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.

I Want To Go Home

Sometimes things stick with me after a long stretch at the hospital. Like glue on my shoe that annoys me with every step, clicking and making a mess until I finally do something to get it off. Please indulge me while I take a moment to do just that.

When I first met him I asked why he was in the hospital. He told me his story of the shed he and his wife were building just a few months before. The thing he thought was a pulled muscle turned out to be cancer that, once established in his lungs, invaded his bones. The strong right arm that swung a hammer was now too painful to lift. Standing was difficult and walking almost impossible. He told me his breathing was really a problem (he didn’t need to tell me….the mask gave it away…but he told me anyway) and then said “I just want to go home.” I told him that was my goal, too, but I needed to make sure he could do that safely, without rushing back to the hospital in a day or two. He nodded, accepting my concern and honesty. Over the next week while he was in the ICU I stopped in to see him whether or not he was my patient. We would talk about everything, his dog, his kids, his wife of 46 years…..and how much he wanted to go home, which he finally did.

Last week he returned. I answered the phone when the other hospital called with report. “You’re sending that sweet man back to us!” I told the nurse as I listened to his medical problems. When the ambulance transport brought him to our unit I was there to say hello. Each breath was a chore but he stabilized quickly and was able to transfer out of the unit within a couple of days.

This weekend he returned after having respiratory distress. The fluid that restricted his lung movement and interfered with his breathing was drained off. His pain was improved after his pain meds were tweaked and he improved…..temporarily. The cancer wasn’t just still there, it had grown invading new, previously untouched areas of his body. After discussing the CT findings with the patient and family, Palliative Care was consulted and a family meeting was held.

Soon after the meeting I went to see him. “It’s bad. I think it’s in the bone. Is it? There’s no stopping it if it is,” he said. “It is,” I gently said.

“I just want to go home. I want to go home to die. I don’t want to die in a hospital”

“You mean you want to live the rest of your life at home.” He stopped and looked at me with a funny look. “I don’t want to die in the hospital, either. If it was me, I would want to go home, too. I don’t know if you have 1 day or one thousand days but if it was me, I would want to go home, sit on my porch, and have my dogs by my side and spend time with my husband. I want to see family and friends. I want to smell fresh air and feel the sun on my face.”

“That’s what I want, too.”

“I told you the first time I met you my goal was for you to go home. It still is. I will help you the best I can.”

We arranged a tour of the Palliative Care Unit and wheeled the whole bed over there so he could see it. After meeting with the staff, seeing the room, and meeting the unit dog, Zoe, he decided he was ready to go. He raved about how friendly everyone was, how sunny and bright the room was, and how he would have enough room for his family to visit. “It will be a good transition for me until I go home.”

Tomorrow, we said.

That evening we talked about how he liked the VA because we respected him for his military service. He served in Viet Nam and told me of places he had been, naming places I hold in distant memory. He said he was 19 when he was there. “Do you know what it’s like to be in an 8×8 bunker, alone, while rockets are coming down at you? I was terrified. I thought I was going to die. I was so anxious and scared.”

After a while, he went off to sleep. The nurse who relieved me also developed a good relationship with him. I know I left him in good hands.

I don’t know if I will get to see him again, this kind man who loved his wife and family, his dogs, and was still haunted by the 8×8 bunker. I know a part will stay with me for a long time, maybe forever.

I hope he makes it home.

Post by Eileen of GoofingOff Sewing…..who is also a nurse caring for America’s heroes. Proudly serving those who served.

My Mission Trip to Haiti: Part One

The Dream

Ever since I became a nurse I dreamt about going on a medical mission and caring for people in need.

About a month ago, my friend Denise told me about a group of nurses from Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine (Denise graduated nursing school with the trip leader)  that were planning a medical mission to Haiti and I thought this was finally my chance. Luckily, they had room for one more, me, so I am going on a medical mission to Haiti in January, 2016.

Am I nervous? A little.

Am I excited? Terribly so.

A million things come to mind….the practical like clean water and good food (I think I will bring my own almonds). Safety (That’s a concern no matter where you go…but I’ll leave my jewelry at home anyway)……The touchy-feely good stuff (the chance to help others). I don’t speak French, just a few words, and even less Creole, but caring and the touch of a human hand is universal.

Next thing is to make the dream come true.

I set up a Go Fund Me page to ask for help with some of the costs involved. The group estimated our costs to be approximately $1200….flights, ground transport, translators, food, and lodging.

I also thought I could have a yard sale or two (yes, I have that much stuff, lots of vintage and antiques) and use the profits from my Miss Eileen’s Vintage Shop on Etsy, too. Maybe bake and sell cookies….hmmm, you never know.

Lots to think about….lots to do. Wish me luck.