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Health Team

Knowing Stroke's Symptoms Is Crucial

Posted August 24, 2007

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— Occupational therapist Judith Castranio helps 77-year-old Hazel Ladd learn safer ways to function around the house.

That wasn't a problem for Ladd until a stroke three weeks ago, when her left hand went numb while she was getting ready for church.

"And when I picked it up, down it went," Ladd said. "And I thought, 'That's not right.'"

Then, she said, the left side of her face drooped.

Weakness or numbness on one side of the body is one of five common stroke symptoms. There also may be sudden loss of vision, sudden imbalance, a sudden headache of unknown cause and slurred speech.

"And the hallmark that distinguishes each of those features is the suddenness of it, the sudden onset," said Dr. Keith Hull, a neurologist at WakeMed.

Hull said most strokes involve a blood clot in the brain that blocks oxygen and nutrients. Without treatment, almost 2 million brain cells die every minute.

An agent called TPA can bust the clot and restore blood flow, but time is of the essence, Hull said.

"That agent can only be delivered within three hours after a stroke," he said.

Doctors need one hour to run tests to see if the patient is a good candidate for TPA. That leaves two hours to act. Medical experts say the best thing to do if there are symptoms is to call 911 to get you to the hospital so you preserve as much time as possible.

With treatment, the chance of recovery without serious disability is 30 percent better.

It worked for Ladd, who is now doing exercises to strengthen her affected muscles.

"But I feel I've had a miraculous recovery" she said.

3 Comments

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  • mrtwinturbo Aug 26, 2007

    A woman walked up to a me once 40 years ago while I was rocking in a chair on the porch. “I couldn’t help noticing how happy you look,” she says. “What’s your secret for a long, happy life?”

    “I smoke three packs a day, drink a case of whiskey a week, eat fatty foods and never, ever exercise.”

    “Wow, that’s amazing,” she said “How old are you?”

    ”Twenty-six.”

  • Angry Independent Aug 25, 2007

    I have to add.. having a parent with multiple strokes.. the emphasis to call 911 cannot be understated. If you try to drive someone to the hospital, it can mean unnecessary hours of delay, because of the delay in evaluation time. Call 911 instead. The paramedics and EMTs know what do to in a timely manner to preserve as much brain function as possible.

  • msncdso Aug 25, 2007

    Thanks, very good information.