Stroke Survival

Acting Fast to Save the Brain

 

David Powdrell was only 49 when he suffered a stroke. At the time it was happening, he didn’t know what was wrong, but he couldn’t stand.

 

He had been at his son’s condominium that day moving furniture, when suddenly his right leg went numb and then his right arm.

 

“Perhaps I’m just tired,” he thought, and sat down to rest for a few minutes. When he tried to get up, he collapsed and hit the floor. David was alone but fortunately had his cell phone in his pocket.

 

He called his wife, Valerie, at home. He calmly explained that although he felt fine, he couldn’t stand up. Valerie immediately called 911.

 

“If you suspect a stroke, call 911 right away. Even if you might have some doubts. Getting help fast is crucial to saving brain tissue. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.”

 

David recovered well from his stroke, which was caused by malformed blood vessels in his brain. His condition was very rare, and he was born with it. Unlike his case, however, 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented, and education is key. It’s important to know the risk factors and the warning signs for stroke to reduce fatalities and disabilities.

 

 

“The majority of strokes can be prevented,” said Gary Milgram, service line director at Cottage Health System. “Awareness and acting quickly are the most important things to remember when it comes to stroke.”

 

A stroke is often called a “brain attack,” because it cuts off blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

 

Learn more about Cottage's Stroke Program and Neuroscience Institute

 

There are two main kinds of stroke: An ischemic stroke is one that is caused by a clot that blocks a vessel or artery leading to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel bursts due to high blood pressure.

 

Every 45 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke, impacting about 750,000 people each year.

 

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the nation. But in Santa Barbara County, it ranks in the number two spot—just behind heart disease. Stroke leaves a heavy toll on those who survive: It is the number one cause of disability in adults.

 

To help the public recognize the signs of stroke, the National Stroke Association developed the “F.A.S.T.” tips. “F” refers to face, as one side of the face droops in a stroke victim. “A” stands for arms and difficulty raising one or both arms, and “S” stands for slurred speech. The “T” stands for time, and emphasizes getting to a hospital immediately in case of stroke.

 

“The most important thing to take away from the screening is to remember that ‘time is brain,’” Gary told the group. “If you suspect a stroke, call 911 right away. Even if you might have some doubts. Getting help fast is crucial to saving brain tissue. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.”

 

Fae Perry and Katrina Zamyatina, who both work at residential care facilities for the elderly in Santa Barbara, attended a recent stroke screening event and found the information valuable.

 

“This is a great opportunity to learn about stroke and to share the information with our staff,” Fae said.

 

“We have a high percentage of stroke survivors in our facilities,” added Katrina. “And having the clinical information about stroke and how to recognize it is very useful.”

 

• BY MARIA ZATE  | ILLUSTRATION BY PEGGY LINDT 

 

Return to Cottage Magazine Fall 2010