Thursday, December 8, 2011

The tragedy of an undiagnosed stroke

A few years ago, I was speaking with someone whose 2-year-old had suffered a stroke. I was shocked. At that time, I wasn't aware of that possibility.

Here are some disturbing facts from the Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association:
  • 1 in 4000 babies will have a stroke
  • 1 in 8300 children will have a stroke
  • Stroke in childhood causes multiple disabilities: paralysis, seizures, speech, vision, behavioral, and learning differences
  • Stroke in children costs at least $42 million annually in US
Yeah, that's worthy of writing about. Have you known anyone who has experienced a pediatric stroke?

Of course, most strokes happen to adults. Here are some statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Statistics

  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.
  • Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.
  • Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
  • Strokes can and do occur at ANY age. Nearly one fourth of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.
  • Stroke death rates are higher for African-Americans than for whites, even at younger ages.
  • On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke accounted for about one of every 17 deaths in the United States in 2006. Stroke mortality for 2005 was 137,000.
  • From 1995–2005, the stroke death rate fell ~30 percent and the actual number of stroke deaths declined ~14 percent.
  • The risk of ischemic stroke in current smokers is about double that of nonsmokers after adjustment for other risk factors.
  • Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an independent risk factor for stroke, increasing risk about five-fold.
  • High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke.
Why am I writing about this today? Because of an email my husband sent me. It outlined the symptoms to watch for if you think someone may have had a stroke. Maybe my posting this will save a life. That would certainly make everything I've done on GG worthwhile.

Here are the things to look for:

S:  Ask the person to smile and stick out their tongue. If they cannot smile or their tongue is 'crooked,' call 911 right away!

T:  Ask the person to talk or speak a simple sentence. If the words are incoherent, call 911 right away!

R:  Ask the person to raise his or her arms. Again, if this is a difficult or impossible task, call 911 right away!

Got that? S T R. Remember it. Write it down. Carry it in your wallet. You really never know when this critical information might be necessary. If the victim is treated within the first 3 hours of having a stroke, he or she has an excellent chance of full recovery. If not, severe brain damage can occur.

Knowing that kids can have strokes, too, is just as important to remember. After all, they're counting on us to protect them whenever possible. I hope you never, ever have to use the above tests on a child ... but just in case, please remember what to do.

Caring for your kids and you,



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