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May 7, 2011

How to tell if you are having a stroke

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:08 am

In this morning’s news, I read an article here about stoke patients who call a family member or a friend, instead of calling 911, when they are having symptoms of a stroke.  According to the article, three out of four people don’t call 911.  I didn’t call 911 either when I was having a stoke.  Instead, I awakened a family member who lives with me and he rushed me to the hospital which is only a short distance from my home.  He parked illegally in the ambulance parking space and accompanied me inside, where we went past the waiting room and barged into the office of the nurse who decides who gets treatment first. As a result of having fast treatment, I have recovered completely.

I am writing about this in order to help someone else who might not know how to recognize the signs of a stroke.  You may have seen the ads on TV where a comedian tells people “If your arm is numb, use your good arm to dial 911.”  Should you dial 911 every time your arm goes numb?  Should you conclude that you are not having a stroke if your arm is not numb?  In my case, my arm was not numb and I was not feeling dizzy, which is another symptom that the comedian mentions.

For three or four weeks before I had my stroke, there were warning signs, which I did not know were serious.  The first symptom, which I didn’t recognize, was a slight dragging of my left foot.  This was apparently caused by a tiny stroke that I had before the big one.  I was worried that I might be having the first symptom of ALS (Lou Gehrig disease).  I was so afraid that I might have ALS that I didn’t consult a doctor.

Another symptom that I had for about three weeks before the stroke was a feeling of extreme fatigue, both mentally and physically.  I didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere.  The night that I had the stroke, I had gone to bed at 8 p.m. and had not had the strength to even take off my clothes.

I should have known that something was seriously wrong when I started having “dry mouth” at night, for about 3 weeks before the stroke.  The TV comedian jokes about people looking up their symptoms on the Internet, and that’s exactly what I did.  Unfortunately, I did not find out on my Internet search that “dry mouth” is a symptom of failing kidneys and that the kidneys control blood pressure.  A stroke is caused when there is a sudden spike in blood pressure which causes a bit of plaque on the walls of the arteries to break loose and form a blood clot.  If a clot in the carotid artery goes up into the brain, it cuts off the blood supply, and this is what doctors call a stroke.

In case, you don’t know what “dry mouth” is, it is the feeling you have when you have no saliva in your mouth at all.  This is also a symptom of diabetes, a medical condition which is also caused by failing kidneys, according to my Chinese doctor. Sometimes you will hear that “dry mouth” is one of the side effects of a medication that is being advertised on TV.  This is a warning that this medication could cause kidney damage, but they don’t tell you that.

The actual symptoms that I experienced when I was having a stroke included a cramp in my left leg as well as weakness in the left leg, which made it hard for me to walk.  I also had weakness in my left arm and I seemed to have no control over the movement of my arm, although there was no numbness.  I did not feel dizzy and I did not have a headache.  Instead, I felt a strange feeling of nausea in my head which was something that I had never felt before.  It was this strange feeling in my head that made me realize that something was seriously wrong.  If not for that one symptom, I probably would have ignored the other symptoms.

So to make a long story short, if you have a feeling of extreme fatigue and “dry mouth” at night, get yourself to a doctor as soon as you can and find out if you have weak kidneys.  A  Chinese doctor can tell you if your kidneys are functioning normally and if your kidneys are weak, he can give you some harmless herbs that will improve kidney function.  I am still taking herbs for the kidneys and if I have occasional “dry mouth” at night, I  increase the number of herb pills.

While I was having the stroke, I walked into the hospital with no help. I was not slurring my speech; my vision was not blurred.  If I had called 911, the medics might have refused to take me because I didn’t appear to be having a stroke.  I could have been sitting in the waiting room for hours if my family member had not rushed me into the triage room.  The triage nurse shined a pen light in my eyes to determine if I was having a stroke. My blood pressure was 205/100 which was enough to get me admitted to the hospital. A cat scan showed that I had had a stroke.  An EKG showed that my heart was normal.

A stoke can also be caused by a blood vessel breaking in your head.  If that happens, you don’t want to be on a blood thinner because you want your blood to clot.  That’s why I don’t take daily aspirin.  My Chinese doctor agrees that one should not take blood thinners.

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