Tips to seeing the signs for symptoms of stroke

Tips to seeing the signs for symptoms of stroke

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By Las Cruces Bulletin Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles telling the stories of stroke survivors throughout May, which is National Stroke Awareness Month. “I just made a big mistake on January 28,” Betty Farmer said. “That was the day I also had my stroke.” The mistake, she said, wasn’t the stroke itself – which, hidden and unknowable, was never within her ability to control – but waiting to go to the doctor. Farmer had been in El Paso with her husband for the day, going to appointments and shopping. They had split up to shop in different areas of the outlet malls when suddenly Farmer began to feel strangely. “All of a sudden it felt like I was trying to drag a piece of concrete with my foot,” Farmer said. “I felt a little dizzy, but I got myself up to where I could just hold on to something. For an hour, I kind of went store to store hanging on, not realizing exactly what I was having. Or trying to deny it, I don’t know which.” When she met up with her husband, he had to help her to the car. Concerned, she said she pulled to visor down to check her smile in the mirror. “My smile was really pretty normal – because I knew the drooping and the speech, and I was kind of talking to myself until Larry got in the car and I then I was talking to him, thinking that if there was a problem there he would pick up on that,” she said. “I thought, well, I guess I didn’t have a stroke.” After returning to her home, Farmer spent time playing with her dog, but progressively felt worse. She started to get a tingling in her arms. Around 8:30 p.m., approximately six hours after she first started feeling the symptoms, Farmer told her husband that she needed to go to the emergency room. At Mountain View Regional Medical Center, Farmer was quickly assessed and told she had had a stroke, and admitted into the hospital to receive care. The speed of indentifying a stroke and receiving care can make a significant difference in the recovery process. If the stroke victim has an ischemic stroke and makes it to the hospital within three hours of the onset of the stroke, they may be given intravenous tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), which is an FDA-approved drug that will dissolve the clot, mitigating both the damage done by the stroke and the amount of time needed to recover from it. The mnemonic acronym FAST focuses on the most common symptoms. FAST stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time. • Face–Asktheperson to smile. Does one side of the face droop? • Arms–Asktheperson to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Do their words sound slurred or strange? • Time–If youobserve any of these signs, it is time to call 911. Not all stroke symptoms manifest in the same manner. Other common stroke warning signs include confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, sudden difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance and/or a sudden severe headache with no known cause. Sydnie Smith, a physical therapist at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico, said, “Sometimes (the stroke victim) only has one of those. Sometimes it is just severe dizziness, and that was their only warning. Everyone presents differently.” “I would just like to tell anyone who has any little inkling that it may be something major when they don’t feel right, don’t try to ignore it,” Farmer said. “Just please see a doctor right away. … Don’t ever, ever hesitate. Check it out.” Marissa Bond can be reached at 680-1845 or marissa@lascrucesbulletin.com. Betty Farmer did not recognize her symptoms as those of a stroke. Knowing the symptoms of a stroke and seeking immediate medical attention when they manifest can improve the likelihood of partial or complete recovery from certain strokes. THE REHABILITATION HOSPITAL OF SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO

Marissa Bond

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