If you've been affected by stroke, or if a member of your family or friends has suffered one, Action on Stroke month is an event aimed to increase awareness of the condition. Millions of people around the world are affected by stroke. It's a condition that doesn't always wait until you're old and infirm; it can happen at much younger ages than you might realise. Thanks to its destruction of brain cells, it can affect a person in some surprising ways, and can be a real life-changer, affecting the general health and wellbeing of a stroke survivor, as well as their ability to look after themselves at home.
External signs of stroke
For many years now, the medical establishment has sought to ensure members of the public know what they are looking for when they suspect someone close to them may be having a stroke. It's called FAST, a mnemonic to help you remember what to look for.
F is for facial weakness. Sometimes it may appear that the face of the person having a stroke has slipped downwards on one or both sides. They may not be able to smile at both sides of their mouth, or one eye may seem a little droopy.
A is for arm weakness. Stroke often affects a person down one side in particular, but it can affect both sides. If the person's face seems droopy on one or both sides, you should ask them to raise both their arms. Being unable to raise one or both arms is a sign they may be having a stroke.
S is for speech problems. The person may not be able to speak properly. It may sound like they are drunk, slurring their words. This happens because they can't move their mouth and tongue properly. They may also find it difficult to understand what you say. This is because stroke often affects the language centres of the brain.
T is for time to call 999. If the person you are with has one or more of the above symptoms, you should call for an ambulance immediately, and explain to the operator that you have used the FAST guide and you think the person with you is having a stroke. The effects of stroke can be significantly lessened if medical services can reach the person very quickly, so it is really important to be able to do FAST fast.
Unusual presentations of stroke
Sometimes stroke doesn't look quite like you expect. One lady I knew was seen walking haphazardly out of her flat, with her arms waving in front of her. She called her own ambulance because she didn't want to go to the nearest hospital as it had a bad reputation. She was compos mentis for much longer than you might imagine, with none of the usual signs that are usually associated with stroke, but this was what had affected her. If someone you care for knows that something is wrong, but doesn't display the FAST signs, they may exhibit some of the following symptoms, and you should always take a suggestion that they are suffering a stroke very seriously indeed.
Common stroke symptoms
Because stroke is such an insidious condition, it is not always obvious to someone else. However, a person experiencing a stroke may not know what is going on at all. If a person you care for complains of any of the following symptoms, you should take action immediately, and call a doctor or an ambulance right away.
•A sudden weak feeling in arms, legs, body in general, one side only or both sides.
•Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, or sudden blurred vision.
•Unexpected slurring of words, sounding 'drunk', or suddenly unable to understand what someone else is saying.
•Sudden, severe headache.
•An unexpected fall or loss of balance, or severe dizziness and disorientation.
Life after stroke
Despite all our very understandable fears, it is often perfectly possible for someone who has suffered a stroke to continue living independently in their own home for years after their recovery. They may need assistance with ordinary things like personal care, cooking and cleaning, or they may need only minimal assistance to manage certain aspects of their life. It can be terribly upsetting to see someone who was previously a forward-going, outwardly sociable person become a quiet, lost, unconfident person overnight, but the good news is that with rehabilitation and the right care and assistance, many people go on to have full and fulfilling lives.
Raising awareness about stroke
It's really important that everyone knows the symptoms and external signs of stroke, and that they know what to do if someone they know thinks they are having one. It's also really important that the charities and research bodies that continually work towards unravelling the mystery of stroke have the money to do so. That's why when it comes to raising awareness, it's just as important to share the FAST signs on social media as it is to throw a coffee morning at a community centre to raise money. How can you help to raise awareness for Action on Stroke Month?
For more information visit: https://www.stroke.org.uk/take-action/make-may-purple