Be Prepared: How To Identify A Stroke

by Karen Keller Capuciati

We are still not quite sure how our mom managed to make the call to her friend, Marcella, on the morning of September 14, 2009.  She didn’t know it at the time, but she was having a stroke.

She later told me that she knew something was wrong because she couldn’t open the window blinds.  She couldn’t mentally coordinate this simple everyday task.  When she called Marcella, she couldn’t speak clearly — she couldn’t put words together to explain what was happening.  So Marcella rushed over to Mom’s house, where she called Kim and me on Mom’s cell phone.  (We remember it distinctly because we were on the phone together and we both saw that Mom was trying to reach us — something was definitely up!)  When we had Mom on the phone, she couldn’t find the words to say what was wrong.  She gave the phone back to Marcella who confirmed that Mom was very distressed and indeed having trouble speaking.

The thought that Mom might be having a stroke crossed our minds.  Clearly the answer was GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM NOW!

When someone is having a stroke, it’s not going to be simple and orderly.  It’s going to be unexpected, chaotic, confusing and stressful.  And with a stroke, it’s vitally important to act fast.  Depending on the type of stroke, if it’s diagnosed within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-dissolving medication increases the chances of survival and recovery.

Those on the scene will need to act fast, so ask yourself:  Are you prepared?  Would you recognize if someone was having a stroke?

Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of movement — especially on only one side of the body.
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Confusion — an inability to understand a simple statement
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe and sudden headache

Watch this video — called Act F.A.S.T. — for more stroke prevention tips.

If you notice any sign of stroke in a friend or loved one, seek medical attention right away, even if it’s only one of the above signs, and even if the symptom quickly dissipates.  Immediate medical intervention is important if it’s a stroke — and if it isn’t a stroke, you may help prevent one in the future.

In hindsight, we now recognize that Mom had been experiencing symptoms that were precursors to a stroke.  A couple of months earlier, she experienced a passing moment when she could not get her words out.  Another time, she had dizziness that doctors diagnosed as vertigo, and two night’s before her stroke, Mom’s friends said she had a moment of confusion when playing cards that they described as unusual.  We should have acted on these symptoms, but it’s easy to chalk them up to just random occurrences and the effects of aging.

Don’t make the same mistakes we did.  Be vigilant and be prepared.

One Response to “Be Prepared: How To Identify A Stroke”

  1. George says:

    When I have called 911, and went to the hospital with my mom, we waited around for six hours, when they came by and said she was dehydrated and gave her an IV. Well, of course she was dehydrated. We had been sitting there for six hours.

    So, whn m mom is showing signs of a stroke, rather than making a call to 911 and then sitting around a hospital emergency room all day, what could I do. Please don’t tell me to wait six hours for Mr Magic fingers at $600 an hour to see what he suggests.