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Stroke Awareness: Patient Story

Stroke awareness: “I never thought it would happen to my 56-year-old mother”

SallyDaughter shares story of mother’s stroke experience and why everyone needs to know the signs.

Phone calls at 2am never mean something good.

On March 18, 2014, my sister-in-law called to tell me that my mother has just suffered a stroke and was being transported to St. Luke’s in Houston.

It took me a few minutes to understand what was being said, my mother was only 56 at the time, and we didn’t have a family history of heart disease beyond high blood pressure.

Each year, it’s estimated that almost 800,000 Americans will suffer a stroke. I never thought it would happen to my 56-year-old mother. Yes, she smoked and drank. To be honest, she didn’t have the healthiest eating habits. But she was 56 years old. Strokes only occur in older people, right?

Not according to the CDC, where they report that 36 percent of all strokes happen in patients younger than 65.

Thankfully, my mother was aware of what was happening to her and was able to get immediate help. She was transferred to a stroke center in Houston where they administered the tPA (Tissue plasminogen activator) to help break up the clot.

My mother spent two weeks in ICU before being transferred to a rehabilitation hospital where she had to learn to walk and speak again.

As a mother to two young children, I began to worry about my own risks for developing heart disease.

I was only 36-years-old at the time, but when something like this happens to one of your own parents, it makes you pause and really take stock in your current lifestyle.

Luckily I had quit smoking over five years ago, and I exercise regularly. But what about the damage I had already done to my body from not eating well or smoking for 13 years? Did the preeclampsia I had during pregnancy have any effect on my heart?

I thought that using Google to answer my questions was a good idea, but believe me, it is not.

I made an appointment with Dr. Jennette Cross, my family practitioner, to run blood tests just to get some peace of mind. All the tests came back within the normal ranges, but I was still worried that I was missing something.

I remembered seeing a heart screening special a few months prior through the ADC cardiology section. The screening includes the Ankle Brachial Index, an EKG, Echocardiogram and a carotid artery ultrasound. This screening wasn’t covered by my insurance, however for $130, it was worth my peace of mind.

The entire process took less than an hour. The radiology tech was informative and was able to show me what he was seeing on the ultrasounds and Echo. The results were then reviewed by the cardiologist and shared with my general practitioner.

My mother returned home six months after her stroke. She continues to make daily improvements.

Thankfully, my heart screening showed that I am clear of heart disease. Having that small bit of information has given me a huge amount of relief.

I now understand the lifestyle risks that come with my new found family history of stroke and can take charge of my health by not smoking, eating right, exercising daily, controlling my blood pressure, and routinely checking my cholesterol and sugars.

Comments

  1. Great article, life is too short and we need to take care of not only ourselves but set a healthy lifestyle for our kids.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This article is not very helpful, I would have expected better. The newsletter leading to this article says that everyone needs to know the signs of stroke, but she does not say how her mother knew she was having a stroke and what the signs are. Also, there are strokes caused by clots and strokes caused by excessive bleeding, so the clot-busting drugs will not help on the second kind. Also, she mentions heart disease several times but heart disease and stroke are not the same, even though they have some of the same risks factors, and each raises the risk of the other. So if she could not explain a little of the science behind strokes, risk for strokes, and warning signs, a doctor should have added onto this story so people have some actual useful information. Otherwise this is just an advertisement for the cardiology tests mentioned, which are not indicated for most people (there is a reason some tests aren’t covered by insurance). The one useful thing here is to spread the word that a little more than a third of strokes happen to people under age 65, so everyone needs to know the signs and take them seriously, since this can be such a debilitating event, as shown by her mother’s long recovery process.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it ironic that a simple little test for $130 is not covered by insurance providers, yet can save thousands spent after a stroke or other major affliction occurs. Go figure.