Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stroke Blues

Took care of two patients recently who had suffered strokes in the past and were living with significant deficits.  One gentleman, who I recognized from a few previous trips over the years, could communicate fairly effectively but slurred his words, making them difficult to understand.  I could see the frustration in his eyes as a group of us gathered around him struggled to comprehend what he was saying.  I hate that feeling of impotence that comes with dealing with stroke patients who have clear wishes that I am unable to understand or help them with.

The second patient was an older lady who experience a much more severe stroke that left her unable to communicate or move her left side.  There was little I could do to make her more comfortable beyond propping her up with some pillows and stopping by every so often to wipe off the drool that had spilled down her neck.

No real moral of the story here, just the frustration of dealing with patients that I can't help.  And a reminder to learn and recognize the warning symptoms of a stroke.  Calling 911 immediately and arriving at the hospital within 3 hours of symptom onset can make you eligible for tPA, a powerful clot-busting drug that may reduce long-term disability for some stroke patients.  If you or a loved one start experiencing stroke symptoms, never wait to call 911!

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