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Published on June 03, 2016

Acting FAST When Experiencing a Stroke

It was a normal day off for Lori Garrett. She was lying on the couch playing with her dogs, but when she stood up, her leg buckled.

“I thought my foot was asleep,” she said.

But when Lori tried to pick herself back up, her arm was lifeless beside her. When she looked in the mirror, her smile looked funny. She grabbed a pen to see if she was able to write, but she couldn’t hold it.

At 37 years old, Lori was having a stroke.

“I never stop being a nurse,” said Lori, who is an emergency center nurse at Pelham Medical Center. “After I realized my symptoms, I went to the emergency center.”

Even as a nurse of six years, Lori at first doubted that anything was wrong with her. But she recognized the symptoms of stroke and headed to the hospital immediately.

However, many people ignore stroke signs, thinking they will go away.

“We hear it all the time. Someone’s left side went weak, but they didn’t want to worry anyone or bother the busy EMS workers,” said John Pilch, MD, Medical Group of the Carolinas—Neurology—Pelham. “If you are experiencing any stroke symptoms, that is an emergency and you need to go to the hospital.”

Lori underwent treatment in the emergency center, receiving an infusion of TPA, a clot-busting drug. She then had an MRI and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Lori remained in the ICU for three days, where she received speech, physical and occupational therapy.

After leaving the hospital, Lori continued speech, physical and occupational inpatient therapy for four days at Spartanburg Rehab Institute. Following inpatient therapy, she underwent one month of outpatient therapy through Spartanburg Regional’s rehabilitation services program at the local YMCA.

Because she acted fast and received care within the first two hours of stroke symptoms, Lori was able to return to work after three weeks. Permanent stroke effects such as speech impairment, weakness or paralysis are minimized the sooner a patient receives care.

“Life after stroke is about your drive,” Lori said. “You have to reclaim your life.”

Since her stroke, Lori is able to identify with her patients in a new way.

“It’s one of the scariest times of your life,” she said. “As a patient, you are scared and don’t understand what’s happening.”

What’s the difference between a TIA and a stroke?
You may have a loved one who suffered from a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This is commonly called a “mini-stroke,” where the blood flow stops for a short period of time, causing stroke symptoms.

“Really, a TIA is a stroke that almost happened,” Dr. Pilch said. “It has the same symptoms and is a warning of a stroke.”

A stroke is when blood flow to the brain is cut off. This can either be due to a blood clot blocking the flow—which is called an ischemic stroke—or when a blood vessel bursts and stops the flow—which is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

What should I do if I have had a TIA?
“A TIA should be taken just as seriously as a stroke, and you shouldn’t treat it any differently than a stroke,” Dr. Pilch said. “If you or a loved one has experienced any stroke symptoms, call an ambulance immediately, even if you feel it may be just a TIA.”

It’s important to go to the hospital after a TIA, because more TIAs or a full stroke could occur later.

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, act FAST:
• F-Face Drooping: One side of the face is drooping or numb

• A-Arm Weakness: One arm is weak or numb

• S- Speech Difficulty: Speech is slurred or a person is unable to speak or be understood

• T- Time to Call 9-1-1: Call 9-1-1 if any of these symptoms occur

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