Stroke Awareness Oregon

It Can Happen to You!

Linda and Susan were at the final dress rehearsal for the community theater’s summer play.  All was going well, until time for Kevin to walk on and begin his dialogue.   There was a brief delay after the que but no Kevin.  That was strange.  Actors saw him just before the rehearsal.   Thinking he did not hear, they redid the scene.  Still no Kevin.  Linda and Susan walked backstage and found Kevin simply standing with a strange look on his face.  In fact, one side of his face drooped.  “Are you alright?”  Kevin’s response was a jumble of disconnected words.  Having learned about F.A.S.T. from a Stroke Awareness Oregon presentation, they recognized that Kevin was showing signs of a stroke.  EMS arrived after Linda called 9-1-1 and transported Kevin to the hospital where he was assessed, diagnosed and treated for a stroke.  Because Linda and Susan knew F.A.S.T., Kevin recovered with minor issues and rejoined the community theater that fall.

Each year more than 800,000 people in the United States experience a stroke.  Stroke, the 5th leading cause of death in Oregon is the leading cause of disability worldwide.  Every second a stroke can kill part of your brain that may control movement, sight, thinking or speech.  Stroke doesn’t care your age, race, gender or economic standing.  In fact, while 60% of strokes occur in people over 65, there is an alarming uptick in stroke in young adults.  Interestingly, 80% of strokes can be prevented.   Key risk factors are AFib, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.  It is recommended people with these risk factors work closely with their physicians on management.

There are two types of stroke; Hemorrhagic or a bleed in the brain and Ischemic stroke which is a clot preventing blood flow to the brain.  The majority of strokes are Ischemic.  It is stunning to realize that for every minute your brain is deprived of oxygen two million brain cells die.  But with new medical protocols and treatments, there is hope for stroke victims IF they get to the hospital within 3 hours of symptom onset.

Stroke Awareness Oregon, a nonprofit based in Bend, was created to save lives by getting out the word about stroke causes and prevention, making F.A.S.T. a household safety word and supporting the best possible recovery for stroke survivors and their carepartners.  What is F.A.S.T.?  It is an acronym to help identify when someone may be having a stroke.  Time is Brain and rapid medical treatment saves lives.   F.A.S.T is F ( face drooping on one side) A (arm or one sided weakness) S (speech that is garbled  or an inability to speak) T (time to call 9-1-1)!  Oftentimes the stroke sufferer will say nothing is wrong or just want to sleep it off.  If you see any of these F.A.S.T. signs, do not hesitate.  Even during COVID, do not hesitate.  EMS and hospitals have adequate precautions in place to make a 9-1-1 call safe during the pandemic.

If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, undoubtedly, your world is rocked.  For some the road forward is long, arduous and seems impossible.  At Stroke Awareness Oregon, we understand. That is why our online support groups for survivors and care partners have proven helpful.  Stroke families don’t have to walk the journey alone.   It’s important to know that feeling depressed, fearful, confused, embarrassed and overwhelmed is common.  Questions about having another stroke, finances, rehabilitation and a lost identity are common.  And for the carepartner, the questions are the same and often compounded by the stress of dailing caregiving, getting to appointments, and a changed relationship.  One carepartner explained “this is the hardest job I never applied for”.  The good news is you are not alone.  The good news is there are resources and support for stroke families.  Here’s what you can do: Contact Stroke Awareness Oregon or the American Stroke Association for further information, work with your primary care physician to diminish stroke risks, know about F.A.S.T. to get immediate medical care in the event of a stroke, join one of Stroke Awareness Oregon’s support groups.

Carol Stiles

Executive Director

Stroke Awareness Oregon

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