Health Team

Strokes don't always exhibit common symptoms

Posted June 18, 2014

— Carrie Bekerman is undergoing stroke rehabilitation therapy at WakeMed Hospital after suffering a stroke three weeks earlier.

The 34-year-old mother of two woke up on a Saturday morning feeling dizzy, and she had difficulty walking.

“I woke up my husband, and he helped me to the bathroom and called 911, because I realized something wasn't right,” Bekerman said.

Initial tests at one hospital did not point to a stroke – common symptoms include numbness in the face, difficulty lifting one or both arms and slurred speech.

Bekerman’s young age also pointed to some other cause, especially since she didn't have known risk factors for stroke, such as untreated hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cigarette smoking or a prior stroke.

She had some weakness in the arms and legs, but it wasn't one-sided weakness – something that’s typical of most strokes.

“There are patients that will have weakness at the base of their brain or bilateral strokes, which will have weakness in all four extremities,” said Dr. Patrick O’Brien, who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation at WakeMed.

That's what a brain MRI revealed in Bekerman.

Now, she's learning how to walk again, how to write and how to perform basic household chores.

She has to reconnect the brain's commands to her muscles. She's making progress, but it's slow.

She's patient and determined.

“I think getting back to work, getting back to my children motivates me the most,” she said. “My husband has been really good, but hopefully, I’ll make a full recovery. I want everything to be normal again.”

There are things you can do reduce your risk of stroke, such as eating a healthy diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Other ways to reduce your chances are not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption and seeing a doctor to regularly monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

In situations where a stroke is suspected, time is of the essence. Call 911 and quickly get the patient to a hospital for potentially life-saving and brain-saving treatment.


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