By Stacy Quinn, Go Red For Women Ambassador, Guest Blogger
I had a busy day ahead of me, and I wasn’t going to let what eventually grew into the worst headache of my life keep me from crossing things off my to-do list. While I was determined to stay the course, I was struggling. My head was pounding. My stomach was upset. My vision was a little blurry. But I kept going.
Emails sent. Check.
Project completed. Check.
Prepare for meeting with new boss. Check.
Next on the list: Meet with new boss. As I updated her on my projects, I lost my speech. My words were no longer words—coming out as garbled babble. It was like I was speaking another language.
Hearing myself, I paused, took a deep breath and started speaking again. For the first time since I was very young, I couldn’t string together a sentence. I took another pause, closed my eyes and took another deep breath. A few seconds later, my speech returned to normal.
The experience was surreal, and it left me shaken up. At the time, I rationalized the incident as a side effect of the bad headache and the stress from all of the work I had to do. So I discounted the setback, got back to business and charged ahead through the headache.
Ten days later, the headache persisted and I finally got help. After getting an MRI at the suggestion of a very cautious neurologist, I learned that the headache and my speaking problem a few days earlier were the result of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke. The cause? My left carotid artery, one of the main pathways delivering blood from my heart to brain, had dissected, creating a 90% blockage. During a carotid artery dissection, the interior walls collapse, obstructing proper blood flow. Slurred speech is a symptom of stroke, and I should have immediately gone to the hospital. Because I waited so long to get help I was just hours away from a stroke that could have killed me or caused long-term health complications.
Stroke affects someone in the U.S. every 40 seconds
I never thought stroke was something that could happen to me. Why? I’m a young woman, eat healthy and exercise five times a week. I also know my numbers, as doctors always compliment me on my low cholesterol and blood pressure.
The good news is that 80% of strokes are treatable and preventable.
Here’s the bad news. The American Stroke Association estimates that 1 out 10 Americans don’t know the stroke symptoms.
Too many people, including me, seek help long after they believe they’ve had a stroke. This mistake increases the odds of serious complications or death. Every second counts with stroke. Nearly 2 million brain cells die each minute a stroke remains untreated. If you get help immediately, doctors can help in a variety of ways, including administering clot-busting medications and stent retrievers.
Knowing the symptoms of stroke isn’t complicated. In fact, there’s is an easy way to remember the most common symptoms of stroke. It’s called FAST. If you experience any one of these symptoms – facial droopiness, weakness or problems in an arm, slur your speech or have difficulty talking – don’t waste any time call 911. Also, if you ever have the “worst headache of your life” you should seek medical attention immediately.
Will you do me a FAST favor?
We need to raise more awareness of stroke symptoms to help save lives. So I urge you to share this story with just one person today. It’s easy to do. Post it on Facebook. Share it with a business contact on LinkedIn. Tweet it to your followers. Mention it during a conversation with a colleague, friend or family member. You could help save a life.
For more information, visit the American Stroke Association’s web site.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.
The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.
Our mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.