I Didn't Recognize the Signs of Stroke


I wasn’t familiar enough with the symptoms of a stroke to know that it was urgent to get medical help for my mother.  I didn’t realize that she was smiling and the right side of her face wasn’t the same as her left.  All I knew was that she was completely out of her mind and going downhill; it was that fear of waiting in a parking lot and watching my mother die in an Arby’s parking lot that propelled me to risk the wrath of her later, healthy self about ER copays and ambulance costs to dial 911.  (Really, who wants to pass on to the next fabulous plane of existence with a giant cowboy hat in the background and the smell of greasy fries in the air?  It doesn’t bode well for the next life)

Without wanting to sound too much like a Public Service Announcement, strokes really aren’t that difficult to spot. I’m sure these same symptoms can appear in other situations, but it’s not worth taking a risk.  I’ve pasted some information below from the National Stroke Association about recognizing and reacting to stroke symptoms:

-Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination,

- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you.

Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within 3 hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

tPA is the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of stroke within three hours of stroke symptom onset.

A TIA or transient ischemic attack is a “warning stroke” or “mini-stroke” that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke.

The usual TIA symptoms are the same as those of stroke, only temporary. The short duration of these symptoms and lack of permanent brain injury is the main difference between TIA and stroke.

Now that I’ve done the most basic of research, I’d recognize a stroke from miles away.  It’s plainly obvious if you know what to look for.  I’m posting my story of yesterday in the hopes that others will read this and be able to react quickly if they are ever (and I hope you’re not) in this situation.

In the meantime, my mom is doing much better today.  She will probably stay in the hospital another day while they finish running her through the gamut of tests and using her as a human pincushion, but I’m thankful for a couple of things.  First, I’m grateful it happened when she had stopped driving and I was there to see it happen.  Second, I’m grateful I stopped worrying about how it would look if I overreacted and called an ambulance, and just did it.  Third, I learned a bunch from the experience - both about the signs of stroke and how I react when put in a situation like that. 

I stayed in “competent daughter” mode until 10 pm last night, when I finally got home.  I then reverted to “freaked out daughter who saw her mother having a stroke” mode and let all the pent up emotions from the day spill out.  After a long night of not sleeping, I’m still a bit of a mess but feeling much better today - just like my mom. 


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