Prime Time Living - Page 4 - It’s about time

Prime Time Living
- Page 4
It’s about time
Take quick action when dealing with a stroke

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

Christina McCreary entered her mother’s house in Hunt Valley to pick her up for an appointment with the cardiologist and knew immediately something wasn’t right. “It was quiet. Too quiet. Eerily so,” she related. “I called out, ‘Hey, hon,’ and got no answer. When I walked into the living room, she was slumped over, saggy and unresponsive, and I knew right away she’d had a stroke. In less than two minutes, I called 9-1-1.”

“From the very first second you experience a stroke or show any symptom,” says William W. Ashley, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., FAANS, director, Cerebrovascular, Endovascular, and Skull Base Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery and Chief, Division of Neurointerventional Radiology, Department of Radiology at LifeBridge Health, “it’s all about time: time to realize – recognize – what is happening, time to call 9-1-1, time to be transported to a primary stroke center, time to be evaluated as to the type of stroke, time to begin the most effective treatment. Time makes all the difference in your survival and recovery.”

Why? A stroke, a brain attack, means your brain cells start to die at a rate of two million cells per minute because blood flow to the brain is interrupted or spills into the brain, depriving cells of lifegiving oxygen. “When brain cells die during a stroke,” says the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, “abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.”

Strokes can happen to anyone, and there is often no warning. “When it occurs, don’t wait, don’t drive, don’t take any medication, don’t do anything other than call 9-1-1 immediately. It’s OK to overreact,” says Aaliyah Franks, R.N., M.S.N., clinical program nurse manager of Stroke and Chest Pain Services at GBMC. “If you are having a stroke, the sooner you receive treatment, the better your outcome.”

Mary Baranoski, McCreary’s mother, had AFib, atrial fibrillation, a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), so she at a higher risk for blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Three weeks earlier, Baranoski underwent surgery so her appointment with the cardiologist the day of the stroke was to start blood thinners.

Each year, over 800,000 people experience a stroke and it’s the leading cause of disabilities in adults. “Recurrent stroke is frequent; about 25% of people who recover from their first stroke will have another stroke within five years,” according to the American Stroke Association. The good news is that as many as 80% of strokes are preventable.

To understand what’s happening when you have a stroke, a cursory glance makes it sound pretty simple because there are really two primary types of stroke: “ischemic – blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain, and hemorrhagic – bleeding into or around the brain,” according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The overarching goal is to restore blood flow and oxygen to the brain to prevent as much damage as possible and save brain cells. That’s why calling 9-1-1 is critical. Diagnosis and treatment based on the type of a stroke begins while you are on the way to the hospital.

Ischemic stroke, the most common, refers to a blockage in an artery, usually one in of the two carotid arteries, the large blood vessels that supply blood to your brain and head. “The blockage occurs when debris or plaque along the wall of the artery breaks off and obstructs, slows, or totally blocks the flow of blood,” says Dr. Jason Chin, vascular surgeon at the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. “You also don’t want this debris traveling into the brain. A majority of strokes involves blockages somewhere along the “road” to the brain or clots that come from other blood vessels. Usually, some blood gets through and that determines how much damage occurs.”

A hemorrhagic stroke refers to bleeding into the brain due to a rupture in the wall of an artery or vein, sometimes as a result of high blood pressure or because you’re taking a blood thinner. Although less common than an ischemic stroke, it’s far more serious and can result in death.

A third brain event, a TIA – a transient ischemic attack – looks and behaves just

Stroke, continued on page 22