An impending stroke has signs, but how many people know of them
BY GRACE ESHIWANI
Friday, 15th March 2019 will be exactly 3 months since we laid my grandmother to rest. She passed away 6 months after suffering three massive strokes. As a family, we are still trying to come to terms to with this loss especially since we thought she was getting better. It is human nature to seek closure and try to find answers to what might have transpired. Is there anything that could have been done? Grandma was a generally healthy woman, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but she attended regular clinics, and everything was under control or so we thought. She woke up one Sunday with a terrible headache; she said she felt as if her head was coming off her neck. She was hesitant to go to the hospital but opted to visit a clinic where she received some treatment. This, however, did nothing to stop the headache which only grew worse with time. In hindsight this should have been our first clue that things could really be wrong. We sought further medical attention in Kisumu and a few tests were done and we went back home. She collapsed a few hours later while in the house and was rushed to a private hospital in Eldoret. Many hours after the headache began; we were informed that she had suffered her first stroke and the long dreadful journey began. She later had surgery, lost her speech completely and her entire body paralysed as both her left and right parts of the brains were affected.
In my quest to seek closure and answers to the constant nagging question, “Could we have done things differently?” I decided to seek answers from Dr Boniface Musila, a physician at The Karen Hospital.
This could be stroke
A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is reduced or interrupted which ultimately results in starving the supply of oxygen and other nutrients to brain cells causing them to die off. There are different types of strokes depending on the cause of blood flow disruption to the brain. For instance ischemic stroke is as a result of a blocked artery, a haemorrhagic stroke is caused by a burst blood vessel which results in a bleed in the brain while transient ischemic attack is caused by temporary blood disruption to the brain and does not cause permanent damage to the brain.
According to Dr Musila, symptoms of a stroke include a severe headache that may or may not be accompanied by reduced consciousness, dizziness or vomiting. Lack of co-ordinated movement is another symptom. One may experience loss of balance or trip when walking. One may also experience paralysis or numbness in the arm or leg. This often affects one side of the body; in addition to this one may notice drooping of the face when they smile, may have trouble following conversations and may also have difficulty seeing.
“You should get to the hospital as soon as you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms,” said Dr. Musila. “The treatment options and time taken before treatment begins will determine the prognosis and recovery period of the patient,” he reiterated.
What should you do if you suspect that a relative or a friend could be having a stroke? You need to act FAST. This is an acronym for Face-Arms-Speech-Time. Examine the individual’s face and ask them to smile, examine to see whether there is a droop and an unusual smile. For the arms, ask him or her to raise both arms and observe whether they are able to raise both. Ask the individual to repeat a phrase and observe how the speech is; is it slurred or unusual? If the individual checks for any of the aforementioned, then you need to act very quickly and get them to a medical facility for treatment.
There are several risk factors which predispose one to stroke; such as uncontrolled blood pressure. The most terrifying thing about high blood pressure is that it has been dubbed the Silent Killer. It does not have any symptom and many at times it is diagnosed during Wellness Check-up or when damage has already been done. Smoking is another predisposing factor, it is advisable to stop smoking or exposing oneself to secondary smoke. Being obese or overweight also predisposes one to stroke. Sedentary lifestyle caused by lifestyle changes is another big contributor. Consumption of processed foods high in salt and fat leads to high cholesterol which in turn lines up on the inside of blood vessels causing narrowing up of blood vessels.
Individuals who are 55 years old are more likely to suffer from stroke than younger people.
Dr Musila advises that to prevent stroke people should exercise and get to a healthy weight, avoid processed foods, quit smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke and ensure that one’s blood pressure is controlled.
What stroke does
Stroke often leads to several complications which may include but is not limited to; loss of memory, difficulty in articulation which may require assistance from a speech therapist and paralysis of part of the body which may be rectified through physiotherapy focusing on the affected muscle.
Had we known all these, would we have acted differently? Definitely!
Grace Eshiwani is the Communications officer at The Karen Hospital. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org