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"Shouldn't you have gone to the hospital right away?"


"If you had another stroke, would you go to the hospital sooner?" More audience questions after performance of My Stroke of Luck. Yes, of course! I should have surrendered, and gone straight to the hospital by ambulance!

And yes, this is a "Do what I say, not what I did". I knew time was of the essence, knew my best chance of survival lay in going straight to the hospital. But my thinking was already impaired by the stroke. So, as I began to reason with my damaged brain, my fear for my children, my need to take care of them, my fear of living impaired, my certainty that I would die or wish I had, and it was a toxic combination.

Time is of the essence with stroke. In fact, the National Stroke Association's slogan is Act FAST, an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Recognition of stroke and calling 9-1-1 will determine how quickly someone will receive help and treatment. Getting to a hospital rapidly will more likely lead to a better recovery.

As you may have noticed, most of these depend on an observer!! Because the person having a stroke may have no perception whatsoever of the event.

Getting into the hospital rapidly allows infusion of clot dissolving medication (tPA), which minimizes the damage, and supportive care.

But there are two kinds of strokes; approximately 85% are ischemic (meaning inadequate blood getting to the brain, usually due to a clot) and the remaining 15% are hemorrhagic (meaning bleeding). Ischemic stroke are associated with underlying medical conditions, whereas hemorrhagic are due to aneurysms or other vascular malformations, or rupture of a weakened blood vessle. Hemorrhagic strokes are responsible for 40% of stroke deaths, and may or may not be visible to an observer. "The worst headache of my life" may be the only symptom, collapse may be the only sign. So an observer might have no clue.

Do I regret not going to the hospital right away? For sure. The essence of treatment for a hemorrhagic stroke is to stop the bleeding. But by the time I arrived, the bleeding had stopped on its on. Had it not, I probably would have died. But my brain swelling had progressed, and the bleed had broken into the ventricles and subarachnoid spaces, all of which could have lead to serious long term problems. But someone was looking out for me better than I looked out for myself, because luckily, I avoided those sequelae. However, I'm sure my delay worsened the insult to my brain.

So, besides knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, and getting help right away, how can you help yourself? Good medical control of risk factors, the biggest being hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases (including congenital and atrial fibrillation) and high cholesterol. Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke. Exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. There is also a new risk factor recently identified, CHIP, an acquired blood cell mutation, which is as powerful a risk factor as high LDL and high blood pressure. At this time, however, there is nothing specific that can be done to reduce the risk it confers, other than the above.

Like so many other things in life, no matter how much we know, there is only so much we can control. That's not an excuse for not controlling what you can, especially if it might improve your day to day. But it is to say that of all the things I worried about happening, and I worried a lot, I never even thought to worry about brain damage. (Perhaps, if my worrying had been a little more creative, I'd have learned brain damage was my worst nightmare.) Yet, that's what happened, and it has been a gift that keeps on giving.

My Stroke of Luck at The Marsh, San Francisco 1062 Valencia (X 22nd St)

MUST CLOSE 3/29

Tix and Info:TheMarsh.org or 415-282-3055

"Amazing...[My Stroke of Luck] really captured many subtle aspects of stroke ...that aren’t identified in any of the literature or educational information,"

Richard Delmonico, PhD, Chief, Neuropsychology, NCAL Regional Lead for Neuropsychology Services Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center

"You are rarely moved and educated in the same space, but Diane's show fully delivers on both accounts.” Don Reed

"Provides astonishing insight into neurological recovery." Robert L. Weinmann, M.D., Legislative Chair, California Neurology Society

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Website created 2017 by Diane Barnes and Mariano Diaz