Stroke of Luck

I experienced a stroke of luck recently. And by stroke, I do mean an attack on my brain. By luck–my experience was a .5 on a scale to 10. The impact was negligible. I recovered totally, quickly. Knowing it happened is scary as hell.

When I’m not writing, I work as VP of Communications for the Alzheimer’s Association, MA/NH. I spend a good deal of time asking people who have experienced Alzheimer’s if they are willing to be interviewed by media. I tell them that public awareness only happens when people are willing to tell their stories. As a communications professional, I know that to be a fact.

Yet, I’ve been reluctant to tell my story. As a result, I’ve been feeling like a fraud. I ask people to talk about their fatal brain disease yet I didn’t want to talk about my own brain attack. Nearly 800,00 people in the U.S. have strokes each year–a percentage of those are fatal. Some can prevented; some can be stopped in their tracks when treatment occurs within three hours of the stroke.

I have talked about my stroke with a small circle of friends. I’ve learned how common it is. Like Alzheimer’s, there’s a misconception that stroke happens to “old people.” Well, I’m not old and neither were a number of people whose stories I’ve heard. One friend had a stroke at 43; another friend’s husband had one in his 30s. It’s the 4th leading cause of death.

Consider this my public service announcement: Did you know that anyone can suffer a stroke? Learn the warning signs. It’s as easy as FAST — Face, Arms, Speech, Time.

  • Check for drooping on one side of the Face or when you stick out your tongue, it hangs to one side.
  • Are your Arms equal in strength?
  •  Is your Speech slow, confused or incoherent?
  • Time is of the essence. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1. Tell the paramedics the signs.

My stroke began with headache, dizziness and vomiting–all signs of migraine, which I sometimes have. Then my speech became confused. I did go to a local ER.  Unfortunately, the MD there did not recognize the symptoms and sent me home. I ended up at Boston Medical Center, whose tagline is “Exceptional Care Without Exception.” In no time, I was in the stroke unit. But that was three days late.

So, I would add to FAST — go to a major medical center!

I was lucky. My symptoms were minor. I recovered completely and quickly. It was truly a wake-up call to tackle those annoying lifestyle things. I considered myself healthy before, but I’m at it with a vengeance now.

Please take care! For more information visit the American Stroke Association.

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