Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I have never related personal information on my blog but my inactivity in posting new blogs calls for an explanation. On Easter weekend an immediate male family member had a stroke. Even though my immediate family members are all seniors, we have been an extremely healthy bunch. No hospital visits or major catastrophes until now.

That Easter Saturday I took him to the ER after I suspected he had had a stroke. Like most typical males he had actually had warning signs the day before but never mentioned it to anyone. The ER confirmed our stroke suspicion and he was immediately transferred to St. Joe’s Barrows Neurological Institute. I would become intimately familiar with the hospital due to daily visits during the month of April.

Here are some startling statistics about a stroke: 

  • Stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke.
  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.
  • About 185,00 strokes—nearly 1 of 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke.
  • About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.
  • Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

A sudden severe headache with no known cause is a stroke sign in men and women.

During a stroke, every minute counts! Fast treatment can lessen the brain damage that stroke can cause.

By knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, you can take quick action and perhaps save a life—maybe even your own. Here are some of the basic signs of a stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms. Acting quickly is the key for stroke survival. When someone is having a stroke, every minute counts. Just as putting out a fire quickly can stop it from spreading, treating a stroke quickly can reduce damage to the brain. If you learn how to recognize the telltale signs of a stroke, you can act quickly and save a life—maybe even your own.

Acting fast can help stroke patients get the treatments they desperately need. The stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptoms. Stroke patients may not be eligible for these if they don’t arrive at the hospital in time.

Obviously we did everything wrong. He did not divulge his symptoms the day before we made a frantic trip to the ER. What prompted the ER trip was the fact that he could not hold a dinner knife in his right hand. That was the only visible clue we had.

His was a blood clot on the left side of his brain causing weakness on his right side. I learned a great deal about a stroke and its devastating aftermath. Since the brain is damaged it affects short term memory. Daily hospital visit after daily visit, you find that you are saying the same things repeatedly because short term memory is gone. Our family member was, at first, belligerent and uncooperative. Apparently that is the after effect in many patients. Ours kept trying to break out of “jail” and actually fell out of his wheelchair three times. We were lucky that there was no serious injury from this failed attempts. The nurses kicked it up a notch and installed a wheelchair alarm and a bed alarm. Eventually he ended up with a “sitter,” an aide that sat in his room 24/7.

Staff taught us techniques and tips for dealing with a stoke patient upon release. After a month of hospital care and rehabilitation — physical therapy (they deal with the body below the waist); occupational therapy (they deal with the body above the waist); speech therapy and cognition (most people don’t realize that a stoke affects one’s swallowing mechanism) and the work of a neuropsychologist our family member was released to come home.

He has been home 4 days and all of us are tired, often frustrated and sometimes angry – that includes the caregivers and the stroke victim. Our lives are completely rearranged. Our family member is strong and was always physically active. In his mind, he can do all of the activities he once did…wrong.

The most startling fact is that 72% of stroke victims will fall within the first three months. Unfortunately that fall often causes another hospital trip, surgery and complications that can result in death. It’s a scary situation. It is complicated because of the patient’s loss of short term memory it is a constant battle to remind him that he cannot perform activities without someone to assist and to prevent a fall. Chapter 1 is complete. Visiting daily for a month after a work day was difficult but Chapter 2 providing care for 24/7 is already proving to be more difficult. We’ll get through it as we must. The Holy Grail is continual improvement.

I can’t end this blog without expressing my thanks and gratitude to all of the staff, doctors, nurses and therapists at St. Joe’s Barrow Neurological Institute for their outstanding care, expertise and compassion. They are the real heroes.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         


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