Stroke: It can happen to you

This is important no matter how old you are. Anyone can have a stroke, so we all need to know what they look like. Stacey Yepes, 49, realized what was happening to her and used her cell phone to record the event for her doctors, who had previously dismissed her symptoms as “stress.” This is a minor stroke, a TIA (transient ischemic attack) recorded as it happened:

Symptoms of a TIA are the same as symptoms of a stroke. But symptoms of a TIA occur suddenly and don’t last very long. Most of the time, they go away in 10 to 20 minutes. They may include:

  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or paralysis in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Sudden trouble speaking.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
  • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

If you experience these symptoms, or observe them in someone else, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Note the time symptoms began, as clot busters can be used within 3 to 4 hours to dissolve the blood clot that caused the stroke and reduce or prevent permanent damage. Remember the mnemonic F.A.S.T. and get help FAST!

F.A.S.T. - remember the symptoms of a stroke
F.A.S.T. – remember the symptoms of a stroke

33 comments

    1. You’re welcome. I thought the video was particularly important because although I’ve heard and read a great deal about strokes and stroke symptoms, I’d never actually seen one.

      1. Definitely. As you mentioned, it can happen at any age, and it’s good not only for self-diagnosis, but so that you can help others. It definitely looked like she was having a stroke, and it was smart to record her symptoms.

        1. She needed the recording to help convince her doctors, who had previously dismissed her self-diagnosis of stroke. Calling for help should be one’s first priority.

    1. Good point. Vision change is the second item on the list of possible symptoms and certainly worth remembering, especially since it’s not something that someone else can observe.

      1. For my mum she thought it was a migraine but was referred to an eye clinic. And it was a kind delay before her stroke was identified. It was atypical so that made it less usual.

        1. I have eye problems anyway, so would be immediately very concerned about any changes. Still, if that were the only symptom, stroke would probably not be the first thing I thought of. Maybe now it will be.

  1. Be knowledgeable, be aware, and know what to do is so crucial to minimizing an event like this. Our city spends a huge amount of resource, energy on training all of us in our community to react and assist in events like this. The result is that your survival rate for sudden hart stoppage is close to 80% in Seattle, in a comparable sized city like Houston, Texas the survival rate is less than 5%.

  2. I had a stroke on the 7th October 2011, I didn’t have a clue about it but the War office aka my wife spotted the symptom straight away told me to get into the car drove me to the hospital I was admitted immediately and I was operated on the carotid artery the following Wednesday after being on some sort of drip for four or five days. The symptom that I displayed for want of a better word was I went completely blind in my right eye, it had happened once previously when I was home alone and didn’t think much of it, the second time the wife was there so I did as I was told!

    One month later they did the other side removing the cholesterol from that one too. I’ve been pretty lucky and have suffered no permanent disability.

    The W.O. has that FAST card prominently displayed but I’d ever taken any notice of it before my stroke.

    Now for the part where my Yankee/Confederate chums (buddies) can eat their hearts out; in total I had two major carotid artery operations, spent a total of 4 days in the ICU and 6 days more in hospital and when I left the total bill for all this treatment came to a staggering $0.00, yes indeed it cost me not a cent for all this top first class treatment that led to my full recovery. Never once did I have to worry about the cost. Australia is indeed the “Lucky Country”

    I was going to attach the pictures that the W.O. took of my throat which looks a mess after the surgeons finished with me 🙂

    1. Having had both cataract and glaucoma surgery, I would instantly freak if I suddenly lost the sight in one eye. But it concerns me that the FAST placard hasn’t manage to include some reference to vision changes.

      So glad your wife got you to the hospital immediately. I hate to think of the possible consequences if she hadn’t. Thank goodness there was no permanent damage of any kind.

      I must say I am stunned that all that medical care cost you nothing. I’m sure Medicare would still leave me with a hefty amount to pay after that much surgery and lengthy hospital stay. The U.S. has a lot to learn from the rest of the civilized world.

      1. I’m disappointed you didn’t want to see he pictures I mentioned, 😦

        I think that the problem in the states is that the people think there’s a stigma attached to the word “socialized” which means communism which of course is entirely wrong.

        1. But I did want to see the pictures. I thought you were going to post a link or something.

          Oh, definitely, the “socialized” thing is a problem. I was vehemently opposed years ago for that very reason. My dad was a doctor and I worked for doctors. Opposition was a given. But my understanding has grown and my opinion has changed.

        2. Well I did this ‘specially for you, not very nice so I might remove it after you’ve seen it! I couldn’t think of any other way to sow the pics to you. a few are missing

        3. Found it. Damn! That’s one hell of an incision. But I suppose it was necessary to clean out all the blockage. And a matching one on the other side? No wonder you spent so much time in the hospital. That wasn’t exactly out-patient surgery. Who’d have guessed that a momentary loss of vision would lead to something like that? I’m mighty glad you’re still around to tell the tale.

