Why it’s important to recognize the signs of a stroke

Ruthie Gray Health 1 Comment

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Do you know how to recognize the signs of a stroke?  On, January 14, 2010,  my mother experienced a stroke that resulted in temporary paralysis of her left side and a one hundred percent blockage in her right corroded artery.


A tumultuous time

My heart was already in turmoil that morning, my husband having been rushed via ambulance to a hospital an hour away two days previous.  I followed, driving alone, weeping aloud almost the entire ride.  We didn’t know what was wrong, but he kept passing out. I had driven him to our local emergency room, where they took a very lackadaisical approach and he waited for two hours on a gurney.  He passed out again, this time rolling off the bed and into the floor.

I raced to the nurse’s station, literally pounding on the counter to get the staff’s attention (how dare me cut into their conversation)!  “My husband just passed out and fell off the bed!”  That started a flurry of activity, the ER doctor finally honoring my request to call Jim’s local physician, who immediately ordered the ambulance for transport.

The doctors there immediately began testing, and I spent the night in a chair, unwilling to leave his side in fear of the outcome.  The next day – more testing, and by that evening Jim was insistent I return home to the kids and  a decent night’s sleep.  He was receiving excellent care, the doctors were close to a diagnosis (a reaction to medication), and I honored his wishes.


Unexpected symptoms

The next morning I awoke early, showered, and packed to spend another night in the hospital.  Just as I zipped up my overnight bag, my dad called.

“I think your mother has had a stroke.”  My gut wrenched, a lump immediately forming in my throat. “Did you call an ambulance?” I asked.  “No, but I’m going to take her to the emergency room.” I had no idea the severity of the situation, but knew treatment should be speedy for a stroke victim.  I begged him not to take her to the ER we had visited two days prior and he assured me he would go elsewhere.  He had checked on her twice because she didn’t rise at the normal time, the second time finally awakening her.  Upon rising, her face dropped and speech slurred as she clumsily made the bed.

As soon as I hung up, Jim called from the hospital.  In tears, I recounted the situation.  He responded immediately, “You have to go down there and take control of that.  I’ll be fine.

Hanging up the phone, I tore down the steps, crying and trying to think.  I explained the situation to my two homeschooled daughters who were now looking expectantly to me with worried expressions.  I grabbed my phone and purse and ran down the hill to my parent’s house.


Signs of a stroke

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in the door.  Mom was sitting at the table eating breakfast!  Dad was standing beside her, waiting for her to get done and dressed.  The left side of mom’s face was drooped, her left hand raking over the dish like a limp rag as she reached for her juice.

Like most stroke victims, she was totally oblivious to her appearance and the severity of the situation.  “Do you want me to call an ambulance?” I asked dad.  “Yes.” He realized we weren’t getting her out of there on our own.  A foot of snow lay outside from a recent storm, the sidewalk was slick and perilous.  With her moving at the pace of a snail and possible unable to control her left side, the two of us couldn’t transport her.

Now, here’s the funny part – and I teased mom for months about it afterwards.  As soon as I asked dad about the ambulance, my ever stubborn and in control mother raised her limp left hand in defiance and yelled with her droopy mouth, “OH, I DON’T NEED AN AMBULANCE!”

The irony of that one sentence coupled with the body language was enough to send me over the edge.  “Yes, YOU DO! You are VERY sick, and I am CALLING AN AMBULANCE!!!”

Daughter overruled mother – a feat that has never been done.  “UGGGGHHHH!!!!” was her response.


Stroke denial

After it was all over, I learned it’s a natural response for stroke victims to be in total denial of their emergency.  This woman was the Queen of the Stroke-Denial-Club.  She insisted the whole way there and for the next two hours in the emergency room, even after the stroke was confirmed, that she had merely slept in.  “If only I hadn’t slept until 9:00 – I never sleep that late!”

She realizes now she did have a stroke.  Five days in the hospital, one week in rehabilitation, a sleep study, stress tests, and several scary fainting episodes later, we discovered a 100% blockage in her right corroded artery.  It did not show up at first, doctors are at a loss to explain why.  But my mom has a strong will, that one.


Recovery from a stroke


Today, she cares for dad, drives them both around (because his health issues came on the heels of hers), cooks, and prays for everyone she knows.  She is back to her normal self (barring a few small issues and numbness of fingers).  Many stroke victims recover full or at least partial health, often surviving years afterward.

I’ve never let her forget the day she yelled at me with her droopy mouth and raised that droopy hand in defiance.  She just giggles at my imitation  – it’s good to be able to laugh now.  But her strong will has made her a survivor.  Not to mention her unwavering faith in her heavenly Father, the Great Physician.

It’s crises like these that make us thankful for every day normalcy.  Jim recovered and continues to be the wonderful husband and father that he is, cracking jokes and disrupting our homeschool with his boisterous self.  Mom happily chatters non-stop, ever anxious for interaction and keeps the roads hot.

And I am thankful.


Gift of a miracle


The remarkable progress mom has made since that fateful day is truly a miracle – doctors are amazed.  But I know Who caused this vast improvement, the One Who holds the universe – the Great Physician.  My faith has been tested time and again since that day, and the Wonderful Counselor has proved over and over He is ABLE.

A stroke is no joke, and time is of the essence in such situations.  If you notice weakness, numbness, tingling, drooping from one side of the mouth, or a staggering sensation, it’s time to head to the emergency room.  Learn to recognize your body signs and that of those around you.

And if you do recognize the signs of a stroke in your loved one and it happens to be your  mom – this is one time you have permission to disobey her!



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