Lisa Silver knows all too well that strokes can happen to anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Thirteen years ago, she was a 38-year-old Burnt Hills business owner who just didn’t feel right. On her way to a night out with a friend, Silver suffered a stroke. On World Stroke Day, Oct. 29, Silver is preparing to share her story at the 2021 Go Red for Women Luncheon set for Nov. 12 at the Capital Center in Albany.
“I had been having a headache and dizziness, and feelings of disorientation, was diagnosed with a sinus infection and an ear infection,” Silver said. “The doctor had set up a scan, and while I was waiting for it, I had that sense of impending doom that you hear about before an event. On Feb. 23, 2008, when Christianne called to say we should go out, I could barely lift my head. But I agreed to go, and before we went out, I called all my family members to tell them I loved them.”
It’s a day that sticks in Silver’s friend Christianne Smith’s memory, too. Smith, owner of Designsmith Studio is co-chair, with Michele Kollmer of CAP COM, of the Go Red for Women Luncheon on Nov. 12.
“We were driving to dinner and Lisa got a phone call from her sister Jessica,” Smith said. “She called her Jen, and was quite curt with me when I corrected her. It’s not like Lisa to be so abrupt. Her sister asked to talk to me, and we both knew Lisa needed to go to Urgent Care. Immediately.”
Silver remembers hearing a sound like people shuffling in the back seat of the car, and when she tried to tell Smith that she had an MRI appointment, she said “UFO” instead. At Urgent Care, she couldn’t remember Christianne’s name.
“We’ve been friends for 20 years, and that was terrifying,” Smith said.
It was a few days until Silver was diagnosed with a stroke, and today, she lives with some deficits. She has moved to Florida to be closer to family, and is able to be active, kayaking, biking and being outside.
“Strokes can happen to anyone,” said Alan Boulos, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Albany Med and president of the Capital Region Board of Directors of the American Heart Association. “We all need to know the warning signs and what to do because you never know when you’ll need to help yourself or someone else having a stroke. Time to treatment is critical to improving outcomes so we all must stay vigilant to look for signs of stroke among our family, friends, colleagues, and community members.”
Each year approximately 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke. Worldwide, one in four will suffer a stroke in their lifetime. Knowing stroke warning signs and seeking immediate medical attention can make the difference between recovery and disability or death.
The American Stroke Association encourages people to learn the acronym F.A.S.T. to help them remember the warning signs for stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for:
- Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
- Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue.”
- Time to Call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you can tell emergency responders when the first symptoms appeared.
Research shows that while most people say they would call 911 in a stroke emergency, real-world data shows that up to 75% of those experiencing a stroke first called friends or family. Strokes are most treatable right after they happen. Delaying getting help often means people can’t get treatment in time and are more likely to be disabled or die from their stroke.
Along with learning stroke warning signs comes another important message from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association: Don’t Die of Doubt.
“If you or someone around you shows signs of stroke, get it checked out right away. It’s always better to err on the side of caution with stroke signs because you’re losing brain cells every minute during a stroke,” said Dr. Boulos. “Remember that even during a pandemic, hospitals are still the safest place for you to be when medical emergencies strike. Please let us help you—don’t die of doubt.”
“The Go Red for Women movement is all about educating people,” Smith said. “I’m so honored that Lisa is sharing her story at the Go Red for Women Luncheon so that we can save more lives like hers.”
For information or to register for the Go Red for Women Luncheon, visit CapitalRegionNYGoRedLuncheon.heart.org.
Learn more and test your stroke knowledge at stroke.org/warningsigns.