Local News

Know Warning Signs, Head To Hospital Quickly To Increase Chances Of Stroke Recovery

Posted May 9, 2003

— The nation's highest death rate from a stroke is right here in North Carolina.

In addition, the mortality rate in North Carolina is 100 percent higher than anywhere else in the country.

Doctors said people who have a stroke should never wait to go to the hospital.

"The sooner we can treat patients who are having a stroke, the more likely they are to do well down the road," said Dr. Ana Felix, co-director of the stroke unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Felix said patients should call 911 and go to the hospital at the first sign of a stroke.

There is a 3-hour window from the start of symptoms for patients to benefit from medications to help blood clotting.

"Unfortunately, less than 3 percent of stroke patients or victims come into the hospital in time," Felix said.

Most people wait an average of 22 hours before getting help.

Warnings of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Other factors are sudden confusion or trouble speaking, loss of balance or severe headaches with no known cause.

Felix explained that sometimes patients do not know when they are having a stroke.

Jane Frankel said her stroke started while she was talking on the phone to her son last July.

"He could tell on the phone that something was wrong," she said.

He told her she was not making any sense.

"I thought everything sounded perfectly fine. If [he] hadn't noticed I wouldn't have noticed," she said.

Frankel called 911 and got to the hospital.

Experts said getting to the hospital is important, even if the 3-hour window has passed.

"Because the treatment we can provide in a hospital setting still will improve your outcome instead of if you just stay home," Felix said.

Frankel said she still has problems remembering things.

"I got a coffee pot [with a] burner that automatically turns off in 2 hours," she said.

Besides her memory problems, Frankel has made a full recovery. She said that is proof everyone needs to know the warning signs.

"If it weren't for my kids, I never would have made it. I really wouldn't have," she said.

Researchers at UNC are looking at treatment for up to 8 hours after a stroke, but it is not available yet.


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