Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Stroke at a glance

Are strokes happening more often or have we just become more aware? The baby boomers have grown up with some choice responses in reaction to tricky situations. 

"I tell ya, I coulda had a stroke..." 
"I'm as serious as a heart attack..."
"You gave me cardiac arrest..."
"CODE 5!!"

Stroke has degrees of meaning. At one end it means to move with gentle pressure and on the other,  it can mean that you are lead oar on a crew boat or the word every coxswain bellows to keep his oarsmen moving in glorious unison. But this post is about the kind of stroke we have a visceral fear of having. This one strikes unbidden in a sudden, disabling attack or loss of consciousness which interrupts the flow of blood to the brain aka thrombosis.  While it can be survivable, the long term impacts are very personal and highly case specific. For some, it can act as a life choice, lifestyle wake up call. For the unfortunate others, strokes bring the immediate and irreversible loss of faculties and increased likelihood of prolonged functional decline.

In western society, we have become worryingly au fait with stroke lingo. Act, FAST - Face, Arms, Speech, Time. We memorize, we wait, we hope that we will react, in time.

The telly adverts for stroke awareness show the pathways to the brain burning up, the system short circuiting. It's equivalent to a blow out of our personal motherboard. If we are quick, as in two hours from onset, the wonder drug thrombolysis can be fed into a victims veins where it can race to stop the bleed. This is a form of damage limitation. In a 2004 study, if eligible patients got this drug for up to 6 hours, there was a 78% probability of a gain in quality adjusted survival during the first year.  Despite such apparently promising benefits and almost a decade later, it is still not customary. So provided you qualify as eligible and that the stars align, this post will hopefully make you more aware:

1 of the existence of this drug 
2 hope that the hospital you are taken to has its use as a protocol
3 hope you don't have any contraindications, as in other underlying conditions which preclude its use.

So now you know and knowledge is power Use it. Taking personal responsibility for your health is another type of power. Be your own advocate.

That's a stroke of genius.

Deborah Gale

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