Stroke lessons learned the hard way

I dreamed I had a stroke. In my dream, I knew I was in the midst of a stroke, but I couldn’t talk or get up. I could use my phone, though, and managed to text for help. In the emergency room, the doctor asked me if I had a living will. I used a tablet and pen to write, “DNR.” Then the dream ended.

My dreams are often meaningful, even if they don’t make complete sense. I am in good health. I have no heart problems. My blood pressure is good. I am not overweight and I don’t have any issues commonly linked to strokes. But stroke and heart disease run in my family, and I’ve learned the hard way these conditions can strike any of us, without warning.

My wife had a congenital heart problem that neither of us took as seriously as we should have. Her job was stressful and her blood pressure was often high, even with medication. Both her stress level and her blood pressure were warning signs. The evening her brain aneurysm ruptured, her blood pressure was 225/126. God called her home a few months later.

Strokes can be minor or they can be life altering and devastating. It is not too late to make changes to help prevent a stroke. Also, it’s critical to recognize the signs that indicate someone is having a stroke. These are the familiar stroke warning signs that should be put to memory:

F—Facial drooping. Ask the person to smile and see if one side is drooping.
A—Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one drifts downward.
S—Speech difficulty. Is the person using slurred speech or unable to speak clearly?
T—Time to call 911! If someone shows these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and tell the dispatcher you think the person is having a stroke. Make a note of the time when the first symptoms appeared.

I don’t care to live a long time, but I do want to live as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I am now part of a Brain Aneurysm Support Group. I am also on Prisma Health’ Cerebrovascular and Stroke Advisory Council. For the past five years, I have been on an advisory council for the S.C. Office on Aging. I also am president of an organization called Elder Source, which aims to inspire seniors to live with purpose by honoring God in their later years. I am trying to make a difference.

Please take our story seriously and pass it along to others. I never thought I would bury my wife! She was taken decades early. Additionally, if you’d like to support the Prisma Health Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center, click here.


This blog was written by Stan Means. For more information about stroke and about the Prisma Health Stroke Center, click here.

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