If the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, tissues are deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Your brain cells will begin to die within minutes. This is what is commonly known as having a stroke.
Strokes are serious medical emergencies that can result in an array of disabilities, or death. More than 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year; 140,000 of them will die. (Centers for Disease Control, 2017)
The good news is that prompt treatment can avert these dire outcomes. Today, many fewer Americans die of stroke compared to years past. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.
May is National Stroke Awareness month, and a top goal of the American Stroke Association is to convey that you can ‘Save a Life’ if you see a person experiencing stroke.
The emphasis is on acting FAST. The acronym stands for the things to quickly check in a suspected stroke victim.
F = Face. Does the face droop on one side when the person smiles?
A = Arm. After raising both arms, does one of the arms drift downward?
S = Speech. After repeating a simple phrase, does the person’s speech sound slurred or strange?
T = Time. If you observe any of the above, note the time the symptom occurred, call 9-1-1 immediately, and request medical assistance.
Sometimes other symptoms occur, separately or with FAST. These include sudden numbness or weakness of the arm, face or leg; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking or with balance; or sudden severe headache. Again, call 9-1-1 for any of these symptoms.
The speed of medical intervention can make all the difference. Recent medical advances may minimize the long–term effects of a stroke, or even prevent death. The most commonly occurring type of stroke is ischemic, and it is caused when a vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or rupture. Administering Alteplase IV r-tPA, an FDA approved drug, dissolves the clot and improves blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived. If administered within three hours, this clot-busting drug improves the chances of recovering from a stroke.
Another treatment option is a procedure in which specially trained doctors try to remove the blood clot by sending a catheter to the site of the blocked blood vessel in the brain.
While current treatments that are administered in time can save more lives than ever before, people who survive a stroke are likely to require comprehensive care and rehabilitation to prevent secondary complications.
After being stabilized in an acute care hospital, many patients come to Burke for intensive inpatient therapy. Comprised of a multidisciplinary team of professionals, Burke’s Stroke Rehabilitation program provides up to three hours a day of physical, occupational and speech therapy. Lisa Edelstein, Burke’s stroke rehabilitation program director, says the hospital serves approximately 500 stroke patients a year, whose ages range from 23 to 97.
“Since education and training is vitally important, the Burke team works closely with the patient’s family and caregivers throughout the rehab process, to ensure they can safely and effectively assist their loved one,” says Edelstein. “Changes from stroke can be life changing and lifelong, so a good deal of emphasis is on problem solving and coping, as well as on lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of further stroke.”
One identifiable risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. In recognition of the importance of Stroke Awareness Month, Burke is providing community blood pressure screenings in the main hospital building from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23rd and again on Wednesday, May 30th. Additional screenings will be offered between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays on Daley Patio off the cafeteria and Thursdays in the Patient Dining Room through the end of the month. A Stroke Support Night for patients who have experienced a stroke and their caregivers will be held in the cafeteria on Wednesday, May 23rd as well.
Burke sponsors an ongoing Stroke Support Group for former patients, caregivers and community members. It meets on the third Wednesday of the month, at the Outpatient Building on Burke’s main campus. Contact: Roseann Cardi (914) 907-7482.
-- Carol Vartuli