Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Things we all should know about stroke

We're less than ten weeks from our one year mark. Every day is filled with heartache, hard work, joy, and lived patience. Each day, even as he grows stronger and continues improving, Mr. PNU and I are becoming aware of our eventual outcome and the need for surrender. A life of severe disability and caregiving is nothing either of us anticipated. Every day on the battlefront we're learning something new about our capacity for strength. Research accounts for everything else I'm learning. Cats aside, curiosity kills the bliss of ignorance. Because ignorance can kill you, you really ought to know this information too.

A number of people have asked me what happened to the clot that lodged itself in my husband's right carotid artery in April. Is it still there? What about the return of blood flow to the affected areas of the brain? Re-oxygenation can do wonders, right? I mean, the brain is supposed to be able to fix itself, right?

I didn't know anything about stroke besides the symptoms before it happened to Mr. PNU, so I can't blame anyone else for not knowing. Now that we're in this mess, it's become my responsibility to find out and disseminate what I know.

So here's the scoop. 

This link offers a breakdown of the heavy duty jargon on death of brain tissue.

The easy answers are: Yes, the clot is now dissolved by the many doses of Warfarin, or blood-thinner, Mr. PNU began taking in July after his first detected DVT, or deep vein thrombosis in his affected leg. While oxygenated blood is important to all undamaged brain cells, an enormous portion of my husband's right hemisphere wasn't merely de-oxygenated. It died. And once brain tissue dies it liquifies and a crater forms where the healthy tissue once resided. Oxygenated blood does nothing for dead tissue. It's gone. Forever.

And my husband's brain, once smooth and cheerily dimpled, is now pockmarked and lunar. I found images of stroke survivors' brains. Pictures are a good dose of reality. I don't recommend viewing to the squeamish: here

Considering that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, a major player in sudden disability, here's what you should know about your likely risk factors and resources for those affected by stroke. 

And because I've been asked about those twenty or so minutes before I called 9-1-1, do not accept hubris in a victim when you spot the signs. Don't throw up your hands if they won't listen to you. Don't walk away to take a shower. Don't let them try to figure it out on their own. Just call. If you're wrong, you're wrong. If you're right you may save brain tissue, function, ability, and possibly a life.

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