On February 14th, CBS reporter Serene Branson, broadcasting live from the Grammy Awards, devolved into garbled speech while on camera. The video went viral all over the internet along with much concern, compassion and curiosity. While there is speculation as to the cause of her symptoms and her actual diagnosis, this very public event has led to greater awareness and discussion of the frightening reality of brain injury due to stroke. May we all wish Ms. Branson a speedy and complete recovery and also respect her privacy.
In the meantime, we can now take this opportunity to educate and prepare ourselves for such an event. With an aging baby boomer population we would all do well to hone our knowledge and ability to respond.
Will you be at home with a loved one who gets suddenly confused? Will you be standing in the grocery store next to a stranger whose arm goes numb and drops the milk? Will you be walking the dog and see your neighbor lose her balance and collapse on the sidewalk? Will you be able to help?
Empowered with information, you may save someone's life one day. There is no time to waste. Every minute counts for a brain losing blood flow and oxygen. You must act quickly. You must know what to do.
Learn These Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Here Are the Guidelines From the American Heart Association:
Immediately call 911 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you.
Also, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared. It's very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke. tPA is the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of stroke within three hours of stroke symptom onset.
Watch a video animation of an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke caused by blockage of blood flow to the brain.
A TIA or transient ischemic attack is a "warning stroke" or "mini-stroke" that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. The usual TIA symptoms are the same as those of stroke, only temporary. The short duration of these symptoms and lack of permanent brain injury is the main difference between TIA and stroke.
While transient ischemic attack (TIA) is often labeled "mini-stroke," it is more accurately characterized as a "warning stroke," a warning you should take very seriously.
TIA is caused by a clot; the only difference between a stroke and TIA is that with TIA the blockage is transient (temporary). TIA symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short time. Most TIAs last less than five minutes; the average is about a minute. Unlike a stroke, when a TIA is over, there's no permanent injury to the brain. View an animation of a TIA here.
What NOT to Do:
Don't move someone who has fallen. If they have broken their neck, you could make matters worse causing paralysis.
You may have heard about administering aspirin for heart attacks. Stroke is different. If it is a hemorrhagic stroke caused by excess bleeding, the aspirin will make matters worse by increasing bleeding. If the person has lost the ability to swallow normally they could choke on anything given orally. So, unless you are a trained health care provider or trained in first responder emergency skills, best to call 911 and let the emergency operator guide you in assisting the person in need. Go to the phone, call 911 FIRST.
Several years ago, a neurologist, Jill Bolte Taylor, suffered a stroke.
She described her experience in detail in this video, A Stroke of Insight.
Better to prevent a stroke than to suffer one.
Stay tuned for my next article on stroke prevention.