Aging/Gerontology, Health Conditions/Diseases

Strokes: The Devastation and Recovery Of

by Victoria Brewster, MSW- October 27, 2012
Three excellent books to read, ‘My Stroke of Insight’ by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge, MD and ‘Life after stroke: The guide to recovering your health and preventing another stroke’ by Joel Stein, Julie Silver, and Elizabeth Pegg Frates.
Strokes are the number 3 killer in Canada and the number 4 killer in the U.S. –  80% are Ischemic (blood clots) and 20% Hemorrhages.
Imagine waking up one morning with a terrible headache, beginning your daily morning routine-the headache worsens and you begin to realize something is wrong, but you do not know what. Symptoms: headache, blurry vision, tingling in body, balance is off….
DIAL 911!
S= speech
O=off balance
K=killer headache
E=eyes-problem with vision
(taken from ‘My Stroke of Insight’, pg. 26)
If you are unsure of what you are witnessing if it is someone else, I was told to ask:
1- Ask the person to smile
2- Ask the person to raise both arms above their head
3-Ask the person their name
These 3 questions will also cue you in to the health risk that could be occurring right before your eyes. It is extremely important that medical attention and evaluation happen in a hospital before 3 hours has gone by to minimize any possible damage to the brain and to hope for a full recovery.
Society needs to realize the risks and needs to know the symptoms!
As one who has a genetic pre-disposition to strokes (family members who have died from or have had mini-strokes along with high blood pressure) ( – the difference between genetic and familial) I have made a point to educate myself. Also, I have had a few clients suffer strokes over the past 6 months. These are clients I have known for many years.
It is very hard to see one who was so vibrant and independant lie in a hospital bed with aphasia (inability to speak), paralyzed on one side of their body, not know who they are, cannot talk about feelings-they are not the same person anymore.
But what is important to remember is the importance of the recovery process. This is where neuroplasticity comes in, physiotherapy, caregivers, family, friends and other professionals.
Neuroplasticity you ask? The brains ability to relearn. If the stroke affected the right side of the brain, it is the left side of the brain that must learn those activities and vice versa.
‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ is an excellent resource and describes the scientific journey of neuroplasticity over many years long with the various scientists and philospohers who touched on the subject, performed research, etc.
It is because of a few important researchers that we know so much about the brain, the importance of MRI’s, the map of the brain, treatment and the importance of therapy as in physiotherapy, Cognitive Linguistic Therapy, PACE (Promoting Aphasic’s Communicative Effectiveness) and Pharmacology (medications) for those that have suffered a stroke.
I find too many professionals do not educate or continue to educate themselves, but really we need to in order to be able to assist our clients.
Continuing education-a journey through life whether it is a personal interest, professional interest, formal education or certification process, reading, etc. is so important.
Please share your thoughts with me on this topic. Healthcare affects everyone whether it is ourselves, a family member, friend, colleague or client.

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