    2. @LB,

      Thanks for including mention of the medical, and especially, fiscal efficiency of your Australian socialized healthcare system. More people in America need to hear it. Under our absurd fee-for-service system, the cost would have been high, and it can be ruinously high if something like stroke symptoms are treated on an out-patient basis or as “under-observation”, rather than in-patient. Our medical prices, called “chargemasters”, are based on nothing more than administrative greed.

      1. One of the great things I think about our system is the lack of worry one has when taken ill suddenly; we know we will receive all and the best medical attention available. no matter our age social standing or financial position. I was 76 years old at the time of my stroke and as you can see every effort was made to not only keep me alive but bring me back to as near full health as possible.

        A few years back some right wing “Nay” sayer’s (probably like your GOP) were advocating letting people over of a certain age die if suddenly hit by a stroke or heart attack. The vast majority of Australians quickly put those people back in their box where they belong and nothing further has ever been heard from them on the subject.

        However their political party is now in government, and our Prime Minister is desperately trying to change our medical system to mirror the US system, as you can imagine his rating figures are now down in the 30’s and if an election were called now he would be cast into oblivion where he belongs. 🙂

        1. Probably because he’s an idiot!

          He’s a great fan of the GOP, grovels to people like Mitt Romney and Geo Dubya, I expect and hope that he will be ousted within a few months by his own party, we do have that option here with our Parliamentary system.

          I doubt very much he will be in control before the next Federal election is called. We don’t have a set date as you do.

  3. This is good advice for everyone, although I have evidence that stroke diagnosis is not necessarily as straight-forward as this post may imply. Last year I experienced two of the symptoms, speech difficulty and mental confusion. The latter was evidenced when I tried to read a newspaper article and found that while I could read and understand individual words, the context made no sense to me. My wife also said that I was acting strangely, although I was unaware of it. The symptoms lasted about half an hour.

    Turns out, there was no evidence of stroke, or at least the kind discussed here. After numerous tests the medical conclusion was heat stroke. I had been outside on a hot, humid day trimming bushes and doing yard work. Maybe that’s why they call it heat stroke.

    1. Don’t confuse heat stroke, caused by the body overheating and dehydrating, with the stroke being discussed here, which is caused by blood flow to the brain being interrupted by either a clot or a hemorrhage. Both demand medical attention, however. I know I’ve pushed the limit on heat exhaustion and heat stroke more than once in my life, doing yard work in Okla. in the summer. Dizziness, nausea, etc. No speech difficulty or confusion, however. That must have been a weird experience. Glad there were no aftereffects.

  4. My mom had carotid surgery on both sides for blocked arteries and lived for years afterwards (although we all raised kids used to hearing “Grandmom isn’t getting enough blood to the brain” – but she was quirky even when younger in all honesty). FYI The operations/care did not come close to bankrupting my retired parents. They did have insurance and access to large medical center with specialists in this area. The trick is to find the problem early.
    After a while, those surgeries don’t solve it forever. (She never had any problems with cholesterol. Ever. Or blood pressure. Heredity plays a role, too).
    There are 2 main kind of strokes. One from a blockage (80% of strokes are these). And one from weakened artery that ruptures.
    Techniques and treatment have evolved.
    tPA is being carried by many first responders now. It is making a difference. In Germany, CT scanners are in ambulances allowing paramedics to get info to docs while in transit and even start treatment in transit. With strokes, every minute counts.
    Know the signs. Don’t put off going to doc.Know that women’s symptoms are often dismissed by doctors – and symptoms can be attributed to other things.
    Now there is concern that multiple mini strokes can occur without anyone realizing it. Long before a big one hits.
    Good news: they are now saying 80% of strokes can be avoided.
    Exercise. Eat healthy. Watch weight. Stop smoking. Smile and be calm (now that’s the difficult part – mom could never do that part)

    1. CT scanners in ambulances. That’s amazing. I can’t begin to keep up with the advances in medicine. I just have to hope the right ones will be there when I need them.

      My dad died of a hemorrhagic stroke. It hit in the middle of the night with no advance warning. Valiant efforts over about 10 days just weren’t enough. But at age 89 …

      1. Mom finally had a massive one while asleep. She had just been in for a check up and cleared for everything until the next check up 2 weeks earlier. She was in her 90’s, the docs had privately warned us and my dad. There’s little they can do after a point – and maybe not a good idea to try considering the severity of damage from event and treatment.
        Your dad must have had quite a childhood

  5. There are so many things that scare me PT, but this has to be very near the top of the list. My mom died in an extended care facility after the last of several strokes. My oldest sister has had several strokes now too, and I worry over her almost every day. And my doctors have told me many times that I myself am at high risk as well. Scary stuff indeed!

    1. Know the signs and act FAST if need be. I don’t know which is worse, knowing you’re at risk genetically, or not knowing because you’re adopted (like me) and have no relevant family history.

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