Friday, September 09, 2005

It all started with a chain email

Last week on September 1, my sister forwarded an email that she had gotten from one of her co-workers. It was one of those info emails telling people to keep an eye out for signs of a stroke in case a loved one ever suffered from such a situation. It told of how you needed to check by asking the victim to smile, raise their arms, and say a simple sentence. If they could not perform all of these tasks, get them to the emergency room. I read it and knew that they were all very good indications. My cousin, however, joked about how my sister always sends these chain emails.

A week later, I got another email from my sister about my uncle. He was at his son's house (my cousin) watching movies when he noticed something was wrong. My cousin looked at him and saw that half of his face was drooping. My cousin, Corin, had his dad perform those 3 steps. He couldn't. Corin grabbed his keys and carried his dad to the car and took off. He didn't even tell his wife what had happened until he called her from his cell phone while he was on the road.

Corin got his dad to the hospital in a matter of minutes. That made a world of difference. He is doing much better now. He has regained the use of shoulder and elbow, but the wrist and fingers are still out of commission.

The thing about strokes is that there are two types: obstructive and hemorrhagic. The reason they cannot do anything immediately at the emergency room is because they have to determine which type you have first. So, for those of you who have loved ones suffering from a stroke, understand that if they do not determine which type it is first, they can make the situation MUCH worse. So, be patient. Let me explain.

Strokes occur because there is something wrong with the blood flow to the brain. If the victim is suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke, that means that a blood vessel has been compromised and there is bleeding in one of the numerous vessels in the brain. To take care of this, they have to utilize something to enhance blood clotting in order to "plug the hole".

The obstructive type of stroke occurs when there is something blocking one of the vessels in the brain. This is the one my uncle had. When there is something obstructing the vessel, they give Heparin or something that will thin the blood out. This will make it easier to blood to flow around the obstruction. They should then give a thrombolytic which should help "dissolve" whatever is obstructing the vessel.

With these two types in mind, you can see how it is VITAL to determine which type the victim is suffering from. If you gave a blood thinner to someone who is already bleeding in the brain, that will make the bleeding worse. If you gave something to increase clotting while the victim is already suffering from an obstruction, you just made the obstruction worse.

That is why emergency staff cannot do much to a stroke victim until they determine what type they are suffering from. I know it's hard to have to watch someone suffer from this event, but if you react too quickly, you can easily kill the victim instead of helping them.