While my theme for A to Z is writing and grammar, I thought this F.A.S.T. topic was important enough to pass on to you. It’s a topic that in one instant became very personal to me.
I’ve seen ads on TV and heard bits on the radio about what to do when a person has a stroke, but I haven’t always paid attention. I did know that if a person who had suffered a stroke got medical attention quickly, they could avoid permanent brain damage and disability.
My eldest sister, Ms.Joanne (her nickname), lived alone and did not like us (her younger sisters) checking up on her. We would call to see how she was doing on a fairly regular basis, but Ms.Joanne didn’t answer the phone when she didn’t feel like it. Consequently, if we called and she didn’t answer the phone, we fretted about whether she was just being ornery or whether something had happened.
Even after several falls, several 9-1-1- calls, and several hospitalizations, she still played the phone game with us. She had been in an assisted living facility after her last hospitalization, but one day she just packed her rolling suitcase, called a taxi, walked out, and went back to her home. (Because she had signed herself into the facility, she could also sign herself out.)
Ms.Joanne’s sons travel for work and are rarely home during the week. I live thirty minutes away, so driving over to check on her is a bit inconvenient at times. Bev, my other sister, lives closer to Ms.Joanne, but sometimes she is taking care of her grandchildren so can’t run and check on Ms.Joanne either.
One Monday morning, I called Ms.Joanne and got the usual no answer. What should I do? I decided to drive over to check on her on the pretext of seeing if she needed groceries.
I rang the doorbell. No answer. I tried the door, and it was unlocked. I walked in and called her name. No answer. I walked to the family room at the back of the house, and there she sat in her favorite recliner in front of the TV. At first, I was relieved. But when I called her name again, she did not turn to look at me.
I called her name several more times, she finally turned her head in slow motion, ever so slightly, to look at me. Her eyes were wide and somewhat unfocused. I asked, “Are you okay?” She said, “Yes,” but clearly she was not.
Somehow I knew she had had a stroke. She could talk, but she didn’t say very much, and she remained in the same position as when I had entered the house. From the odor in the room, I guessed that she had been sitting there for more than a few hours. She told me two days. I was not sure if that was the correct answer or if she was disoriented. Regardless, I told her I needed to call 9-1-1. She told me, “no” in an adamant tone, the strongest and loudest of the day.
It was clear to me that she needed medical attention, so I told her again that I needed to call 9-1-1. Again she refused. Finally, I just called 9-1-1. When the EMTs arrived they asked her to smile, to move her arms, to speak. When she had difficulty with smiling and moving her arms, they told her she had to go to the hospital. Of course, she refused. She wanted to stay in her home. The EMTs were very patient and kind to her and explained what needed to be done, and finally Ms.Joanne relented and allowed them to take her to the hospital.
But for Ms.Joanne, it was too late to stop or reverse the damage from the stroke. She was weak on the right side of her body and paralyzed on the whole left side of her body. Within days, because of complications (swelling, lack of circulation), the doctors advised that her left leg had to be amputated. Now, five months later, she is in a long-term care facility and requires almost total care. She can feed herself, but she can’t bathe, dress herself, or do any personal care. She will never be able to walk again. Because of her paralysis, she is not a candidate for a prosthetic device.
My family is aging, and health issues now take much of our time. These are my sisters. Ms.Joanne is the tallest one in the back.
Sister Shirley, back right, is also in a rehab facility in California. Several months ago, she was hit by a car while she was in a crosswalk on a busy street. The driver of the car was paying attention to her dog and not to her driving. My sister, Joyce, back row left, passed away of heart disease (a family trait) several years ago. I also have three brothers. The youngest, Robert, passed away three years ago of Sarcoma (cancer).
Strokes are the 3rd leading cause of death and a leading cause of long-term disability in adults.
Every minute counts when someone has a stroke. The sooner the stroke victim receives medical attention, the better the prognosis. This acronym, F.A.S.T., can help you remember the signs of a stroke:
Keep these steps in mind. Be ready to help when you notice facial or body weakness and strange speech in a family member, friend, acquaintance, or anyone. Act F.A.S.T. I pray that you have better results than Ms. Joanne.
The Last Meow
Cats just seem to know when someone needs some special attention.