In Good Health: Be Fast When It Comes to a Stroke

The clock starts ticking at the first signs of a stroke.

For every minute a stroke is left untreated, millions of brain cells die.

Getting help immediately is crucial to make sure you have best outcome.

Whitney Amann explains the signs you need to know for today’s In Good Health.

Memorial Day weekend of 2015 took an unexpected turn for John Cooley.

“I was sitting in our living room watching television at night and the ceiling started to spin and I became dizzy and I became nauseated,” said John.

After John’s quick thinking and his wife’s call to 911, he was on his way to the hospital.

A retired physician, with no prior health problems but within one week, John had three strokes and a heart attack.

“If it’s happening to you, it’s not easy to process,” said John.

While more common the older you get, a stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time.

“It is the leading cause of disability in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States,” said Dr. Karl Meisel, neurologist and director of McLaren Stroke Program. “Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke, there’s about 800,000 strokes a year in the United States.”

When it comes to a stroke, there are two factors to keep in mind that could save your life: symptoms and time.

The best way to remember?

B.E. F.A.S.T.

“It’s important to be fast when you suspect a stroke simply because when the brain is lacking oxygen, that cell can die and when that cell dies, it’s not regenerable so every minute counts,” said Nicole Murray, BSN, RN.

Use that acronym to spot a stroke.

Balance.

“If you have any sort of imbalance and inability to have that coordination, just simply walking,” said Murray.

Eyes.

“If there’s any sort of visual field cut deficit or if you notice you have some double vision.”

Face.

“You have some paralysis in your face and so that you can look very quickly and notice that it doesn’t look normal.”

Arms.

“If you have any sort of weakness or inability to coordinate that arm.”

Speech.

“If you’re having difficulty saying what you want to say or if all of a sudden you notice you don’t understand what people are saying,” said Murray.

And time.

“It’s really important to call EMS as quickly as possible to get lifesaving treatment,” said Dr. Meisel.

When you call 911, EMS tells the emergency room you’re on your way and prepares their rapid response team.

“They get you right to the CT scan to figure out if the stroke is a bleeding type of stroke or a clot type of stroke, the vast majority are clot types of strokes, then that takes you down a different pathway of treatment so we can use a clot busting medication called TPA and that helps break up the clot,” he said. “This improves outcomes by one in three so every three people are treated, one is significantly improved, one in eight are cured.”

High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor.

Dr. Meisel says “That’s something that everyone can kind of monitor and do something about.”

Others include diabetes, high cholesterol and alcohol and tobacco use.

Effects vary based on the type, severity, location and number of strokes.

“The left side of my brain was spared,” said John “I can use my right hand and this left side of my brain is helping my left side learn to what to do.”

Years later, John is still putting in the work to help himself.

He says “I would tell people, don’t give up, give the person who has had a stroke, a hug. That hug says more than your words.”

With his support system by his side every step of the way, a positive attitude, his faith and a lot of hope.

“A stroke cannot steal your purpose,” said John “If I wake up with the purpose of having joy in my day, I choose to be joyful. I count things, all of this as joy.”

Click here for more information on the resources McLaren Northern Michigan offers.