Recognizing the Signs of Stroke

I wrote this a while ago but the information is still good so I thought I would publish it again. It’s too important not to share.

Not too long ago I went to one of my favorite thrift shops, you know, the one with all the stuff crammed into every nook and cranny? So much stuff it spills out to the sidewalk?  Yeah, that one. Good shop. Well, anyway, there is a nice older couple who run the shop. Well, when I stopped in the last time there was a younger man at the register. I thought “Maybe they took a trip and he’s filling in” so in my small talk way I asked what happened to the woman who runs the store. “Oh, that’s my mom” he said. “My dad had a stroke about a month ago and she’s been taking care of him.”

OMG, the poor man and his wife. The son proceeded to tell me how he stopped at the store one morning and found his dad trying to make coffee but couldn’t figure out how to do it. Being a good son he helped him make the coffee then went on his way. He checked back with his mom later that afternoon and she said his dad wasn’t much better. She thought it was a cold. Anyway, to make a long story short, the man didn’t see a doctor or go to the hospital for a week. It took the hospital a few more days, a CT scan, and an MRI to figure out he had a stroke. He spent another week in the hospital. When I found out about it he was just starting to talk again.

I feel terrible about the whole thing. I don’t place blame on the son for not taking him to the hospital or the man’s wife for the not calling an ambulance. I feel bad because they didn’t recognize the signs of stroke, so being the good nurse that I am, I decided to blog about it. Maybe someone will remember what I wrote and the signs. Time is so precious. “Time is muscle” is the saying for a heart attack. For strokes it is “Time is brain cells.” So, here goes, a nursing teaching moment.

A stroke is called a brain attack just like a myocardial infarction is called a heart attack. There is a lack of oxygen to a portion of the brain.  How bad the effects are depends on a few things but it is important to do something about it. What can you do? CALL 911!

I borrowed this from the American Heart Association. It’s good, sound advice so please read this:


  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Be prepared for an emergency.

  • Keep a list of emergency rescue service numbers next to the telephone and in your pocket, wallet or purse.
  • Find out which area hospitals are primary stroke centers that have 24-hour emergency stroke care.
  • Know (in advance) which hospital or medical facility is nearest your home or office.

Take action in an emergency.

  • Not all the warning signs occur in every stroke. Don’t ignore signs of stroke, even if they go away!
  • Check the time. When did the first warning sign or symptom start? You’ll be asked this important question later.
  • If you have one or more stroke symptoms that last more than a few minutes, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical service (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can quickly be sent for you.
  • If you’re with someone who may be having stroke symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 or the EMS. Expect the person to protest — denial is common. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Insist on taking prompt action.

For stroke information, call the American Stroke Association at 1-888-4-STROKE or visit their Web site.

Now, I love to see my friends but I sure would rather see y’all in a thrift shop or yard sale than in the ICU. I wish I could have taught the man and his mom to recognize the signs of stroke. Might have changed the recovery time and changed his outcome. I can’t do much about what happened but I can affect what will be by teaching and telling others. OK, I did my part, now you do yours.

Thanks for reading.

Post by Eileen Patterson.