B.E. F.A.S.T.

Nearly two weeks ago I suffered a mild stroke that affected my left arm and hand.

My symptoms included tingling and numbness there and inability to see part of a word, such as the beginning COO  of COOKIES while  proof reading a draft of the cookbook my committee and I had compiled for our organization’s fundraiser.

Luckily, my husband and I remembered B.E.F.A.S.T., the acronym describing the signs of  a stroke. I had had a TIA or warning stroke four years before and had learned from attending support group meetings that going to the ER as fast as possible could get the help to reverse paralysis.

Strokes occur every 45 seconds to someone in the U.S. and the consequences can be death, the third leading cause of it,  or a debilitating paralysis of one side of the body, aphasia and/or cognitive affect. Most readers probably know of someone who has suffered a stroke.

Briefly, the acronym refers to: B=balance of the body such as inability to stand;

E=affect on eyes–blurry vision or temporary blindness; F=facial droop, crooked smile or inability to stick tongue out straight; A=inability to raise arms over one’s head, ataxia of hands such as not able to touch one’s nose with the index finger or to other fingers; S=slurred speech or  inability to speak(aphasia); T=Time to  call 911 to get to the ER within 3 hours so the clot busting medication can work  to  reverse the paralysis.

At the Enloe, which is well-equipped to aid stroke victims, I was quickly taken to the ER even though we had driven ourselves instead of calling the paramedics because it was daytime and we live within a mile of it, but it’s advisable to call the pros so preliminary help can be given en route.

After changing into a  hospital gown, I was taken to get a CT scan. It showed a blood clot in my brain. Wires attached from  my chest to the heart monitor showed flutters, an indication of  atrial fibrillation. It was determined an a fib had pooled blood in the atrium of my heart, resulting in the blood clot.

A neurologist on call came to speak to me, and tested whether I had feeling in my arms or legs, asked me how soon after my symptoms I had reported to the ER, and determined I should get an infusion of tPA(tissue plasminogen activator) although there was a risk of hemorrhagic bleeding.

Within a short while, the ataxia in my hand began to disappear! I almost felt I should be allowed to go  home, but having tPA administered required 24 monitoring in the neuro-tauma unit so I was taken there but not before I had had a chest x-ray and another CT scan.

At the neuro-trauma unit, my vital signs were examined often, a blood pressure cuff attached to the monitor squeezed my arm frequently. Not much sleeping in neuro-trauma, but how wonderful  to be watched the medication was working well!

While in neuro-trauma I also had an EKG, an ultrasound of my carotid arteries, and an MRI, visited by a staff cardiologist who explained a fib and the medication I would need to stabilize it, followed by the Stroke Nurse who educates patients about how to keep oneself healthy to avoid future strokes.

The next day I was sent to a private room to continue recovering, visited  again by the neurologist, the  cardiologist , the hospitalist, and evaluated  by the physical and occupational therapists; both determined I would not need to go to rehab.

I was given prescriptions for warfarin and medication for a fib before being discharged.

Now instead of going on a trip we had planned a week later, I am trekking to the anticoagulation clinc, aka coumadin clinic, to learn the right dosage to keep my blood thin enough to  prevent another stroke.  How glad I am the stroke happened while at home instead of on the road.

I hope this blog will help someone in distress of a stroke to remember BEFAST and get help as quickly as possible and the medical  help to avert a possibly debilitating stroke!

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