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Stop Overthinking and Start Reacting to Stroke

By Kathy Hubbard

Nancy and I were taking a boat safety and navigation class. She was interested in increasing her prowess on the prow of her new boyfriend’s sailboat and I just wanted to be able to maneuver our power boat off the dock. In our class was an older gentleman who was as proud of his new boat as he was his new grandchild.

After the break our man-friend returned with a cup of coffee. He looked unsteady and acted odd. We both whispered that perhaps the cup contained a little too much whiskey. In mere moments he started to shake, the coffee went everywhere and he hit the ground. I called 911.

The two nurses in the class helped to make him comfortable while we waited for EMS to arrive. He was whisked to the nearest hospital and put into ICU diagnosed with a massive stroke.

“The sooner people arrive to the Emergency Department with stroke symptoms the more likely we are able to treat with the clot busting medication,” Alli Emch, RN CEN, Bonner General Health’s hospital supervisor and stroke coordinator. “That being said, the medication isn’t appropriate for all patients and we must follow strict criteria and guidelines for administration.”

We’re often faced with the dilemma, to wait or not to wait, when someone has symptoms that could possibly be life threatening, but may be nothing at all. I’ll tell you always, yes always, presume the worst.

The National Stroke Association agrees with me, “When it comes to stroke, it’s not just about being able to identify when it occurs, it’s about feeling confident to act urgently. But how do we overcome living in a ‘wait and see’ culture and get motivated to spring into action when we think we may be witnessing a stroke? We give permission for you to stop overthinking and start overreacting.”

Following are the signs and symptoms that may indicate stroke. NSA wants you to know that they may not be unique to stroke, but a good indicator that emergency care is necessary.

1. Confusion. The patient may be unable to understand what is happening. He may have a puzzled look, a hard time focusing and trouble making decisions.

2. Difficulty understanding. She may be unable to comprehend speech of language. Her eyebrows may be raised or wrinkled and she may be shaking her head “no” or she becomes unsteady or woozy.

3. Dizziness. The person may be feeling faint, lightheaded or like the room is spinning. Their movements may be unsteady like they have motion sickness or like they’re drunk.

4. Loss of balance. He’ll be unstable and lose coordination, perhaps he’ll be wobbling around grabbing onto a stationary object.

5. Numbness. The patient will feel a tingling sensation in the body, i.e. face, arm, or leg, that they’ll say feels like pins and needles. You’ll notice that they’re constantly touching, massaging or shaking the numb area.

6. Severe headache. Without a known cause, the individual will develop pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck and perhaps will complain about sensitivity to light and be touching their head or rubbing their temples.

7. Trouble speaking. She’ll be unable to speak or her speech will be slurred, or she’ll be saying things that are incomprehensible.

8. Trouble walking. He’ll be stumbling or unable to walk straight. He may even trip over nothing.

9. Vision changes. The patient will have blurred vision or trouble with eyesight in one or both eyes. You’ll notice them squinting, rubbing their eyes or notice that they can’t read.

10. Weakness. She’ll lose strength in the face, arm or leg especially on one side of the body. She’ll want to sit or lay down. She’ll have difficulty doing simple tasks.

“It’s not only important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, but also to know risk factors and modify those we are able to such as stop smoking, exercise regularly, manage high blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and lower stress levels,” Emch said.

National Stroke Association says to learn the symptoms of stroke and share the signs with your friends and family. And then, trust your instincts and take action. The life you save may be a man with a new boat.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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