medication also needs to be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms.

“Based on our data, it appears that much of the explanation is due to things that happen before the patient gets to the hospital,” said Amie Hsia, the lead author and medical director of Washington Hospital Center’s Stroke Center. The research was conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center.

That is good news for patients and their families, because they can increase the likelihood of getting treated with a few simple steps.

At the first hint of symptoms, call 911 and get to the hospital quickly. Control risk factors, such as high blood pressure, “so that it doesn’t become a factor in [preventing] safe treatment,” Hsia said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Educate yourself about stroke prevention

A few days ago, I saw a notice about a series of screenings by a commercial venture at a local church building. You've probably seen ads for this in newspaper inserts or in your mailbox. This bothers me a great deal.

Why? Because this type of screening, without advice from your doctor, is not an effective way to prevent strokes. For a total of $240, you supposedly get carotid artery screening, heart rhythm screening, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and peripheral arterial disease screening.

Now, that sounds all well and good, except....

If you have zero stroke risk factors, you don't need these screenings. If you do have stroke risk factors, then you should have already talked to your doctor about what to do about these risk factors and what tests are needed.

If you don't trust your own doctor to provide meaningful help in that decision-making process, you need another doctor.

Follow this link to get details about stroke risk factors. For your future and the ones you love.

Those factors include cholesterol and high blood pressure - and if you don't know those numbers, that's a sign you need a visit to a doctor, not fly-by-night screeners. Circulation problems - a simple exam can give a doctor the information needed to justify additional screenings - the right ones. Another risk factor is diabetes. Again, there are specific symptoms of diabetes that should lead you to a doctor visit.

Educate yourself. Don't give in to scare tactics.

By the way, I don't blame the church allowing this company to use its building. I'm sure this was pitched very cleverly. But after you review the risks you think you need to take some steps to avoid a stroke, talk to your doctor instead.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ambulance ride can make a difference

I've seen this happen with a family member - once, coming in to an emergency department by regular car, second time, by ambulance. She was seen a lot quicker when arriving by ambulance. That's key in care for stroke patients.

I was taken by this recent story about faster stroke care when patients come by ambulance:
(Reuters Health) - Patients with stroke-like symptoms get brain scans faster when they arrive at the hospital by ambulance than when they use a taxi or private car, a new study suggests.

Such scans are necessary to make a diagnosis, and doing them quickly ensures early care and better outcomes. ...

"EMS (emergency medical services) impact doesn't just stop at pre-hospital care, it can have an impact in the hospital as well," said Mehul Patel, from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, whose findings appear in the journal Stroke.
A valuable lesson you can take advantage of if you or a loved one is having stroke symptoms, when time suddenly becomes extremely important: Call 911 and get an ambulance.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Canada also has trouble with time

The current theme of this blog revolves around getting help and getting help fast if you see any stroke signs or symptoms.

And that means any sign.

This research helps show that need is not United States-specific. I bolded the last item on a longer list of findings, emphasizing the need to be sure to get help quickly. Research in Canada, too, shows that stroke victims wait too long for treatment:
Stroke victims arriving at Canadian hospitals aren't being treated quickly enough, creating "unacceptable" delays that are increasing the risk of irreversible and devastating brain damage, according to a major new study.

The finding is part of the wider problem, highlighted in the study, that strokes aren't being treated like the medical emergencies they are by the tens of thousands of Canadians who suffer them each year.

It's based on a national review of hospital records and data representing more than 38,000 patients admitted with stroke across the country in 2008-09.

The audit by the Canadian Stroke Network, the first of its kind in this country, found: ...

- 39 per cent of all patients arrived at the hospital more than 12 hours after their first symptom of a stroke; ...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

'Time is brain'

The next few weeks, we'll focus on time. All too often, people wait to seek help when a stroke occurs. It's vitally important to get a stroke patient help as soon as possible. The quicker the person gets to a stroke center, the better choices of treatment.

Here's a note from Kansas City:

'Time is brain' remains stroke mantra:
...[Kathleen] Henderson [RN, MN, ACNF, LNC] wants everyone to know the warning signs and importance of getting immediate help.

“Stroke is one of those time-critical diagnoses,” she said. “It’s similar to a heart attack. The faster you get help the better your outcomes may be.”

Henderson said any of the following signs merits an immediate phone call to 911:

  • sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;
  • sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech;
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
  • sudden dizziness or loss of balance or coordination;
  • sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Getting treatment within 60 minutes of the onset of symptoms can prevent disability, Henderson said.
Now, one of my "mantras" is that the last item about the "sudden severe headache" does not mean that no headache means no stroke. I never had a headache with my stroke. Most people I have spoken to didn't have a headache.

So think about the symptoms like this: If you see one of these symptoms, get some help. Fast.

Friday, July 01, 2011

A 'taste' of stroke prevention

Taking care of  your mouth is more than pretty teeth. More and more, it's clear that oral health affects overall health:
Though the research is still in its early stages, there is mounting evidence of a link between gum disease (periodontitis) and overall health, including an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and maybe even pre-term birth.

"The links are still not enormously strong," says Dr. Paul Reggiardo, a pediatric dentist in Huntington Beach, Calif. "What they are right now are tantalizing."

For instance, a 2008 consensus report in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology concluded that periodontitis — in which the tissues surrounding the teeth are inflamed and infected, leading to progressive bone loss and ultimately loss of teeth — "may contribute to cardiovascular events and stroke in susceptible subjects."