Stroke can happen to anyone, at anytime. After surviving two ischemic strokes 14 months apart, the first one at the age of 29, I've learned the best chance of survival and recovery is to know the signs of stroke. While many people are aware of the increased risk of stroke in the U.S., they mistakenly believe that it is limited to the elderly or morbidly obese. I didn't have any risk factors for stroke. I was young and healthy.
On the morning of January 31, 2010, six weeks after the birth of my son, I lost vision in my right eye and rather quickly the right side of my body was becoming paralyzed. It wasn't until I tried to speak that I realized I couldn't. Fortunately for me, my husband, a New York City firefighter, recognized these symptoms and dialed 9-1-1. I was immediately taken to the emergency room and given tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a thrombolytic agent (clot-busting drug). This is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the acute (urgent) treatment of ischemic stroke. This drug reduced the amount of damage to my brain. In order for tPA to be effective it must be given within a few hours after symptoms begin. After the tPA was administrated I was transferd to another hospital where a neuroradiologist performed an angiography and injected more tPA directly on to the clot. My husband knew the signs of stroke, and because of that my recovery was nothing short of miraculous.
When the very same symptoms appeared 14 months later, while I was home with my son, I knew that I needed to get assistance right away. I was able to get to a neighbor for help. I was taken to the emergency room and again given tPA. Today I have minimal deficits. I have returned to work as a high school librarian. Most importantly, I am here to see my son's first steps, to hear his first words, and to hold his small hands. I feel like I have been given not a second chance at life, but a third one!
When something like this happens in your life, you often ask, "Why"? For me, I have found the answer to be that it is my life's mission to educate people on the signs and symptoms of stroke. Too few people receive the life saving drug, tPA, simply because they do not get to the hospital soon enough. Stroke is a medical emergency.
FACE - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS - Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH - Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TIME - If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Act FAST and CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY at any sign of a stroke.