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JODY HOLTON — Recognizing stroke symptoms, even when they aren’t there

Today’s column was inspired by events that happened one year ago in my very own home. I have thought of myself as well informed, competent and watchful over health matters.

Turns out, not so much.

Sometimes a stroke happens gradually, but you’re likely to have one or more sudden symptoms like these:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
  • Confusion or trouble understanding other people
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Problems walking or staying balanced or coordinated
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache that comes on for no reason

I knew to watch for these symptoms and I knew to do the F.A.S.T. test:

  • Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
  • Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

My husband had a very mild (thankfully) stroke one year ago. The only symptoms he had was mild confusion and lethargy over a period of two weeks.

At the end of the second week he had heaviness in his arms and legs that culminated in losing the use of his left arm and weakness in his left leg. No other symptoms. I checked blood pressure several times a day. It stayed normal.

I took him to our family doctor, who sent him on the ER in Beaumont. They transferred him to the Stroke Unit in a well-known hospital in Houston.

After many tests, it was found he had a very mild stroke in the smallest vein in his brain that controls primarily the left arm and leg. He was released after two days, and we did follow-ups with local doctors and physical and occupational therapy for three months.

He has made amazing progress and returned to work at his desk job after a couple of weeks. There is some residual weakness, but he exercises regularly to overcome it. He doesn’t climb ladders anymore. We are more careful.

The purpose of today’s column is to alert you to be aware. ANY changes are to be taken seriously. Better safe than sorry. Take care, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.