May is National Stroke Awareness Month; Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital Urges You to Learn the Signs Today
“It’s ironic a few years before my stroke, I ran in a marathon to raise money for stroke awareness. You never think it will happen to you,” said Kenyetta. “My recovery is still on-going; I find myself easily distracted, forgetful, and emotional, and I’m still regaining my memory.”
Story by: Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
HOUSTON – At 38-years-old, Kenyetta Brasher was busy with life; traveling and visiting relatives, teaching fitness and yoga, and practicing Latin dance moves.
When her eyes started bothering her, she simply thought she needed new glasses. She began having headaches and was a bit clumsy, she just thought she was overtired and needed more rest.
TIMING IS CRITICAL
But as she was getting ready for bed one Sunday night in 2008, reality struck home. She felt irritable, restless, and a bit dizzy.
Her husband noticed she was mumbling in response to questions or not answering at all. As he watched, she tried to pull up the covers and her arm flopped around. Alarmed, he realized the left part of her body was drooping and raced her to Memorial Hermann.
Doctors there diagnosed Brasher with an ischemic stroke and treated her with medication. A thrombolytic, or clot-busting agent, tPA, is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the urgent treatment of ischemic stroke.
If given intravenously in the first three hours after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA has been shown to significantly reverse the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability.
“In Kenyetta’s case, she most likely was suffering “mini-strokes” or transient ischemic attacks for a period of time. These are short-term interruptions in blood flow to the brain and cause temporary stroke symptoms, often just for a few minutes, such as weakness or tingling in an arm or leg,” said Stroke Medical Director Reza Sadeghi, M.D., Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, and a neurologist and clinical neurophysiologist affiliated with Mischer Neuroscience Associates. “Mini-strokes do not cause brain damage, but they are important warning signs that a person is at risk of having a stroke.”
According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is one of the leading causes of death and serious, long-term disability in the United States. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes; and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.
According to the National Stroke Association, one-half of all African-American women will die from stroke or heart disease.
African-Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians. The rate of first strokes in African-Americans is almost double that of Caucasians, and strokes tend to occur earlier in life for African-Americans than Caucasians.
The association also shares some other interesting facts about stroke.
1. African-Americans have twice the mortality from stroke compared with Caucasians.
2. African-Americans have more severe and disabling strokes compared with Caucasians.
3. African-American women have a lower 1-year survival following ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot) compared with Caucasians.
4. African-Americans have twice the risk of first ever strokes compared with Caucasians.
5. Among those aged 20 to 44 years of age, African-Americans are 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke compared with Caucasians.
6. African-Americans are significantly less likely to receive tPA, the only FDA-approved treatment for stroke, compared with Caucasians.
“I consider myself extremely lucky; my husband recognized immediately that something was wrong and rushed to get me help. My recovery is still on-going; I find myself easily distracted, forgetful, and emotional, and I’m still regaining my memory,” Kenyetta Brasher said.. “It’s ironic a few years before my stroke, I ran in a marathon to raise money for stroke awareness. You never think it will happen to you.”
Because stroke injures the brain, you may not realize you are having a stroke.
To a bystander, someone having a stroke may just look unaware or confused. Stroke victims have the best chance if someone around them recognizes the symptoms and gets help quickly.
The symptoms of stroke are distinct because they happen fast:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
“Treatment exists to minimize the effects of stroke. If you see any of the symptoms, don’t delay. The faster a patient receives treatment, the more likely it is they can maintain their quality of life,” said Stroke Program Manager Anila Nair, A.C.N.P.-B.C., Memorial Hermann Southwest. “On the prevention side, you can greatly reduce your risk for stroke by leading a healthy lifestyle and working with your doctor to treat and control your medical conditions.”
The Neuroscience Center at Memorial Hermann Southwest is one of the most advanced neuroscience centers in Houston. More than 10 expert neurologists and neurosurgeons are available to diagnose and treat a wide range of neurological illnesses around the clock. With a 20-bed neuroscience unit and an eight-bed intensive care unit specifically devoted to neurology patients, the multidisciplinary team also includes critical care nurses, nurse practitioners trained in neurology, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and other specialized medical support personnel.
Memorial Hermann recommends F.A.S.T. as an acronym to remember the sudden signs of stroke:
Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1.
To find out if you are at risk, talk with your health care provider or make an appointment for a stroke screening at Memorial Hermann Southwest, a Joint Commission certified Primary Stroke Center, by calling 713-778-6236.